AD Teusch resurrects tradition of ‘Ike the Vike’ mascot for fun, spirit at Viking sporting events

Eli Link, a senior at Huntington North High School, stands before the school’s student section, The Pit, in character as Ike the Vike, the school’s mascot, during a varsity football game at Kriegbaum Field on Friday, Oct. 7. Appearances by the student-portrayed mascot had waned in recent years at the school, but Link and Huntington North Athletic Director Kris Teusch are hoping to reignite the tradition.
Eli Link, a senior at Huntington North High School, stands before the school’s student section, The Pit, in character as Ike the Vike, the school’s mascot, during a varsity football game at Kriegbaum Field on Friday, Oct. 7. Appearances by the student-portrayed mascot had waned in recent years at the school, but Link and Huntington North Athletic Director Kris Teusch are hoping to reignite the tradition.

Originally published Oct. 13, 2016.

Every student at a Huntington North High School sporting event is a Viking.

But only one of those students gets to become a Viking, literally.

This fall, that student is Eli Link. The Huntington North senior is the latest in a long line of students to portray “Ike the Vike,” the school’s Nordic mascot. While the mascot has been appearing at the school’s sporting events since the days of Huntington High School, his appearances had waned in recent years. Kris Teusch aimed to change that last year, her first on the job as the school’s athletic director.

“I was just trying to maintain, but then because of being here for so long, there were things, obviously, that I remember, that I appreciate, that I liked about what we did in athletics,” she says.

And among those things was Ike the Vike. So, Teusch started asking teachers to recommend students who might do a good job at taking up the mantle of Ike. She also unearthed the Ike outfits the school had in storage.

“I had the old costumes and they were pretty worn out,” she says. “And they had a pretty interesting smell to them.”

Needing a new costume, Teusch reached out to Debbie Wiley, a retired family and consumer sciences teacher from Huntington North, inquiring if she would be willing to craft a replacement. Wiley, along with husband Joe, came through for Teusch; the couple purchased a pair of new Viking costumes and donated them to the school.

The first student to don one of the costumes was Chandler Updike, who played Ike during football season. A wrestler, Updike handed off Ike duties when the winter sports season rolled around. Teusch found a replacement in Carson Wright. She also found someone to put on the other Viking costume, which was smaller and more suitable for a child than a high school student: Her 8-year-old son, Jason.

“People have asked me,” says Teusch amusedly, “‘Did you have to bribe him?’ I’m like, ‘Heck no. He’s 8 years old and he gets to lead the varsity basketball team out on the basketball court. Are you kidding me? What 8-year-old boy doesn’t want to do that?’”

Teusch was encouraged to see both Wright and her son display the same level of enthusiasm for Ike that she has. Wright added a wig to his costume to create a more authentic Viking look while her son began crafting a prop to accompany his.

“He made his own sword,” she says. “The wooden one that came with the original Vike outfit is pretty heavy, so he made his own out of cardboard and duct tape.
“Amazing what you can do with duct tape.”

Teusch’s son and Wright portrayed Junior Ike the Vike and Ike, respectively, at boys’ basketball games last season. Teusch also had someone on hand to play a female version of Ike at girls’ basketball games when Lisa McDonald, a Crestview Middle School guidance counselor, recommended her daughter, Elle, for the job.

Just like Wright and her son, Teusch was pleased to see the excitement that Elle McDonald displayed over playing Ike. McDonald, Teusch says, would show up to games with her blonde hair braided, looking just like a valkyrie.

When this school year rolled around, Teusch was looking for a new student to portray Ike. The search came to an end when Link strolled into the athletic office one day and volunteered for the gig.

“I just thought it’d be kind of fun,” he says. “I guess people had kind of thought that it’d be a good fit for me. I’m an outgoing guy – loud, rambunctious. So, I could get people motivated or get people going during The Pit and stuff.”

Link says interacting with a former Ike, Curt Kline, who played the character at Huntington North in the late 1980s, inspired him to seek out the Ike mantle for himself.

“That kind of sparked it for me, really, is seeing the tradition and I got ambition to start it up again,” he says.

Seeing himself in the Ike costume for the first time got him even more pumped up to play the character than he already was, says Link.
“I was like, ‘You know what? That’s pretty cool. I can’t wait to just show up tonight and just get everybody going, just do my own thing,’” he enthuses. “I had no agenda, no plan of what I was going to do, it’s just you go out there and you motivate people.”

So far, Link has portrayed Ike at every home football game. On some nights he’s even had a sidekick, with Alex Cannici playing Junior Ike the Vike.

Beyond football, Link has made Ike appearances at home volleyball matches this season, too. He’s enjoyed his run as the mascot so much that he’s even considering doing it through basketball season.

Once he hangs up Ike’s pointed helmet, Link hopes that students step up to play the character for years to come.

“I just think it’s a tradition at Huntington North that should be continued … even if you’re a shy person, if you can get loud and get people motivated, do it,” he says. “I would recommend it. It’s cool. It’s fun.”