Cougar Nation: A History of NHS Part 1: School Spirit


Violet Oliver, Journalist

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Niwot High school’s founding, although for many students the school doesn’t seem even half that old. The architecture may have earned Niwot the nickname “the maze”, but with the new construction it is becoming easier to forget others have memories at Niwot that are almost half a century old. How did the school go from “then” to “now”?


Before there was Niwot High School there was the “Niwot School”, which was demolished after it was inconveniently located in the westbound lane of the newly proposed Diagonal Highway. Niwot students spent a year attending night classes at Longmont High before the construction was completed on the new building. The first graduating class of 1974 voted on the school mascot and colors, and the Cougar and Kelly green became the winning pair – although the vote between powder blue and Kelly green was so close that it required a recount. 


The core of the building has always remained the same, although new additions and accommodations have been made since the original construction. New hallways, classrooms, and the Big Gym were added on to the existing building. The old tennis courts and baseball fields, once found in front of the high school, were relocated to make room for the supersize parking lot. The old weight room became the drama room, and the use of rooms such as the old sewing room were set to new purposes. The smoking lounge had to go, too, as times changed and it became clear that tobacco and high school students didn’t mix well. After the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, a ramp was added in place of the main staircase, which students saw as an excellent opportunity to slide down with lunch trays, wheely chairs, and the like. The addition of the Learning Stairs in place of the Senior Pit is only the latest installment on a legacy of changes to the school.


Given Niwot’s small beginnings, the school’s success began very early on. Although sports standings in the early years were admittedly not to the caliber they are today – Niwot teams were only winning one game in a given season at the start – their status quickly improved. The uprising of a small town school with a “farmer” feel prompted Longmont High to nickname Niwot the “Green Weenies”, and wiener shirts and franchises accompanied with “Beat Niwot” slogans began to make their way into school culture. Some Longmont students would even bring hot dogs to games for the sole purpose of launching them at the Cougars! With over 28 state champions to date at Niwot, no one can blame Longmont High for feeling agitated when Niwot challenged their long standing monopoly of high school sports – it’s no wonder there is a longstanding rivalry between the two schools. 


Niwot has had a slew of other rivals over the years. Sports teams faced competition with Sterling High School in the northeast. For the Forensics team, Cherry Creek High was the school to beat. The arrival of Skyline High in 1978 made for yet more competition. However, it was not until the mid 2000s that Niwot students unofficially designated Silver Creek High as the honorary archrival. With over 90% of Niwot students enrolled in extracurriculars,students from opposing schools have become both dear friends as well as bitter enemies. Nevertheless, the evolution of Niwot High School marks the story of an underdog that managed to become an award-winning school with a diverse student body as it grew. 


After an encouraging first year as a new school, principal Larry Longstreth stated that, “It is clear that a commitment has been made to the quest for excellence coupled with compassion, and this constitutes a vital legacy to an enduring tradition at Niwot High School”. Nearly half a century later, students and staff can attest to that promise – our school has lived up to its legacy!

From Niwot’s Yearbook Archive