Being a mascot means more that just school spirit to Barbers Hill High School’s Riley Linck.
For the junior, it has meant having an opportunity to explore other sides of her personality as she dons the Eagle wardrobe on game days.
And she’s pretty darn good at it.
Having donned “the head” of the Eagle since her freshman year, Linck has elevated her performance as a mascot to becoming a Universal Cheerleaders Association All-American in both 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons while being also named National Cheerleaders Association All-American for 2019-20 and earning NCA State spots in 2018 and 2019 including with eights and fifth place finishes in Dallas.
But it didn’t start out easy for Linck.
“I was at Highlands Junior High and they didn’t have a mascot,” Linck said. “My math teacher was the cheer coach and my mom forced her to find the suit and it was locked away in a storage closet, so we created the mascot program that year.
“I went up against this other kid who was kind of the class favorite and I was a little worried. I didn’t make it and I was devasted, but then we moved, and I went to Barbers Hill South Middle School.”
There, Linck found a mascot waiting to call her own.
“Once I put on that suit, I was addicted,” she said. “I am a different person. I am normally a mean and quiet person. But I get in the suit and I am nice, friendly and I like children. I am outgoing.”
Linck says that the transformation takes place because even though everyone is watching her, no one really is watching Riley.
Now the identity underneath the head will be known by more than those who have paid close attention.
Linck doesn’t mind. She also likes both sides of her personality.
For years she has walked the hallways of school in basic anonymity.
“It’s fun,” she said. “You will be at games and the Eaglettes (cheerleaders) will be asking ‘who is the mascot this year,’ and only a select people know,” Linck said. “People will say ‘it’s Riley’ and I will be like ‘hi, it’s me.’ But there are those days that people wonder, ‘why is there a girl wheeling a trash can around?’”
That trash can houses her mascot gear which wasn’t easy to obtain including being isolated as a freshman on the cheerleading team being the youngest on the squad.
“We have to be in a cheer class to learn cheers and stunts and stuff and I wasn’t in it,” Linck said. “My coach at the time said she couldn’t justify me being in the class because it was giving me athletic credit and I was like ‘do you not see how much I sweat?’ I had to fight for it and I eventually got in the class.”
Second-year head cheerleading coach Christie Hahn has taken on an appreciation for Linck since taking over the program after being her mascot’s JV coach during that freshman year.
“Riley was shy two or three years ago and has really come out of her shell and taken on that mascot role and has done an awesome job,” Hahn said. “She has done more for the mascot program than any one has before as far as her innovativeness and doing her job. I saw what she could do and trusted her from there.”
“Riley is just her. She is amazing and she is mysterious to a certain extent. Sometimes she’s the sweetest person and other times she’s just Riley as I lie to put it.”
Linck takes the role seriously because of “how much I fought to get here,” she said and goes hard at being a mascot to get a positive return on the investment she has made.
“Cheerleaders that make varsity their sophomore and junior year automatically make it their senior year, but I have to fight for that opportunity to get that,” Linck said. “Even though I’ve made it all three years it will be decided at the end of January if I have to try out again.
If that doesn’t go in my favor, I will be fighting that as well. Tryouts are in May and if I have to tryout, I’ll fight it.”
She doesn’t mind the idea of someone better beating her out, but she believes she has earned a rightful spot.
Just like she did recently earning All-American honors on back-to-back occasions and top state spots.
“Our cheer trophy case has three trophies in their that are mine and I wanted my plaque in there,” Linck said. “Once my name was called and I when won fifth place, I was relieved. I performed at 11 and the awards weren’t until 6 o’clock.”
Linck wants to go to a college to study and be a mascot and won’t apply at schools that do not have a program.
Why not go where she can continue to bring out her best personalities?
“This is my suit, and it has my sweat in it and my makeup stains in it,” Linck said. “I try to take good care of her.”