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Students catch rubber ducks at annual Spirit Splash event

By Katie Kustura
On October 29, 2011

Duck hunting season may be a few weeks away, but UCF students got a head start last Friday afternoon.

A thousand rubber ducks were tossed to UCF students and other attendees of Spirit Splash, the pre-homecoming game-day pep rally.

Last Friday's Spirit Splash marked the 16th year members of the UCF community have been allowed to run into the Reflecting Pond while the cheerleaders, the Knight Moves dancers and the Marching Knights perform in front of Millican Hall.

This year's Spirit Splash was the second one that sophomore Cory Gordon attended, and the business major was ready to beat his personal rubber-duck-collecting record.

"I got four ducks last year … which is apparently rare," Gordon said.

Someone who didn't have a record to break was associate professor of sociology, Dr. Elizabeth Mustaine.

Mustaine, who started working at UCF the year the event was created, attended Spirit Splash for the first time this year.

"My office is right over in Phillips Hall, and it overlooks this, so I've watched this for many years," Mustaine said. "My colleague [Elzbieta Sikorska-Simmons] said ‘I want to go to the Spirit Splash, but I need a kid or I'm going to look weird. What about your kids?' And I said ‘OK!'"

Also in attendance were Mustaine's kids and her aunt, Margy Lyon.

Mustaine told her daughter, Kate Mustaine, on Thursday that she would get to leave school early on Friday to attend.

"I've always wanted to go to this," said the fifth-grader, who imagined her friends would be jealous. "I had one hour and 30 minutes at school and then I left."

Senior accounting major Kat Etcheverry hadn't always wanted to attend the Reflecting Pond romp.

"I actually never knew about Spirit Splash. I've never been very involved in school," said Etcheverry, who watched YouTube videos of previous Spirit Splashes to prepare herself. "After meeting a bunch of people at UCF, my friend mentioned it to me, so I decided to give it a try since it's my last year."

Though Etcheverry hadn't known about Spirit Splash, it wasn't for the lack of publicity.

In spring of this year, UCF's Spirit Splash received a best campus tradition award from the National Association for Campus Activities. The event received similar accolades in 2000 from Florida Leader magazine.

"Spirit Splash is one of the most wonderful, fun activities that we have and it brings all of us together," Vice President of Student Development and Enrollment Services Dr. Maribeth Ehasz said. "I couldn't be prouder. It just puts UCF on the map for a very good reason."

Some attendees of the award-winning event did so in a manner that set themselves apart from the crowd of students in the pond.

Freshman Aerospace Engineering major Blair Troop went for a dip in his Star Wars stormtrooper costume.

"Before the year started, I got some armor, and I still wear it to games, and I thought ‘Hey, why don't I just wear it to every event too?'" Troop said.

What set junior film major Eric Collins apart from the crowd wasn't what he was wearing but who he brought with him.

Fred, a bass fish mailbox, was easy to spot in the pond as Collins held him high above his head. Fred came into Collins' life more than a year ago.

"My two roommates were on their way home from school and saw a garage sale, and they saw a girl in a bikini and they're like ‘Oh, we'll stop there,'" Collins said. "They saw this mailbox for five bucks, and they're like, ‘All right, let's get it.' Somebody named him, and now he has 258 friends on Facebook."

In addition to Spirit Splash, Fred has been on a cruise, visited New York and been held by Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard.

When Spirit Splash ended, duck-collector Gordon unfortunately wasn't able to walk away with a new record.

"So I went in. Me and my friend went to the front. I got three rubber duckies; he got five," Gordon said.

Despite the loss, he said he has no plans to steal any from his friend.

"I'm a fair dude," Gordon said. "I can admit to my loss."

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