Last year, Oakcrest High School was unorganized in its campaign to win the Under Armour's inaugural Finding Undeniable challenge, which pitted high schools from across the county in a battle of school spirit.
A late surge put the Falcons eighth out of about 600 schools, earning them a banner that now hangs in the school's gym but leaving them well short of the grand prize: $140,000 worth of athletic supplies and accessories, which was won last year by nearby Mainland Regional High School.
History teacher Doug Cervi, who organized the effort, believing his students could do better, began planning this year's campaign as soon as the last one ended. And so far, Oakcrest has performed as Cervi expected, carrying last year's late momentum to second place as of Nov. 5.
Media teacher Jason Thomas, who is helping Cervi this year, said this year's campaign has been strong from the start.
"It's been incredible from day one," Thomas said. "They jumped right on board with it, and last year we had trouble from the get-go getting the support. Once it hit, it was a little too late. This year the kids knew what the contest was, and they knew what it involved and right away they jumped on, and they started and it's been constant throughout the whole process."
Students and staff earn points by completing a series of challenges. Easy challenges, like snapping a picture of the school sign and uploading it to Under Armour's contest page, earn few points, while more elaborate challenges can earn point totals in the thousands.
Points are also earned through votes on Oakcrest's school page on the Finding Undeniable website. Votes are worth one point each and can be cast once per day until the close of the first phase of competition at 3 p.m. Nov. 20.
The contest has engaged members of the Oakcrest community near and far, Cervi said.
"We have parents doing it; we've got grandparents doing it," Cervi said. "This is community spirit-building. It's awesome."
Senior Alyssa Rivera, one of the students most active in the effort, said she has noticed a change in the culture at Oakcrest since the contest began.
"I feel like people are getting along better because now we have a common thing to fight for," Rivera said. "It's not just one person. Everybody's coming together and fighting for something."
Oakcrest has completed all but one challenge so far, and is saving the most valuable for last. On Nov. 7, the school will hold an elaborate pep rally in which students will hold up 260 squares of posterboard painted to form the Under Armour logo while chanting the company's mantra, "I Will Protect this House."
Uploading a video of this rally to the school's site would earn Oakcrest a whopping 6,000 points in the contest.
Should Oakcrest be in one of the top four positions at the voting deadline, or should it earn enough badges to qualify for one of four wild card spots, the school will move on to a head-to-head elimination round. Whichever team earns more points in each matchup will advance, and a winner will be crowned during the Under Armour All-America game on Jan. 4.
With the level of enthusiasm the community has already shown for the contest, Thomas said he's confident in the school's chances.
"All the athletic teams, the performing arts department, everybody is involved in this from the top-down," Thomas said. "The community is getting involved, so it's really important to me to just tell people to continue to support this and continue to support Oakcrest High School, because we've got a lot that's really special here, and people will really get a chance to see this with this contest."
To vote your support for Oakcrest High School, visit the school's page at finding
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