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Orange Crush redefines mission

The+Orange+Crush+leaders+prepare+to+lead+the+fans+during+the+%22White+Out%22+game.
The Orange Crush leaders prepare to lead the fans during the

The Orange Crush leaders prepare to lead the fans during the "White Out" game.

•Trent Sprague

•Trent Sprague

The Orange Crush leaders prepare to lead the fans during the "White Out" game.

Joshua Irvine

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The morning before the football team’s first game, two dozen students clustered in a classroom on the near side of the math department.

The collection of sophomores, juniors and seniors sat in clumps at round tables, Styrofoam plates with breakfast pastries at hand.

In front of the whiteboard that stretched from the door to the opposite wall was club sponsor Chris Kiepura. A dozen box of Dunkin’ Donuts, mostly empty, was on a table in front of him.

This was Kiepura’s classroom, and this was the new Orange Crush.

To anyone familiar with the school spirit club, this was a foreign sight; Orange Crush was by reputation a seniors-only club, a select few who had been handpicked by the outgoing class and would in turn select their own successors. Involvement was a matter of knowing the leaders.

“What was expressed to me before I got involved [with Orange Crush] was that it had become… kind of a senior exclusive club that didn’t really represent Hersey,” Kiepura said.

Kiepura decided to change that. After becoming the group’s sponsor last fall, he pushed for expanding the Orange Crush’s membership, enlisting younger students at the end of last year.

“Mr Kiepura, he’s actually taken charge,” former Orange Crush member and Class of 2017 graduate Nate Horne said.

Further breaking from tradition, this year’s Crush elected their own leader without the 2017 seniors’ input; they chose senior Cristian Rodriguez.

Kiepura’s push for change came in part from his experience with the beleaguered 2016-17 Crush. Though both Kiepura and Horne say the organization sought to move past the elitist tendencies of the old Crush (both cite the 2015-16 year as a particularly problematic case), the ‘17 Crush suffered from a number of issues, most notably small membership.

Six “core individuals,” including Horne, led the Crush, though alums Colin Mallers and Troy Fischer were the official leaders. Friends of those six filled out membership – Horne estimates 12 members total, leaders included.

Along with their size issues, Horne noted a lack of communication between the students and sponsors Kiepura and gym teacher Nicolas Goshe (Goshe, a football coach, is generally preoccupied with his team throughout the fall season) and between the Crush and the administration. He gives Kiepura credit for trying to make a change, though Horne didn’t see much improvement. Kiepura does not recall any such issues with the administration, but he did address concerns from students involved in Orange Crush who were “not happy” with the organization.

“Mr. Kiepura tried really hard to get it better and get us all on the same page, but when you’re starting from nothing – and that’s where we were… there’s not a lot for us to work off of,” Horne said.

He sees the whole affair as a greater failure of student spirit.

“The school, we weren’t just really close,” he said.

Today, the situation seems to have improved. The Crush sports around 23 dedicated members, near double Horne’s estimate from last year. And Kiepura’s still there, having restored an “open door” policy permitting students of all grade levels to join.

“The idea now is we’re a Hersey organization and a Hersey club, and not a senior club,” he said.

And he sees a grand future for the club. At that Thursday meeting, Kiepura told his classroom of Crush members that the organization was going to be so successful the students’ friends were “gonna wanna go out and support other sports.”

“We’re doing everything we can to support everybody,” he declared.

But those would be hollow words without enthusiasm from the students. Thankfully, there’s plenty to go around.

“All of the kids are participating,” Kiepura said, describing the whole group as “leaders.”

Some of those leaders came forward after the Thursday meeting to offer their own perspectives on how they would impact Orange Crush.

Junior Jake Lavin planned to see Orange Crush grow from its existing 20-odd members. “We’re looking for more people,” he said. Lavin would DJ the White Out game, blasting “Let’s Get It Started” from the press box atop the bleachers.

“Always,” junior Kuba Kluczewski chimed in.

Senior Andrew Leno promised a music video to build hype for the OC, with a “montage of us putting on absurd things.” A group planned to go to the thrift store after school. The video ultimately didn’t come together.

Members then yelled out their plans.

“We’re not gonna give up like last year.”

“No matter what sport.”

“Golf.”

“Anything with balls.”

That exchange ended predictably.

The actual Crush meetings are just as hectic; Kiepura describes them as “fast and furious,” but maintains any student that wants to contribute to Crush is welcome.

Leader Cristian Rodriguez distilled that energy into a simple sentence.

“We’re trying to make Orange Crush great again,” he said.

•Rodriguez was elected, in his own words, because he was the “most enthusiastic” about Orange Crush. Kiepura seems to agree.

“I think Cristian brings a ton of energy to the group,” Kiepura said, citing how the senior had been responsible for pushing forward a number of new routines into the Crush’ repertoire.

“Hopefully every home game we’ll have something new,” Rodriguez said. “I believe our first game put out a statement that we’re good this year.”

But, as Rodriguez said, Orange Crush doesn’t want to “be just football themed extracurricular club.”

“I feel like the Orange Crush should go out and participate,” he said, reiterating his fellow members’ earlier statements. “[We want to be part of] just about any other sport that’s here.”

He singled out water sports as a normally neglected team Crush would try and go out for. There’s a touch of vinegar behind that statement; members of the girls swim and dive team lashed out against the Crush on Twitter last year after the club failed to give notice of the MSL East-winning team for much of the team’s season.

So Orange Crush isn’t quite yet free of its former troubles. But with a new members, new rules, and a whole lot of enthusiasm, the Crush’s future looks bright.

“When it’s just a group of students and two teachers trying to bring the spirit and all that together, it doesn’t work,” Horne explained. “But when you have an entire school, it does work.”

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Orange Crush redefines mission