The Cat, The Cow, … and the Spartan

Across+from+the+weight+room%2C+above+the+exit%2C+sits+a+beautiful+mosaic+of+the+two+WJ+mascots+of+the+past+and+present.

Photo by Jalen Scott

Across from the weight room, above the exit, sits a beautiful mosaic of the two WJ mascots of the past and present.

The gym hallway contains a trophy case, showcasing the many athletic and academic awards won through the years of competition. Not only does it house these accomplishments, it also holds many pieces of history that are essential in connecting our past to our rich future. Another one of these pieces of history can be found in a subtle, mosaic glass art piece above the exit doors on the G floor. It depicts our current mascot, the Wildcat, and a relic of the past, the Mighty Spartan. For those who don’t know, Walter Johnson High School used to be home of the Spartans. That all changed in the merger of ‘88.

Although Coach Thomas Martin wasn’t a part of the WJ staff at the time, he was aware of the big news coming out of Montgomery County in 1988: Woodward High School was closing.

“It wasn’t uncommon for schools to close like that during those times. The baby boomer era kids moved out of schools and now they were lacking in people to enroll,” Martin said.

This integration with local rival Woodward High School had a ripple effect in the attendance numbers at WJ, moving them from a 3A/4A school to a permanent 4A school. These classifications are based on the population of students at each school. To this day, that move pits our athletic teams with the likes of other 4A powerhouses like Quince Orchard, Winston Churchill and Walt Whitman.

However, the elephant in the room could not be ignored; what were they going to do with the mascots and colors? While the green and white remained a staple of WJ, a new mascot was brought into hallways, the Wildcat.

“There was definitely pushback from some of the WJ kids for the mascot change,” alumni Stephen Mostow said.

Mostow was a student leader at WJ and one of many students who were interested to see what the school was deciding to do regarding the mascots.

“We had a lot of history rolled up into the Spartans, and it was a pretty cool nickname. In my opinion though, it was very much the fair thing to do and an appropriate way to reach out to the Woodward kids,” Mostow said.

Even the final class of the Wildcats (class of ‘87) chimed in on the new accord. “We were happy that some part of Woodward would live on. But it would’ve been even better if the Woodward colors made it over to WJ, too,” alumni Ben Opipari said.

In order to make a seamless transition into the merger, a compromise was made that would set the precedent for our current beloved mascot. Woodward colors would be left with the school while the Wildcat inhabited WJ. As for the future…well, things could get interesting. With Woodward High School reopening in 2025, could we see the Wildcat return to its purple and white origins?

“Not likely,” Athletic Director Thomas Rodgers said. “It would be very expensive, with changes to uniforms, signs and licensing,” Rodgers said.

Hypothetically, if Woodward were to reclaim the Wildcat, what would WJ take as the new mascot? Most alumni, including Mostow, believe a return to the Spartan makes the most sense, while some may lobby for a full blown adaptation of Mighty Moo Madcow (or a similar variation).

The mysterious Mighty Moo Madcows became the official WJ mascot in 1963. That year, the seniors painted a cow on the WJ chimney. Though there is a legend of the senior prank of a cow in the roof is still under the status of a myth. At some point and time the cow went from a Brown Cow to a Ayrshire Dairy Cow; assuming because the school was actually built on a cow pasture! (Photo Courtesy The Washington Daily News Archive)

Regardless of what the future may hold, pride in our school, our colors, and our mascot(s), will forever be a part of WJ’s identity.

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