Go LARKS, Not Sharks

By Risa Fukaya – Horizon News & Features Editor

At the very beginning of last semester, I watched a volleyball game in Yost Center with my friend.

“Go Sharks!” a student shouted.

My friends and I looked at each other, trying to figure out what was going on. At first, I thought that the visiting team’s mascot was “The Sharks” and that he was cheering for the visitors. Maybe he was sitting on the home side by mistake. After he shouted “Go Sharks!” about 10 more times, another student corrected him: “Larks!!!”

I finally understood. We clearly have an easier time accepting the terrifying and powerful shark as a mascot than a tiny prairie songbird.

Sophomore Sadie Winter is not sold on the idea.

“I have no idea why students sometimes say “Go Sharks!” instead of “Go Larks!” she said. “Sometimes it is on purpose, just for a joke, because sharks sound stronger than larks.”

Winter says before attending Hesston, she already knew that Western Meadowlark was the state bird for Kansas. Since Hesston College is a Mennonite school, she says it makes sense that we chose the lark as a school symbol. It shows respect for the relationship between the community here and Hesston College.

Other students know less about the mascot than Winter. Lily Wait didn’t really know about larks when she came to Hesston. The only thing she knew about the lark was that it was a bird. She said she wonders why the college chose the lark as a school symbol because the lark doesn’t remind us of something strong.

According to “Animal JP” a Japanese website, larks are birds that live on riverbanks and fields. They sing beautifully, especially in spring. Although you may have never seen them, almost everyone has heard their singing. In the past, poets and composers loved to use the word “lark” in their pieces. In Japan, the lark is well known as a spring season word in haiku. Their natural enemies are cats, snakes, and raptors.


The western meadowlark: By Kevin Cole from Pacific Coast, USA (en:User:Kevinlcole) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Hesston College started using larks as a school symbol in 1925. Before adopting the lark, Hesston had informal “mascots,” early in the 1910s.   One spring, two good mules were donated to Hesston College. “Molly” and “Jenny” soon became campus celebrities. They used to deliver bottled milk to the doors of customers all over the town. When Molly died, Jenny continued her faithful service.

The Lark was later adopted as the title of the school yearbook, in 1925.

“The commencement number is now named ‘The Lark,’” the preamble page in the 1925  yearbook says. “The meadowlark is a favorite in Kansas, and the family of larks in wild is known for thrift, strength, and song. May this number preserve the ideas of Hesston College, strengthen bonds of friendship, renew golden memories, inspire and perfect and in our hearts the harmony that puts us in tune with the infinite.”

Although there had been Hesston College yearbooks before 1925, that year was the first year they started call them “The Lark.” In the mid 1960s, Hesston College started calling the athlete students The Larks.     

Although larks may just be small birds compared to other more traditional animal mascots, Wait says they are still appropriate.   

“Hesston College is a small school, but we are still strong,” she said.

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