Facing the Clemens Field grandstands during halftime of the football game Friday night, Philomath High sophomore Sophie Gerding took in the moment as her week as a homecoming princess was starting to wind down.
Instead, Gerding experienced a moment that will last a lifetime when the announcer identified her as the 2018 homecoming queen.
Gerding, the daughter of Nate Gerding and Heather Parcell who was born with a rare disorder called Williams syndrome, jumped up and down with joy with a huge smile on her face with the announcement. Last year's queen, Sarah Buddingh, placed the crown on her head.
The other four princesses this fall were seniors Amity Coon and Riley Weaver, junior Alexis Van Vlack and freshman Kiya Smith. All of them arrived in the area in front of the grandstands riding in vehicles.
Gerding's ride was a special occasion that prompted her grandfather, Greg Gerding, to get out his old Mercedes, which he reportedly hadn't driven in a decade or so.
Buddingh came back to her high school after driving across the state from Eastern Oregon University in La Grande to continue the tradition of awarding the crown to the new queen.
Philomath High’s student body selects the homecoming queen through various votes that begin with the selection of the five princesses.
“Two of three weeks ago, we had preliminary elections where everybody in their class votes for five people out of all the girls,” said Associated Student Body co-president, senior Lindsay Schell. “Out of those five, they vote for one and the seniors vote for two because there are two senior princesses. This week, we voted for queen.”
Homecoming involves a whole lot more than the selection of the homecoming queen and the Friday night football game. It got started last Monday with a princess announcement assembly, continued Tuesday with a lip sync contest and Wednesday with powder-puff football game and bonfire.
On Friday morning, the rain let up enough to allow the homecoming parade to head up Applegate Street from the high school to the elementary school, then back on Applegate to South 19th toward Clemens Primary and the middle school before finishing a loop past the football field and into the PHS parking lot.
“It was decided this morning at 8 a.m. that we were still going to have it since it wasn’t a torrential downpour,” Schell said.
If the parade had been washed out, the backup plan was for students to play games. Following the parade, students gathered for a late-morning assembly.
Senior Ella Skinkis, ASB co-president, said their classmates really stepped up to make it all happen.
“We identified the different jobs that would be happening this week and we put people in charge of those jobs and those people in charge of a specific event would get a subcommittee,” Skinkis said. “For the princesses, there was the voting part, the assembly, the escorts and parade — so each of those has their own leader. That was to ensure that everything got done and nothing was dropped.”
Schell said ASB had been working on homecoming since the first day of school.
“I think all of the events have been phenomenal and worked out very well,” Schell said. “We started as soon as school started, so we’ve been working on it for a while. It’s really fun to see it all come together.”
The co-presidents estimated that 40 to 50 students are involved with ASB this year.
“I like being involved in student government because I feel like I’m a good representative of the student body and I kinda feel like I have a good feel for what the students want to have and so I like being involved so I can produce the kind of events they want to see,” Skinkis said.
Schell’s thoughts on her involvement echoed those comments.
“I really enjoy making some fun for the students that go here and same as Ella, I feel like we can represent with our ASB group this year a lot of different people in the school and really see what they want throughout this year,” Schell said.
ASB features several other executive officers, including vice president Calvin Snuggerud, secretary Luke Haslam and treasurer Aidan Goff.