By Richard Taylor
On a windswept November night under a full moon, the chilly atmosphere outside contrasted sharply with the warm and festive spirit inside the newly repaired Ocracoke School gym as the Dolphins concluded Spirit Week with their first homecoming in three years.
As emcee Charles Temple read each member of the Homecoming Court’s name and often-humorous bio, 14 girls in formal dresses and nine boys in black suits strolled arm-in-arm down a paper runway laid across center court on Nov. 19.
Each grouping posed briefly under blue columns lit with white Christmas lights in front of the bleachers, as the crowd cheered spontaneously in the nearly full, darkened gym.
Thunderous cheering greeted the top vote getters — King Jonathan Martinez, Queen Odalys Garcia, Prince Rosalio Villanueva-Romero and Princess Daniela Garcia. All are seniors and the Garcias are cousins.
ESL teacher Flavia Burton crowned Martinez with a bright blue crown, while Odalys received a sparkling tiara as Dean of Students Jeanie Owens looked on.
Campus staff and students in grades 3 to12 voted for their choices by email ballot at school earlier Friday.
Family and friends lined up to commemorate the happy occasion, taking dozens of smartphone images, as the king, queen, prince and princess dutifully posed for photos.
Happy kids whirled around the gym floor collecting and popping blue and white balloons, which had lined the runway minutes before.
“We had our first Homecoming since October 2018 and it was fantastic,” Principal Leslie Cole wrote on the school’s Facebook page.
After 15 minutes of celebration and posing, school staff cleared the floor for a student-versus-community basketball game.
Coach Frank Moore’s varsity and Charlie Ralston’s middle school players led the scrappy game. Ralston also played for the villagers.
Referees Shane Bryan and Kadi Richardson tried to keep a semblance of order while Katie O’Neal ran the clock.
There were numerous missed shots on both sides and even a few tangles of legs and arms as hustling players crashed to the floor.
Still there were highlights.
“The first basket scored in a home game since February 2019 in our gym was by Christian Trejo, a 2021 graduate of Ocracoke School,” Cole noted further on Facebook. “Due to covid and Dorian, we didn’t have a basketball season last year and he was unable to play his senior year.”
Landon Fuller hit a three-point reminiscent of his older brother Mason’s miracle game winning three-pointer with 1.6 seconds left against Gateway Christian Academy in the consolation game of Ocracoke High School’s Eighth Annual Holiday Basketball Scholarship Tournament, Dec. 15, 2018.
Freshman Finn Kattenburg also nailed a long three-pointer, prompting thunderous applause and yells in the nearly full gym.
Sophomore Maren Donlon — earlier dressed in a floor-length black gown as a member of the Homecoming Court — rushed home to change into shorts and sneakers to play defense against the community.
This could be Donlon’s last year as a Dolphin as she has applied for admission to the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham.
The 11-member village team trailed all the way, but almost caught up when Daniel Ibarra sunk a lay-up with just seconds remaining.
At the buzzer, the Dolphins had squeezed out a win, 32-31. All members of both teams played.
As students and fans left the gym, Moore was heard overheard telling Donlon, “You’re really good. I’d like to recruit you to play for us.”
When the gym was finally cleared of balloons, fans and players, Leslie Cole was still pushing a broom down the court, evidence that a principal’s work is almost never done.
“It was great to see great to see everyone having fun and the bleachers full of our community, parents, students and staff,” she posted on Facebook. “Thanks to everyone who helped make the night happen.”