Ryan Chartrand

Scott Kirkish didn’t hesitate when asked who exactly is considered a Mustang Maniac.

In fact, the president of Cal Poly’s student spirit group didn’t have to name anyone in particular.

“Officially, every Cal Poly student is in the group,” said Kirkish, who has guided Mustang Maniacs since the fall of 2005.

It’s that kind of inclusive attitude that has led to two of the 14 largest home crowds in the 91-year history of the Cal Poly football program this season.

Kirkish, a civil engineering senior, has put an emphasis on crowd noise. The 24 year old said a loud student section is the group’s primary goal.

“I want a loud student section, a spirited student section,” Kirkish said. “At the football game (Oct. 7) and the week before, the crowd was jumping around and dancing to music. People should show up and be happy.

“It’s only three hours long. They can relax afterward. When you’re there, make sure the team knows that you’re there.”

Kirkish, whose hometown of Newcastle, Calif., is roughly 30 minutes away from Sacramento, said he “one day decided (Cal Poly) was a good school for me.”

Entering his fifth year on campus, the former aerospace major has been involved with Mustang Maniacs in one way or another since Week of Welcome during his freshman year (2002-03).

“I’ve always been a spirited person,” Kirkish said. “I said, ‘this sounds like fun,’ and the group of kids was fun to hang around.”

Kirkish’s membership in Mustang Maniacs dates back to when the group was known as Running Thunder, which was created in 1994 as the school moved to the Division I level of athletics. He was one of the minority who voted to keep the name before it changed three years ago.

“It was a combination of things,” Kirkish said of the previous name. “It has the sound of the student section running toward you. You hear the thunder.”

That was certainly the case at Cal Poly football games so far this fall, when sold-out Alex G. Spanos Stadium rocked for the Mustangs’ comeback wins Sept. 30 over Southern Utah and Oct. 7 over rival UC Davis.

Football head coach Rich Ellerson said the 8,435 fans in attendance for the UC Davis game included the loudest student section he had seen since he came to Cal Poly in 2001.

One day before the UC Davis game, Cal Poly senior middle linebacker Kyle Shotwell said the 8,168 fans in attendance for the Southern Utah game made a difference.

“Some of those third downs to get us off the field, the crowd went wild,” Shotwell said. “It’s like having a 12th man out there.”

Though thrilled with the number of students at football games, Kirkish said perhaps his biggest challenge as president is encouraging students to attend sporting events other than football and basketball games.

“We have so many sports to be proud of,” he said. “It’s tough times if you want to go to some of the lesser-known sports. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. When you get 100 or 200 people going out to a soccer game and get a large number of students jumping around, it’s fun.”

Roughly a dozen people coordinate events for Mustang Maniacs, Kirkish said. He helps organize weekly events such as barbecues and road trips to games and assists in lighting the “P” on Poly Hill after the football team wins.

“It can be really time-consuming at times,” said Kirkish, who also works part-time at Garden Grill. “My Saturdays are pretty much shot. I have no time on Saturdays when there are football games. I get there two and a half hours before the game starts and by the time I go to dinner, it’s almost midnight.”

The group already made a road trip to the football team’s 17-7 loss at San Jose State on Sept. 23 and is planning a trip to the game at San Diego State on Oct. 28.

But Kirkish, who also participates in organizing a variety of triathlon events throughout the state, has adjusted to the busy schedule as his college career nears an end.

“As you get older, you tend to essentially work the system better with classes, work and maniacs,” he said.

Among those impressed by Kirkish’s work ethic is Mustang Maniacs Vice President Kristen Spencer, an agricultural business student who also happens to wear the Musty the Mustang mascot uniform during sporting events.

“He’s a planner,” Spencer said of Kirkish. “He does all the paperwork and messy stuff that no one wants to deal with.”

Kirkish said his favorite aspect of being a Mustang Maniac is the atmosphere at sporting events.

“It’s the energy that’s created at the athletic event, particularly when you’re inside Mott Gym,” he said. “You can feel more excited. It’s an amazing feeling, I think.”

Kirkish’s favorite sport is cross country, largely because he was a runner in high school and has ran marathons in the past.

As for the ongoing construction at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, which is slated to include new west-concourse seating for the Oct. 21 homecoming game against South Dakota State, Kirkish is optimistic.

“The showing we had (Oct. 7) with all those people waiting outside and the gates closing 20 minutes before game time,” Kirkish said, “.If we do get that open, I hope we have a record crowd of 10,000-plus. It will be fun times when we get that other side open.”

Spencer, who feels the fun of being in Mustang Maniacs outweighs the work involved, shares Kirkish’s welcoming mindset.

“Who are the Mustang Maniacs?” she said. “The whole student body.”

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