Champion of the Hill captivates

Cosi Pori ’18 was crowned Champion of the Hill Saturday night at St. Olaf’s homecoming pageant event. Formerly known as King of the Hill, the Student Activities Committee (SAC) switched to the term “Champion” after Director of Student Activities and Buntrock Commons Kris Vatter informed SAC that the male-only pageant was not in accordance with the rules specified in Title IX.

“In the past, King of Hill was a male pageant, and the purpose of the event was to challenge the idea of pageants,” Homecoming Co-Chair Jacob Pullen ’18 said.

However, under “Other Sex-Specific Activities and Rules,” Title IX reads “unless expressly authorized by Title IX or its implementing regulations, a school may not segregate or otherwise distinguish students on the basis of their sex, including gender identity, in any school activities or the application of any school rule.” The challenge, therefore, was to adapt King of the Hill to fit within the specifications of Title IX while maintaining the tradition of the event.

SAC embraced the change, making the event gender-inclusive. According to Pullen, a gender inclusive King of the Hill wasn’t a new idea. While planning the 2015 King of Hill, SAC and the Gender and Sexuality House discussed the possibility of a King of the Hill event that was less masculine and heteronormative.

While in 2015 the idea remained simply that, this year the change was mandatory. The first step of adapting the event was coming up with a new name. The homecoming co-chairs wanted to maintain the spirit and tradition of the event, and therefore chose “champion” to replace “king” since it was gender-neutral. The next step was to modify parts of the structure. Though the events remained the same, modifications were made to make the events less heteronormative. For example, in years past, male competitors were accompanied by a female “escort.” This year, the competitors were able to choose any “guest(s)” to accompany them.

In years past, the SAC committee would ask students to participate in King of the Hill. In this year’s Champion of the Hill, SAC tabled and allowed students to nominate peers. The nominations were gender inclusive.

“The purpose of Champion of the Hill is to showcase Ole pride, spirit and talent, and to move away from making fun of pageant shows,” Pullen said.

The St. Olaf community embraced the change to Champion of the Hill. On Saturday night, the Pause was packed with Oles eager to watch their peers showcase their talent and humor.

Among the judges were Pastor Matthew Marohl, Peter Costanza and Student Government Association president Emma Lind ’17. Champion competitor Nicholas Swanson ’17 started off the night by dropping – or raising – some notes to Lind, while singing Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” Swannie Willstein ’19’s cover of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” won her second place. Willstein substituted words in the song with “spaghetti,” and each time she said the word her parents tossed spaghetti at her.

Pori was crowned Champion of the Hill after his showcase of talent. His primary talent was shoveling grapes into his mouth while singing with great passion. The EMTs on hand cast each other uneasy looks, and made sudden movements when they thought Pori was in need of the Heimlich maneuver. The crowd cheered weakly when the song ended, exhausted over their concern for Pori’s airway; nobody, however, could deny Pori’s extraordinary talent and embodiment of the Ole spirit. Later, Pori established power by appealing to the cross country team, who sat in a pack in the audience. When Pori donned the cross country jersey and tattoo, the cross country team stood in unison, applauding.

Champion of the Hill’s gender inclusivity and initiative to showcase Ole talent and spirit was successful.

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