Mascots Unmasked

The people playing King Triton relay the fun they get to have behind-the-scenes at UCSD’s sporting events and more.

College sporting events are usually a pandemonium of boisterous noise and tense moments with star players being cheered on by the excited crowd. Mascots play an important role in keeping up the crowd’s morale, celebrating the team’s wins and pumping crowds up during moments of stress or timeouts. Although we often see King Triton parading around UC San Diego’s campus, we never get to know the people inside the mascot suits.

Muir College sophomore David Shattuck, who has been King Triton for about a year, prefers the anonymity of being King Triton at games.

“It’s a really fun way to interact with [everyone]. You get to be kind of weird and mess around with different people,” Shattuck said. “[I don’t feel shy] — that’s one of the awesome things about being mascot, the magic of not knowing who’s behind King Triton so you get to continue that illusion, and people not knowing who you are really frees you up to do more stuff you wouldn’t normally do.”

Shattuck has previous experience as mascot and feels that they play important roles in public events. “I had done some mascot work in the past, with my hometown police department, doing what we called Blue Santa. We went around to lower income families and we gave them presents,” he recounted. “The mascot was the Bloodhound with the big ears and a trench coat, so that was [something] I really enjoyed doing.”

Another active mascot, Muir sophomore Jennell Encizo, recounted the audition process. “I emailed Nick Feller, the Associate Athletics Director for Marketing, about the position, and I tried out by putting the suit on and showing what I’d do in certain situations during a game.”

“I’ve gone up to people I know and I’ll whisper in their ears like ‘Hey,’” she said, putting on a deep voice. “I’ll just whisper inside jokes and stuff.”

Encizo encourages people to try out. “It’s not that big of a time commitment, and we always need more people.”

The role of the mascot during the particularly nail-biting moments of games is crucial, since the players are strongly encouraged by the audience’s cheers. “I would say one of the best moments of basketball games is when UCSD and whoever they’re playing against are going back and forth, until the energy in the last few minutes of the game is super high,” Shattuck explained. “So everyone gets super pumped up and [that makes] my job more fun because the audience is so involved. The moment when UCSD finally wins and everybody just goes nuts is one of my favorite moments of a game.”

Although mostly present for basketball and volleyball games, King Triton comes out for other special events as well, such as last year’s ‘Celebrate San Diego’ event, at which the cheer team and mascot attended to represent UCSD and its Athletic Department. “It was kind of like a rally,” said Shattuck. “There was a fire department, it was at Petco Park, [and] there were a whole bunch of mascots from different schools, and the [Swinging] Friar [and] the Padres mascot as well!”

This interaction between the cheerleaders and mascots, however, is quite rare at UCSD’s games, unlike at other schools. “In a lot of other universities, the mascot is part of the cheer team, so they’ll train and practice together so the mascot is able to participate with the cheer teams more.”

It’s a relationship that Shattuck and Encizo definitely want to expand. “Of course I’ll interact with them as a fun factor, but in the past we haven’t had the cheerleaders and mascot [collaborating] at halftime,” said Shattuck. “Jen and I are hoping to change that, so in the future, we’ll do skits and stuff [with them].”

This is just one of the changes that the Athletic Department hopes to achieve with UCSD’s move into Division 1. “I’m very excited [about moving into Division 1]. The opportunities for the athletes are fantastic, being able to travel more, be in the Big West conference, and those kinds of things,” said Shattuck.

Division 1 will undoubtedly be beneficial to the mascots as well. “It’s going to open up a lot of new opportunities we didn’t have available to us before. In the past, King Triton hasn’t been able to do as many events because we only have one suit and it’s got to be cleaned, [which takes] two to three days.”

In fact, other than the suit getting hot, Encizo’s one complaint is that she doesn’t get to do it enough. “I worked Triton Power Hour, which is a showcase for athletes and you have to pump up the first years and I had to get lowered from the rafters!” said Encizo. “So it was pretty fun, and I wish we got to do it more.”

One thing they both would like to see more of is greater involvement with sports at UCSD. “I think the school is supportive of our athletes as a whole, but attendance [is low] … part of it is just getting the word out about where and when games are, because if I didn’t work at the games I would have no idea that there’s a basketball game on Friday night or whatever,” said Shattuck.

Shattuck and Encizo, along with the Athletic Department, plan on increasing exposure and advertising. There is also the benefit of social interaction at games, not to mention the pride of showing school spirit and being a little less UC “Socially Dead.”

“There’s a kind of disconnect that I’ve noticed between the general student body and the athletes, and I think it would be fantastic if we got more interaction between the two. It’s not some feud between the athletes and the student body!” Shattuck tried to explain, laughing. “I think we could definitely get more attendance and involvement at the games. Going to games, cheering on UCSD, and watching them compete against other schools is fun!”

Illustration by Allyson Llacuna

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