A decade ago, after the 2010-2011 Boys’ Basketball team defeated Episcopal at home for their first SPC title since 1987, fans swarmed the team on Liu Court and spontaneously they started singing the Alma Mater. Since that time St. John’s teams have carried on this tradition for 26 seasons of 52 championships. The 2019-2020 school year has celebrated two titles so far: the 2019 SPC Field Hockey Championship, and recently, the 2020 Prep State Duals Wrestling Championship, bringing the total count to 200 titles (178 SPC, 22 State).
The fall 2019 SPC championships brought family, fans, and friends to witness Field Hockey outlast Kinkaid after two overtime periods and a 1v1 shootout to win SPC for the second year in a row. What they heard afterward was as powerful as the performance on the field as Maverick Nation broke out in the singing of the Alma Mater.
“The singing of the Alma Mater represents St. John's in its purest form....pride in our community,” said Headmaster Mark Desjardins. “I get chills every time I hear a team gather together with their peers to belt out the anthem. Hail, St. John's!"
A decade ago, after the 2010-2011 Boys’ Basketball team defeated Episcopal at home for their first SPC title since 1987, fans swarmed the team on Liu Court and spontaneously began singing the Alma Mater. Since that win, St. John’s teams have carried on this tradition for 25 seasons, the last one after at the 2019 SPC Field Hockey finals held at Kinkaid.
“When I heard them start to sing the Alma Mater (after the 2011 SPC Championship win), I remember just having a sense of pride in our school, said Head Boys’ Basketball Coach Harold Baber. All the sacrifices each player had to make to achieve the goal of being a champion. It was a surreal moment. Even thinking about it today brings an uncontrollable smile on my face. It all came from the players, they started singing the alma mater. They started a tradition!”
Since that winter season of 2011, there have only been two seasons without a Maverick championship. More frequently, multiple championship teams in the same season have gathered in song. In the fall of 2015, Field Hockey, Girls’ Cross Country and Boys’ Cross Country all won SPC titles.
“After the big win (field hockey), the other teams stormed the field and joined in singing the Alma Mater. It was a really special and unifying moment," said Jennifer Trieschman ’16.
Maverick Middle school teams are also getting on the bandwagon, and now other SPC schools can be heard singing their school anthems after wins.
“When we won HJPC in soccer in eighth grade, the Varsity sang the Alma Mater to us,” said Kate Ainbinder ’20, a captain of the 2019 Field Hockey championship team.
Since the first St. John’s SPC championship was won in 1950 by the Varsity Football team, St. John’s has won 199 titles (178 SPC, 21 State). In the past decade, the Mavericks have won 51 championships (43 SPC, 8 State), beginning with the Boys’ Basketball 2011 win at home that created the Alma Mater tradition in St. John's Athletics. During that same time frame, Kinkaid is the next closest SPC competitor with 31 championships.
“Sustaining excellence in any endeavor is difficult,” said Desjardins. “Our recent decade-long dominance with regards to winning titles is a great reflection of our students' and coaches' commitment to putting forth their best."
Good examples of the sustained excellence that St. John's Athletics promotes are Julia Moody ’16 and Drew Woodfolk ’18. The two cross country runners, SPC champions at St. John's, were just crowned ODAC Cross Country Champions for Washington and Lee University.
“Singing the Alma Mater after championship wins is probably the St. John’s tradition I miss the most,” said Woodfolk. “We don't have any similar traditions at Washington and Lee.”
“Singing it with all the sports teams always brought us together and made you feel like you were a part of something bigger than just your own team,” said Moody.
St. John's Alma Mater was first played at the opening ceremonies on September 27, 1946, amidst construction, mud, and pending rain. The foundation for the future was being built from the ground up through the will of founding headmaster Alan Lake Chidsey. The school began to take shape in part from Chidsey’s memories of his days at the Pawling School (now Trinity-Pawling, NY). The words of the SJS anthem are now woven through the fabric of school life. The song permeated countless chapel services, convocations, and graduations, before becoming associated with athletic achievement at St. John’s. There is even a rock version of the Alma Mater played on MavTV productions.
Wesley Gow '19 has heard far more than his share of the school anthem. He was a lifer, as were his siblings Chris Gow ’12, Sarah Gow ’14, and Lawson Gow ’08. His brother David Gow ’09 Jr., and father David Gow ’81, also attended St. John’s.
“Coming to college has definitely made me appreciate singing the Alma Mater more," said Wesley Gow ’19, who plays football for The University of Chicago and was part of Maverick Wrestling’s surge of nine championship titles. "Here at Chicago, athletics and academics and spiritual life all feel very separate, like they are three different worlds that share nothing but the name ‘U Chicago.' I feel like singing the Alma Mater in all aspects of SJS was just one more way that everything felt more connected and unified. It's also strange not knowing every word to the anthem we sing after (U Chicago) games; it makes me miss the old SJS one.”
Two years ago, Sebastian Jimenez ’21, a current Wrestling captain and winner of over 100 matches, was on the team with Gow when Wrestling won on St. John's Liu Court, which has a backdrop of banners of all of the school’s championship teams with patches of the title years. Wrestling put up nine patches since last season, and after winning the 2020 State Duals titles, St. John's now has won 200 combined SPC/State championships.
“When we look up at all of the banners in the gym and while we are signing the Alma Mater, we are singing for everyone who has been a St. John’s faculty member, coach and athlete in the past," said Jimenez. We know we would not be here without the effort from all of these people to make this place what it is today.”
The arrangement of the 200 titles on the banners forms an impressive archive of achievement. The last 52 championships will also be remembered by an arrangement of a song that might be heard again as soon as Saturday.
Hail, St. John’s! Hail, St. John’s!
Sam Chambers ’77 - Athletic News