Mustangs’ “Champion”- Crowd Favorite With Big Dreams
MADISON- With a strut like no other and a strong mane and tail flowing in the wind, “Champion,” the official horse mascot of the Madison Academy Mustangs athletic programs exemplifies true school spirit and is loved by all ages.
In her fifth season as Champion, Mia Woeber is a Universal Cheer Association (UCA) All-American and has high hopes of one day attending college and being the team mascot of her school.
“I want to attend Alabama and be Big Al,” said the 17-year old junior at Madison Academy. “I’ve attended several of their camps and I have already told them my plans for college while studying to earn a mechanical engineering degree. I love what I do and that’s one of my big dreams.”
Woeber, daughter of Mike and Marnie Woeber, played sports as a young girl and included ballet among her hobbies. She was also a huge fan of Disney characters and always inspired one day to become one with the ideas of making other children happy. Her mother told her of the tryouts for Champion and as a seventh grader became the beloved mascot that Woeber feels is now a part of her in ways of making children smile and laugh.
For the first couple of years only a select few know who was behind the mascot. Those knowing included her parents, her older brother, Mark, who was once a football star for the Mustangs, and her two sisters who, along with Mia, make up triplets. Allie and Emma play volleyball for Madison Academy while their sister plays goalie and outside for the program’s soccer team. Woeber also roams the sidelines as Champion using a multitude of props and routines that have become a crowd favorite wherever her spirit takes her.
“The outfit is huge and bulky and it’s difficult to do some moves due to the makeup of the mascot as there’s a built-in helmet inside the head, padding on the shoulders and arms to give me big muscles and a strong mane and long tail,” said Woeber. “During warm weather it does get very warm and I have to take water breaks away from the crowds. Champion is a no-talk mascot, but shows emotion whenever possible. For me, the best is having the kids run up to me and hug me and talk to me. That’s what makes all the hard work worthwhile.”
Woeber stands 5-foot-10 and easily plays the part of Champion with lots of pizzazz and flurry to the delight of all who many times take their eyes off the game action to catch a glimpse of the private school’s mascot. The children in attendance love to converge with Champion and many times love to pull the mascots’ tail that is specially made for endurance. But even the best made tail can be a bit ruffled.
“When kids get too rough with the tail my sisters or parents come to my rescue and help out,” said Woeber.
“She competed with the cheer squad for the first time last season at Super Regionals and helped us qualify for the State Championships,” said Brooke Johnson head cheer coach of Madison Academy. “She is a college-caliber mascot and can earn a scholarship. She’s very dedicated to her craft. I know next year we’ll have to look for her replacement. I don’t know what we’ll do without her.”
Woeber has a great knowledge of the history of Champion’s costume, which goes back to the school’s formation in 1955 and the early 1960’s where it’s known Brother Wayne Hemingway, founder of several Christian schools, was at the first location of the school and saw horses nearby. Students standing with him said the school name should be Mustangs…the rest is history.
“Mia is very dedicated to developing her craft as she’s always looking for new ideas,” said Johnson.
Champion is more than just a school athletics addition. The mascot attends open houses at school and community events and is always willing to have fun with any of the youngsters who come up, open their arms for a hug or the chance to pull the tail, all with a smile on the face of Woeber, who one day wants to work for Disney with a chance to live that dream of portraying one of her favorite characters. At Alabama, she’ll have big shoes to fill should she get the chance to don the crimson and white colors of the Crimson Tide and become just the second female Big Al.