There is a new girl in town, a Norse goddess to be exact. “Val” – a mythological warrior complete with shield and spear – led the Converse Valkyries basketball team onto the court for the first time Saturday, surprising and delighting fans who welcomed her with cheers.
The NCAA Division II team high-fived their new fan just before taking on Erskine College. During halftime, Val threw t-shirts into the crowd and posed for photos with fans. She even made a trip across campus to meet Chelsea Clinton, who was speaking on behalf of her mother’s campaign for President in Montgomery Student Center.
“Converse has always had a mascot in name, but we have never had a character mascot.”
“I knew something was happening at the game today. I’m excited and impressed,” said Kelsey Stuhn, a junior from Columbia, S.C. “Val’s a great addition to the Converse team. It’s a great event in Converse history.”
Val was created by Scollon Productions, a costume character designer and manufacturer for corporations including Warner Bros., Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Fox, Turner, and over 100 sports teams nation-wide.
The costumed mascot is a first for Converse. Her creation is the result of a student-driven effort to bring the campus community together around their identity as Valkyries. “Converse has been the Valkyries in name, but we have never had a character Valkyrie mascot,” said Student Government Association president Jessica Backman. “Every Converse student is a Valkyrie, so having Val will be a fun way for our entire campus to identify with our mascot. It is also time for our athletic teams to have an actual mascot, considering how much our NCAA Division II program has grown over the last decade.”
In addition to enriching campus life experience for students, Converse plans for Val to become an active participant in the Spartanburg community. “We hope her social calendar will be full,” said Backman. “Spartanburg is a College Town and now the Valkyries can be represented at various community events and activities. Val will have fun both on and off campus.”
“We are proud that Val represents the Converse women of today – valiant, strong and brave.”
As with most mascots, Val’s inner identity will be kept a secret. Students will soon audition to become one of “Val’s Gals,” an honor bestowed on those who earn the right to wear the costume.
The Converse Valkyries compete in 11 NCAA Division II sports and the IHSA equestrian program. With Val’s introduction, Converse becomes one of the few colleges across the nation to have a female as its lead mascot.
“Female mascots are rarely seen as a college or university’s primary visual identity,” said athletic director Joy Couch, who has more than doubled Converse’s number of sports and quadrupled its number of student athletes during her tenure. “We are proud that Val represents the Converse women of today – valiant, strong and brave.”
The legend of the Valkyries was born in Norse mythology. Also known as “Choosers of the Slain,” the Valkyries are beautiful, strong warrior goddesses, mounted upon winged horses and armed with spears and shields, who preside over battles – governing victory and choosing souls of the greatest fallen heroes to bring back to Valhalla. In Thomas Bulfinch’s highly influential work Bulfinch’s Mythology (1855), the armor of the Valkyries “sheds a strange flickering light, which flashes up over the northern skies, making what men call the ‘Aurora Borealis’ or ‘Northern Lights.’”