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Local News

Oswego High School Panther named for former coach, school legend

The Oswego High School Panther mascot has been named for the first time in history, after former coach and community figure Ken Pickerill, who died in mid-September at the age of 91.
The Oswego High School Panther mascot has been named for the first time in history, after former coach and community figure Ken Pickerill, who died in mid-September at the age of 91.

For the first time in the history of Oswego High School's tenure as the Panthers, the school's mascot has a name.

Students and faculty were introduced to Pick the Panther during the school's Homecoming Week pep rally, Friday, Sept. 27. The blue panther, clad in an orange jersey with his name emblazoned across the back accompanied by the number 1, appears at home sporting events, pep rallies, assemblies, and school events.

"We very much wanted it to be Pick, and we were hopeful it would be Pick," Athletic Director Darren Howard said.

"Pick" was the nickname of longtime OHS coach and community icon Ken Pickerill, who died Thursday, Sept. 12, at the age of 91.

Pickerill served as head football coach at OHS from 1954 to 1969, going 80-40-8 during his time. His teams saw four unbeaten seasons, going undefeated from 1958 to 1960.

As head coach and athletic director, Pickerill helped OHS take home five football championships, three state wrestling titles, and one district baseball championship. Pickerill is in the Illinois Coaches Hall of Fame for his work with the school's baseball, football and wrestling programs.

The process of naming the panther has been in the works for a few years, Howard said.

Started as a contest for students, and a way to improve school spirit, a list of names was curated - Pick among them. The list was then narrowed down to several of the most popular names with students, and was distributed for a vote around Homecoming Week, shortly after Pickerill's passing.

Howard announced the choice to students during Friday's rally.

"Way back in 1947, Oswego High School had a contest to name what the new mascot was going to be," Howard told students in a video posted to the Oswego High School Athletics social media page. The contest was won by a student named Don Cherry, and Oswego High School became the Panthers.

"So for 72 years, we have been the Panthers, but our mascot has never had a name," Howard said in the video. "But this year, you guys have made history, because we have a mascot name."

To continue to promote school spirit, Howard said, OHS athletic teams are being asked to create 30-second commercials, similar to ones seen on ESPN, that will include Pick.

At the end of the school year, he said, the school hopes to hold an Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly, or ESPY, style award ceremony for senior athletes featuring the videos, Pick, and other activities.

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