More than 5,000 UCF students and alumni charged into the Reflecting Pond Friday afternoon for the 22nd annual Spirit Splash.
After a 10-second countdown, people barreled into the pond at 1 p.m. as a brass band performed the “UCF Fight Song.”
There was one goal as they splashed through the water: Get a rubber duck.
Chants of “We want ducks!” filled the air, and flip-flops were tossed like beach balls across the pond as everyone waited excitedly for the ducks to debut.
This year’s ducks wore a backward black baseball cap and sported a No. 1 foam finger and a “Go team” flag.
Why ducks? Spirit Splash organizers needed something fun, cheap and quick to hand out at the event during its early years, and “the answer was rubber ducks,” Spirit Splash Director Kayla McCauley, 20, said
The tradition of Spirit Splash can be traced back to UCF’s 1995 Homecoming Pep Rally as SGA Student Body President Miguel Torregrossa was pushed into the Reflecting Pond by his Cabinet members, and other students subsequently followed, McCauley said.
Playing off the Homecoming theme “UCF Recharged,” meant to reinvigorate school spirit, the sport-themed ducks were a way to get people excited for the Homecoming football game, McCauley said.
Two elite ducks out of 2,500 were signed by UCF football coach Scott Frost, McCauley said.
After almost 20 minutes of waiting, members of the Homecoming Committee started tossing ducks into the crowd as students pushed and shoved in hopes of catching one.
A newly implemented catwalk that extended from the stage into the middle of the pond made this year’s Spirit Splash different. The catwalk, which blocked off half of the Reflecting Pond, served as a platform for the Homecoming Court and committee, cheerleaders, dancers and was the launch point for ducks.
“We wanted to have a better connection with the attendees as they are in the water,” McCauley said.
Festive rubber duck inflatables floated in the water near the catwalk, and although they weren’t used much, a student did get reprimanded after jumping on one after the event.
Some students got lucky as rubber ducks were thrown nearby or even at them.
“Two ducks hit me in the face. I was able to get one of the two,” Jin Kim, a UCF junior and accounting major, said.
UCF student Cole Pirosseno was not as fortunate.
“It was like the movie ‘It,’ but instead of clowns they were rubber ducks,” Pirosseno, a junior and marketing major, said. “It [a duck] hit my fingers and a tear came out of my eye immediately. I never saw that duck again.”
An hour before the duck rush, a pep rally featured Knightro, UCF cheerleaders and dancers engaging the crowd as music played.
This season’s undefeated UCF Knights football team and Frost stood on a stage behind the catwalk to energize the crowd before the splashing began.
“We’re not the only ones on that field. It’s not a football team, it’s Knight nation,” Shaquem Griffin, UCF Knights’ defensive back, said.
“This is the first year that we’ve ever had a football team that is 4-0 that Spirit Splash has been at bay,” Student Body President Nick Larkins said.
The UCF Knights continued its victory streak with a Homecoming game win of 63-21 against the East Carolina Pirates Saturday night, according to an official UCF football tweet.
Spirit Splash was named the Best Campus Tradition in 2011 by the National Association for Campus Activities, Rachel Williams, the communication coordinator for UCF News and Information, said.
Spirit Splash attracts thousands of students, alumni and faculty each year. After more than two decades, it continues to be one of the most highly anticipated Homecoming events.
“It was fun; this is actually my fourth year here. I know more about what to do and what not to do but it’s still the same amount of fun,” Fairooz Haque, a UCF senior biology major, said.
Haque had a few tips for attendees: Don’t shove other people, and just be a nice person.