From the student section

Pamela London

The Dawg Pack. The Zu Crew. The Cameron Crazies. The Purdue Paint Zone. The Kennel. The Izzone.

To someone who isn’t sports-crazy, all of the above may sound like nicknames for parties on a Saturday night. To the educated college basketball fan, however–or someone who has ever watched ESPN’s College GameDay–the aforementioned names can be immediately recognized as just a sampling of some of the best student sections in the NCAA.

While these student sections span the width of the country, from the University of Washington’s Dawg Pack to Michigan State University’s Izzone, there is one thing that separates these schools from all the rest: the fact that they are Division I.

Students who go to these big state schools are not only getting an education along with 50,000 of their closest friends, but they are also tend to get the quintessential collegiate sports experience. They get to jump and yell and mock the opposition every weekend in support of their basketball teams, and they do it in front of a gym packed with thousands of other screaming fans. Sometimes the whole nation turns its eyes to one gym, and that’s when these crazy student sections shine the brightest.

As someone who grew up as a University of Washington fan, I knew that coming to Whitman College meant sacrificing the big school sports experience. We don’t have the gym capacity or student population to replicate the infamous Cameron Crazies in our Whitman bubble here in Walla Walla, but that’s just something that comes with the territory. Little did I know, however, that just because UW’s Dawg Pack alone would fill our George Ball Court to capacity  doesn’t mean we Whitties can’t help our Missionaries come out, well, on top.

It has already been established that George Ball Court at Sherwood Center is one of the best basketball gyms in the Northwest Conference. Don’t let its small size fool you: our gym has the potential to feel just as electric  as a high profile arena on any major college campus. We may not be thousands strong, but the Whitman student section has the enthusiasm to  rival any surrounding university.

When Whitworth came to town on Whiteout Night, our student section didn’t sit for a second. From the opening tip to the final buzzer, we jumped and yelled and mocked the opposition. Even when Whitworth seemed as though it was going to pull away and take away our chance to upset the first-ranked team in the country, we continued to cheer. And when that final buzzer did sound and the comeback from 17 down with eight minutes to play was completed, we stormed the court just like the student section at any other university would do. On that night, we were big time.

Josh Duckworth, '14 scores in Whitman's 79-76 playoff win Thursday night. Duckworth and teammate Justin Shaw '12 (not pictured) earned NWC Honorable Mention and First Team honors, respectively. Credit: Marin Axtell

On the night of the Gold Rush, Lewis & Clark College paid at visit to Sherwood for the semifinals of the Northwest Conference tournament. Our gold shirts painted the gym to mirror the Whitman jerseys. Once again, we jumped and yelled and mocked the opposition, and together we helped our  men come back from a double-digit halftime deficit to pull out a 79-69 victory. Our student section was big time once again.

And when we got our rubber match with Whitworth, it came in Spokane with the Northwest Conference tournament championship on the line. We filled buses and cars to bring nearly 150 Whitties to the Whitworth Fieldhouse. From our arrival––over 80 minutes before the game started––until the final buzzer, did everything in our power to make it feel like we were back at our home in Walla Walla.  On Whitworth’s home court, the Gold Rush took over an entire section behind the Whitman team bench. For the final time this season, we jumped and yelled and mocked the opposition until the game was over, even when the scoreboard showed us the 74-50 defeat.

We refused to back down. We weren’t intimidated. As the teams were warming up and the Whitworth students just finding their seats, our chants reminded everyone that we could win, “Just like last time!” When the arena went quiet during Whitman’s first-half runs, we asked the Whitworth student section “Why so quiet?”

Even though we wound up on the wrong side of the score, it should now be clear to everyone in the Whitman community that we don’t need the D1  population to have the D1 basketball experience.

We are Whitman. We are on top.

We are big time.