By Liz Wood 

Martin recognized for being a 'Super Fan'

 

Liz Wood

Mary Martin leads the cheer for her Tigers at Regionals in Lander last month.

Win or lose, Mary Martin supports the Encampment Tigers, and has since 1997.

Mary graduated from Encampment School in 1986 and for years, the only game she attended was the homecoming games.

Today, she is at almost every volleyball and basketball game leading cheers. In 1997, her sister Joy Martin was playing basketball and Mary began attending the games. It was then Mary noticed there was no cheer squad, were no posters on athletes lockers, no one to lead cheers or decorate busses.

It wasn't until Joy was in high school that Mary was able to decorate the busses, but cheering came naturally for Mary. "In high school, I was the loudest one," Mary said. For anyone who sits near or far away from Mary at a game knows her voice carries throughout the gymnasium.

Mary dubbed herself "The Biggest Fan" because she was so loud. She puts posters on lockers and signs them "From family friends, coaches, teachers and 'The Biggest Fan'". No one knew who made the posters until two years ago when her secret identity was revealed.


Mary said cheering was awkward at first. "I went through the awkward years, I felt like I was no longer one of them," Mary said.

Mary got over her awkwardness. "I am an alumnus, so that really makes me one of them." After Joy graduated in 2003, Mary continued to cheer on "her kids". "We are alumni; we've got to show them we were the same at their age and show them you are thankful."

When Mary first started, she did it because the athletes were putting out their all and she felt she needed to support them. She has formed bonds with the students.

As students joined new acitivies, she makes sure they get posters. When Encampment students joined the Saratoga Speech Team she made posters for them.

Mary carries a traveling bag with her to away games, the contents of which fulfill the needs of the fans and players. It first started as a candy bag, but now includes Ibuprofen, Band-Aids and nail clippers.

She also has a special stash of candy for the senior players. If they win the game, they get two candy bars, if they lose, they get one candy bar. Mary usually gives them the smaller snack bars, but Kaylyn Wessel's favorite candy bar is a Whatchamacallit and they don't come in snack size. "The girls got a little spoiled this year," Mary said.

It took Mary most of the volleyball season to find out what Jenny Morgan liked, but in a discussion with some of the girls, she discovered it was Gummy Bears, and by the state tournament, Mary had Gummy Bears for Jenny.

Mary's best friend, Ruth Banzhof, helps Mary prepare goody bags for state competition. "We are always doing something special for seniors," Mary said.

It is the students who keep Mary motivated to continue cheering. "After the games, the kids come up and say 'Mary, we really appreciate it.' They are awesome kids, it makes it worth it. It validates what I do," Mary said.

Mary said students come back after they have graduated and thank her for her support. "It's not generational yet, but I am getting a lot of younger siblings now," Mary said.

Nine years ago, Mary took the involvement of alumni and students one step further. She introduced the Alumni Challenge during the homecoming games. She started organizing mini-games at the homecoming game on Saturday where the students play against the alumni. "It breaks the gap," Mary said. Kids sign up their parents or older siblings to play in relay games of some sort, Mary said.

After the State Volleyball Tournament, Mary was nominated for "Caught Doing it Right", a recognition program sponsored by the Saratoga Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce for being a "super fan."

 

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