Homecoming, Oct. 1 & Spirit Assembly, Sept. 23

Homecoming, Oct. 1

Anticipation spread through the football stadium on Sept. 30 as the crowd waited to see which of 10 candidates would be crowned homecoming royalty. In the end, the 2023 title went to two queens: Reese Garland and Jordan Pillow.

The winners erupted in screams of joy, jumping and hugging their friends as photographers snapped their pictures. “I’m feeling very good and confident right now,” said Pillow, right after winning. “You know, Jordan Pillow, man. I’m really her.”

Her elation was mixed with relief. “I was just very excited. I’m happy this whole thing was over with so I could stop being so anxious,” she said.

Garland’s mindset after she’d won also mixed joy and relief. “This election was supposed to be fun, but all the hate and everything I’ve been experiencing made me anxious,” Garland said.

This year’s homecoming royalty contest brought new meaning to the annual tradition at Oak Park and River Forest High School. “It was the most competitive election in my 13 or 14 years of sponsoring homecoming royalty,” said Katie Prendergast, a math teacher at OPRF who organized the elections and is the sponsor of the student council.

What started off as a fun campaign quickly turned into a serious, ultracompetitive one. As more and more people entered the running for royalty, the competition became tighter. When candidates started to come up with new strategies, their competition tried to one-up them.

“Seeing other people hand things out definitely put more pressure on me to hand things out,” said Garland, who handed out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

“A majority on court definitely had stickers and buttons,” Prendergast said. “They handed out candy and sandwiches and cupcakes. It was nuts.”

The candidates were Reese Garland, Jordan Pillow, Kelvin Madjinor, Kris Peace, Gia Waisvisz, Justice Clark, Charles Yang, Martha Brennan, Heidi Enger, and Ben Niewoehner.

The fierce campaigns employed a variety of strategies. Both Garland and Pillow posted TikToks seeking support. “I definitely gained support from my close friends first, then I posted a viral TikTok that spread to coaches, from friend to friend, reached teams, and definitely hit the freshman level,” said Garland.

Pillow’s TikTok was a clever spin on the movie “Mean Girls” and included many classmates and teachers voicing their support. Her homecoming dreams were inspired by movies, she said, adding, “Growing up watching movies, I saw people winning homecoming queen, so I wanted to win.” It’s unclear why elections for homecoming royalty were so significant to the school this year.

Senior Lee Chaloemtiarana speculated COVID may have played a role, noting, “This was the first year of normal school for the senior class.”

On the other hand, Student Council President Wami Osikanlu believes,“elections last year with student council officers played a big influence to homecoming court this year.” Last year, elections for student council officers were comparably competitive.

The excitement extended beyond the candidates to the student body. This year, more than 1,147 students voted for homecoming royalty, a higher number than previous years, according to Prendergast.

“I feel like people should be excited because this is what represents us as Huskies,” said senior Emily Sanchez, while waiting for the homecoming court to be announced at the spirit assembly. “This is our pride and joy.”

But Prendergast advocated making the race less competitive next year. “Going forward, I think a lot’s going to have to change,” she said, whether that’s stricter rules to get on the ballot or a different way of representing the student body as a whole.

Spirit Assembly, Sept. 23