She can help rile a couple thousand on a Friday night, all while easily inspiring a future generation of spirit with a simple hug, smile and kind word.
Madison Zandt, commonly known as Maddie the Indian, took time ahead of Friday's 97th Battle of 287 to reflect on her years as the Waxahachie High School mascot.
Zandt has been the mascot for the Indians on sidelines and baselines for three years and is set to graduate in May 2019. She has established new traditions and taken great pride in representing the green and white on and off of the playing surface.
“When I first started as mascot, I didn’t realize that it’s more than just going to the games and cheering on the crowd. You’re an ambassador for your school,” Zandt emphasized.
To serve the Waxahachie community with the headdress on is vital to her. One of her most distinguished accomplishments was when she put rivalries aside and organized the mascots to deliver Meals on Wheels. She started this tradition three years ago, and it has become an uplifting effort with surrounding Ellis County schools.
Zandt stressed the service component is a substantial responsibility of the mascot. “'Hold your headdress high,' as I might say," she said with grace and a smile. "Even without the headdress, you are the mascot."
Zandt also serves as a role model for the younger Waxahachie students as she greets them early in the morning before they begin their school day.
“This year, I’ve really dived into it, and I have told myself that I want to go to all of these elementary schools and I want all of these little kids to know that they can be the mascot when they get older,” Zandt gleamed. “It’s really a joy when they come in with a big smile on their face.”
Experiences like this have impacted her life just as much as the students she connects with, as she explained that not all the students have the best home life, so being able to love on them makes her feel special.
Waxahachie head cheer coach Erica Fritz said one of Zant's strongest components is her servant's heart.
"Madison is always looking for ways to serve our community and our elementary schools. She creates opportunities as well as participates in as many others as she can," Fritz elaborated.
The mascot experience started for Zandt during her eighth-grade year at Howard Junior High School.
“I always loved watching the cheerleaders cheer and loved watching them dance, and I could have tried out for cheer, but I wanted to do something that would set me apart from the cheerleaders. And, I saw the mascots at the high school, and I really looked up to them,” Zandt explained.
She couldn’t wait until high school and instead contacted the head cheer coach at Howard to arrange a tryout for the first-ever mascot. Zandt remembered about 10 people tried out.
“It was insane how it blew up. Everyone wanted to be the mascot,” she boasted.
Zandt and her good friend, Cathryn Bigham, were named the first mascots at Howard.
Over the summer at the National Cheerleaders Association cheer camp, Zandt earned the title of All-American for the third year in a row. She even contacted the older WHS cheer coach to confirm if any mascot had achieved this accomplishment in consecutive years. He was pretty sure Zandt was the first.
The achievement was only the tip of the iceberg. The NCA staff also selected Zandt — along with Polly Brigman — to return next summer to work the camp as paid staff.
“They pick people that are leaders,” Zandt explained. “I’m hoping to send in my application, hopefully, get accepted, and I can be NCA staff and a mascot instructor.”
Zandt said she felt honored by all of the accomplishments early in the year.
“It just makes me feel excited. It makes me honored though,” she said. “I don’t know how to put it into words. It’s a good feeling to have all these people look up to you and want to be like you because you’re setting a good example for them.”
Fritz noted Zandt's impeccable mascot skills are impossible to ignore.
"She was a big part of our success in 2018 at the state UIL Spirit competition. Almost every judge commented on her in a positive way. One of our critiques from prelims was, and I quote, 'pull that adorable Indian mascot to the front to LEAD,'" Fritz elaborated.
Zandt will also soon take her mascot skills to the NCA State of Texas Mascot Competition on Dec. 9. This will be Zandt's first year to participate, but she is confident that she will soak in the entire experience.
THE SEARCH IS ON
Right now, the search is on for the next Indian mascot.
On that note, Zandt said she is stoked to host a mascot camp for both junior and high school students. She will train those interested in tryouts for a small fee, which will go back to the WHS cheer booster club. The date of the camp is undetermined at this time.
One of the last initiatives Zandt is hopeful to incorporate before exiting her senior year is to bring back two mascots at WHS — a freshman and upperclassman.
Back when Zandt was a sophomore mascot, there were two— she and Mikie Rawls. But after Rawls graduated the two-mascot concept became obsolete. Zandt also noted that Rawls helped her prepare for tryouts back when she tried out at Howard and showed her the ropes in high school and served as constant encouragement.
“We are trying to implement a freshmen mascot so they can go to the freshmen games. And, I do not understand why there isn’t a freshmen mascot because they have to learn the traditions of Waxahachie High," she concluded.
Fritz had one last message about Zandt's impact on the team.
"It will be a big loss to our program when she leaves next year," she added. "I personally cannot wait to see all the accomplishes in the future. This is just the beginning for Madison."
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450