As East Ridge celebrates its 10th anniversary, one student is building a new tradition.
Junior Ella Windle moved to Minnesota last spring from Mississippi — where school pride runs especially strong. She began playing her high school’s mascot as a freshman. With a population of 20,000, the role amounted to a mascot for the entire town, said her mother, Amanda Windle.
“She had a rock star schedule. We would go to the elementary schools, and those kids would pay $10 to sit on her lap and take photos,” Amanda Windle said.
Before she arrived to East Ridge, she and her team won multiple titles at the National Cheerleading Association conference, including the NCA mascot champion. Once she moved to Woodbury, she noticed an immediate gap to fill: the relatively new school lacked a consistent mascot. She approached Activities Director Sara Palodichuk about playing Rowdy the Raptor on a long-term basis.
“I told her my vision, but I was really scared. I’m only one person, and it’s a really big school. Down south, East Ridge would be considered a university,” she said. “But I was looking around and I observed a lot, and I was like, wow, they have so much potential. I just really want to bring back the really awesome school spirit.”
The community responded immediately, Palodichuk said.
“I got three or four different calls from parents: ‘oh my gosh, can she come to our events?’” she said. “We’ve heard from coaches, teachers, players, parents — a little bit of everyone in the community.”
So far, Windle has cheered on volleyball, football and soccer teams — sometimes taking up at least 10 hours per week.
“It’s really helped hype up the crowd a lot more,” said the school’s cheerleading coach, Amanda Paulson. “We’ve had the costume and sometimes it would just be a Super Fan that would throw it on, but it wouldn’t be someone who was there at every game.”
She plans to bring Rowdy to sports that don’t typically get mascot attention, such as swim meets. She’s especially looking forward to the Minnesotan sports.
“I am so pumped about hockey,” she said.