New lioness roars to audience with cheer

Heather Freelend, freshman nursing major, dawns the costume of Leona the Lioness at home atheltic events.

Heather Freelend, freshman nursing major, dawns the costume of Leona the Lioness at home atheltic events.

Nate Billings

Lion chow is not the food of choice for Leona, the female Missouri Southern mascot.

Heather Freelend, freshman nursing major, is the lady behind the mask.

The freshman student senator and Honors student has been the mascot since she cornered the male mascot, Leo, after the first home football game.

William Siegfried, freshman psychology major, portrays the role of Leo, but is also a friend of Freelend’s. Siegfried took the idea to Karen Talbott, cheer and spirit squad coach after Freelend asked him.

“We were excited [about Freelend joining],” Talbott said.

Leona had not been seen in several years because interest in playing the role of the mascot was down, however, because of Freelend’s enthusiasm for the role, Leona’s namesake was placed in her possession.

“She (Freelend) is a really, really positive personality for the whole squad,” Talbott said.

“The crowd seems to respond to [the pair instead of one] better,” Siegfried said.

Siegfried said he was not sure Freelend was up to the challenge of being a mascot at first, but he changed his mind when he found out she was a cheerleader in high school.

He also said he enjoys having another person to work with during games.

“It’s nice to have someone to share it with,” he said. “It’s easier to make yourself not look like an idiot in a fur costume when there is someone else out there dancing in a fur costume.”

Freelend said she enjoys the opportunity to be the mascot.

“The excitement of the children is contagious,” Freelend said.

She said there are several challenges that come with being the female mascot.

“Imagine dancing around smothered by little kids and being covered by a fur suit,” she said.

The suit is not equipped with a head fan or room for ice packs like Siegfried’s, but Freelend said she would continue to be the mascot during the basketball season even if it is hotter inside a gym than outside in a football stadium.

She is allowed to keep the suit and care for it, but the only requirement she said she had to perform was a physical to make sure she would not pass out from the excessive heat.

Talbott said the decision was made easier due to the fact Freelend also portrayed her high school mascot for one semester as well.

Both Freelend and Siegfried plan to do more with the mascots. They said they would like to do more dances and bring more story lines to the mascot couple.

“When it cools down, we’re going to do more dances together,” Freelend said.

The mascots can be seen at each home game and both plan to attend the Miners’ Bowl Saturday.