Mr. Bobcat: Behind the Scenes

The most wonderful time of the year for Oyster River students is our annual spirit week. One of the main draws of this school-spirit filled week is the senior boys’ talent show and beauty pageant:  Mr. Bobcat. This year, I had the privilege of judging this crowd-favorite event.

Be sure to check out Jess Speechley’s video covering Mr. Bobcat here, with exclusive interviews. Keep reading for a behind-the-scenes peek into the event.

The days leading up the the show were full of anticipation and excitement. Once contestants found out who the judges would be, some alliances were attempted. For example, Brennen Oxford offered me $41 in hopes I would ensure that he got the win, which I’m assuming was his entire life’s savings. Finally, the time had come for the show to actually begin.

Senior class advisor, Heather Healy, has organized the Mr. Bobcat competition for the past 10 years. She said, “I was more worried about kids being prepared and actually being able to get onstage and do their thing, but, year after year I have that worry and somehow they find a way to always figure it out.”

I arrived promptly at six pm, and my first encounter was with a seemingly pants-less Tyler McKenna. I was quickly assured that he had shorts on under his triple XL dress shirt. McKenna had been preparing for this show for years. He explained, “I had put a lot of time into practicing my talent, and I was ready to go.”

We were finally ready to begin. The show was emceed by the fabulous Andrea Drake, a math teacher here at ORHS.

The formal wear section was one of the hardest to judge, due to of the fact that all of the boys, aside from a rogue Tyler McKenna (still pants-less) were definitely dressed to impress. Some standouts included Paul Kobus’ traditional junior prom look, Brennen Oxford’s true embodiment of the all-American boy, and Grant Heine channeling his inner Mr. Rogers in a sweater and loafers combination.

The Q&A and pick-up line section, always a crowd favorite, was up next. Some pickup lines struck me as particularly sweet, tender if you will, such as Jake Kaplan’s, “people usually call me Jake, but you can call me tonight.” However, there were also quite a few humorous lines as well, including Oliver Philbrick’s seemingly sweet line that ended with, “yep, your parents paid me to come talk to you.”

The next section was swimwear, as well as push-ups and limbo competitions. The most notable swimwear attire came in the form of some suspenders paired with brightly colored swim trunks, courtesy of Oliver Philbrick. Noah Cote sported a drawn-on muscular look, which I’m assuming was created moments before the show using black sharpie. After a few tense, painful moments, even for those of us not doing pushups, Weglarz got the win.

After push-ups, we moved quickly to the limbo portion of the show. This is always so impressive to me, because I took gymnastics for six years and still can’t make it past the first round. Heine eventually got the win, points that would prove helpful to him later on.

Finally, it was time for my personal favorite part of the show: the talent section. This year was filled with a lot of musical talents, which was impressive given the lack of actual musical talent from the majority of performers. We as the judges loved the first jazzercise routine, courtesy of Jacob Zercher, Grant Heine, and Connor Manning. This act was perfectly synched, and clearly rehearsed, with coordinated backflips and all. The judges appreciated the originality and planning that had obviously gone into this act.  

Other top scorers included Tyler McKenna, Brennen Oxford, and Jake Kaplan. McKenna performed the song “Bank Account” by 21 Savage, act complete with gold chains and hundred dollar bills. Oxford performed a heart-melting rendition of “Listen to Your Heart.”  He even paused his song to shout out his family, saying he hoped he was a good big brother. Perhaps, if the judges table had gotten a shoutout, he would have gotten the win he so desperately wanted.

The show ended with a particularly tender moment, with Jake Kaplan playing guitar and singing the song “Wish You Were Here.” All of the contestants came out to slow dance during this part, which was, in my opinion, such a perfect ending to the show.

Eventually, the time finally came to announce the winner. (drumroll) Jake Kaplan was crowned Mr. Bobcat 2017. If I had to take a guess, I’d say it was Jake’s talent portion that really pushed him over the edge. He described all the effort that went into his performance, and shared that he’d been practicing the song “With You Were Here” since the summer. He said, “all I really wanted to do was share my love for music by playing one of my favorite songs for whoever wanted to listen.” Judges and audience members alike were blown away by his performance, and the apparent amount of work he had put into this act. It was clear he hadn’t gone into the show with any preconceived notion of winning. He said that he wasn’t even aware there was a cash prize, and asked that the money he’d won be donated to the senior class.

Kaplan went on to say, “I guess one piece of advice I have for everyone, especially those who are seniors yet, is don’t be afraid to go out on limb and take a chance once in awhile. It may just be one of the best decisions you make in your entire life. Looking back to when I wasn’t a senior, I always admired those people who performed in Mr. Bobcat because it takes a lot of courage to go up there if front of so many people.”

One might not necessarily consider the amount of preparation that goes into the Mr. Bobcat event. I know I didn’t. Kendall Bird is senior class president and was a critical part in the preparation for the show. I agreed with Bird in that we were both very pleased with the way the show went in all aspects. “Honestly, I thought it was a great show. The talents were a lot more impressive than anticipated. I also was really impressed with the guys and the cleanliness of their pick up lines and answers, as that had a been a problem in the planning stages,” Bird said.

While we were all cleaning up after the show, there was definitely such a friendly vibe. I think all of the guys were pleased with the fact Kaplan won, and definitely agreed that he deserved it. “I’m just glad they all seemed happy with it themselves. The sense of community is great to watch,” Bird said.

The show was not only a fun time for judges and attendees, but for the contestants as well. McKenna said, “it was just cool to have all the guys come together to put on a great show like that.”

Those who weren’t lucky enough to sit in the audience clearly missed out on singing along to “Wrecking Ball,” laughing about Cam Thibodeau and Mike Green channeling their inner Michael Jackson, or simply listening to Kadin Mason’s repetitive shouting of “WORD!” whenever a contestant said something particularly funny. Mr. Bobcat is arguably the most tender tradition that ORHS has to offer, and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it.