Lucy the Lion ‘hugs and dances’ her way into the hearts of Southern fans

Senior Heather Freeland dressed as Lucy the Lion outside of Leggett & Platt Athletic Center on Feb. 9

Julie Lybarger

Senior Heather Freeland dressed as “Lucy the Lion” outside of Leggett & Platt Athletic Center on Feb. 9

Senior Heather Freeland is a legend. Students have inevitably seen her on the campus of Missouri Southern State University at least once in their college careers.

She garners attention from children, adults, and students alike. Freeland can’t seem to walk 100 feet without receiving high fives and hugs simply for being herself.

During her four years at MSSU, Freeland has been an avid fan of the basketball games, cheering her teams on with more than just words.

With Freeland in attendance the Southern Men are a combined 31-16, while the Southern Women are 40-15. That is the home records for the Lions for the last four years.

Why should you know Freeland? She has been portraying the female mascot since the 2004 school year.

During that span, she has danced and hugged her way into the hearts of boosters, students, and fans of MSSU.

The life of the mascot and face of Missouri Southern hasn’t been an easy road to walk for Freeland. The responsibilities of being the mascot are many and the physical demands are high.

“Along with staying in character, sometimes it becomes difficult to remember your own name,” Freeland said.

“When we get a new suit, the name of our characters change. I had been Leona until 2005 and now I am Lucy the Lion.”

How hard is the work done by the MSSU Mascots? Freeland can fondly recall the first time she might have been in over her head.

“The first bad experience I can remember was the 2005 football season,” Freeland said.

“The suit just traps heat like a furnace. The temperature at kickoff was 90 degrees. Inside my suit, it was closer to 110. There was an event going on earlier in the day so I was in the suit for almost nine straight hours.”

The suit itself is a different kind of struggle. Aside from scheduling free time to attend all of the events she must be at, the simple act of walking can be hard.

Freeland is responsible for the upkeep and cleaning of the suit. Most of the time, she has to make repairs herself.

“There have been times when I had to make big adjustments, Freeland said.

” The tail had a hole in it and was losing stuffing everywhere. It got ripped off and kids asked me if I got bit. I had to put elastic under the feet so the suit wouldn’t rip out. It’s been bad at times.”

With all the struggles that Freeland has overcome to do her part for Southern Athletics, there is still one thing that manages to get under her skin while she’s cheering on the athletes.

“The worst part is that the boy gets all the attention. Most times the children at the games think I’m ‘the Lion’s wife’ or ‘the Lion Cub’ and not a girl at all,” Freeland said. “But I love doing the dances and seeing the kids smile.”

Freeland enjoys traveling and dancing, having recently visited the country of Ireland and plans on doing more traveling after college.

However, “Lucy” will always have time to come cheer on her fellow Lions.