The Story of The Storm Cat

Letting the cat out of the bag

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If you ask the average Summit High student what our mascot is, you will receive a few different answers, which isn’t typical. If you asked Bend High students, they’d say Lava Bears, and if you asked Ridgeview students, they’d say Ravens. Though Wikipedia states that the official Summit mascot is the “Thundercat,” and has been since 2003, about 10 percent of the 88 Summit students I polled did not answer anything about a cat. Answers non-cat related were usually “storm,” “thunder” or “lightning,” with the one notable exception of a wombat. Why can’t the student body agree on what our own mascot is?

If you look up the phrase “storm cat” on Google, you’ll see large amounts of content relating to a very successful race horse from 1999, who happened to have the highest breeding rate at the time. You’ll also find a few catfishing boats and children’s books of the same name.

What is the Storm Cat? Does it hold any special meaning? All Summit students long for the answers to these questions, as our mascot remains largely a mystery to even ourselves. 

A general historical understanding of the origins of the school mascot is necessary when questioning what exactly our own mascot represents here at Summit. The tradition of having mascots can be traced back to the American Civil War, when some regiments kept living mascots (mostly dogs) who sometimes followed soldiers onto the battlefield. According to their website, Penn State University’s original mascot was a mule, that helped haul limestone for building the school. The word “mascot,” popularized around 1880, comes from the french word “mascotte,” which means “lucky charm.” Jackie Esposito, Penn State University archivist, states that mascots “are a visual representation of what we believe to be the best parts of our school or organization.” 

Most students would be surprised to hear that our mascot has changed since we opened—before the Storm Cat came the Storm Man. Lasting for only two years, the Storm Man was a Batman look-alike with an “S” on his chest, a bolt of lightning in one hand, and a shield in the other. When asked about our original mascot, Summit principal Michael McDonald recalls seeing him at a pep assembly the first year he came to the school. 

Storm Man was the guy dressed up as Batman, and he did a dance to an Eminem song. That’s all I remember,” said McDonald. But not long after, Summit made the switch to something that fit better. 

Admittedly, the transition from Storm Man to Storm Cat had less to do with representing our specific strengths as a school, and more to do with the trademarking of the Batman symbol. But in the twenty years we’ve had the Storm Cat, students have given it some meaning. 

A cat itself is symbolic of rebirth and resurrection, as shown through their nine lives. Senior representative Claire McDonald sees the Storm Cat as representing the diversity of talent at Summit. 

It shows off the strength of our athletes, but also, the Storm Cat represents our cunning and slyness, because cats are known for their intelligence too. So I think that it embodies a lot of what Summit is, because it represents both our intelligence, and our strength and speed,” said McDonald. 

Another student council member, voice behind our morning announcements and junior arts liaison Max Himstreet, finds the Storm Cat represents Summit’s unity and spirit. 

“Whoever’s in the costume has been nearly unanimously chosen to fill the role and represents the entire student body and their collective spirit,” said Himstreet.

Principal McDonald offered a more literal take on the mascot, remembering how administration and student council may have just chosen a cat because it would be difficult to have a literal storm [cloud] running around and we needed an animal. To keep up with the already well-established Mountain View Cougars and Bend High Bears—“we needed to get an animal in there,” Principal McDonald said. 

Summit English teacher Erin Carroll stated that she would rather have a mascot that is a real animal. “What is a Storm Cat? It is not a thing. But what’re we gonna be instead, a tornado?” 

Junior soccer player Thor Schmidt confirmed that he would rather Summit remain the Storm, and his team seemed to feel the same way. “I’m pretty sure that every time we were gonna say ‘stormcats on three’ it was shot down. Immediately.”

Apparently, the varsity girls basketball team also leaves the cat out of their calls. Sophomore basketball player Kalia Durfee claimed that her team stuck with the typical “storm on three!” as their chant. When asked whether she thought that her team felt more Storm or Storm Cat, she quickly answered Storm. “We don’t associate it with being the cat, it’s more just the Storm,” said Durfee. 

Around Summit, there are a few conflicting views on our barely-there mascot. Many students don’t feel represented by the Storm Cat because it simply isn’t around. Almost everyone I interviewed mentioned something about the lack of representation of the Storm Cat around the school and in our chants, which seems to be a common sentiment for most students and staff. However, more optimistic student council members saw some meaning in the mascot, which could be a sign that the general student body might feel the same if the cat was seen more. It might be time to increase the presence of our tempest tabby, or maybe it’s time for a new mascot.