Two UK students make historic firsts at homecoming and set precedent for many to come

Patrick Smith and Willow Kreutzer were crowned homecoming king and queen at halftime during UK’s game against Vanderbilt at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, October 8, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Joshua Qualls | Staff

McKenna Horsley

Two unlikely UK students made school history as soon as they were crowned the 2016 homecoming king and queen.

Seniors Willow Kreutzer, founding president of UK’s Alpha Chi Omega chapter, and Patrick Smith Jr., a representative of UK’s National Pan-Hellenic Council, won their titles on Saturday, Oct. 8 during the UK-Vanderbilt football game.

The NPHC nominated Smith. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and is majoring in marketing and business management. He said he applied because he wanted to end his senior year “with a bang.”

Smith is the first black homecoming king since 2005, according to a previous Kentucky Kernel article. Former UK Football cornerback Antoine Huffman was then crowned the first black homecoming king.

Smith found this information out during the application process.  He said that news made him want the title more.

“It doesn’t matter what organization you are in or where you come from,” Smith said. “It pretty much does not matter who you are, but anybody can pretty much win.”

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Panhellenic sorority Alpha Chi Omega nominated Kreutzer to represent the sorority on UK’s homecoming court. She is a political science major. She said the process was very nerve-racking, but she became invested in it. Kreutzer said it was an honor to be considered with the other candidates.

Kreutzer is the first representative from her sorority to win the title of UK homecoming queen. The chapter joined campus in the fall of 2015. She said while her sorority and Smith’s fraternity do not have many crowned winners among them, she thinks both she and Smith allowed their personalities to shine through to the judges and that is why they won.

“I do think anybody can win,” Kreutzer said. “Anybody can come from any organization or group or be in-state or out-of-state. Just let your personality show.”

Both were surprised they won and said they were in shock for hours after the game, but their lives have pretty much stayed the same. They both see their win as a sign to all UK students that anyone can have the title.

Smith said his win has already inspired other members of NPHC organizations to consider applying for homecoming court next year. He encourages any student who may be remotely interested to at least apply because “you never know what could happen.”

To be on the homecoming royalty court, contestants must be nominated by a student organization, write a series of essays and participate in the Royalty Showcase, where contestants show their talent and answer interview questions.

The Royalty Showcase also scores participants on their personality and demeanor, according to Kristen Harris, a middle level education junior. Harris is also Kreutzer’s sister in Alpha Chi Omega. She said students also vote on candidates as well.

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For the Royalty Showcase, Kreutzer danced and Smith did a step routine. Kreutzer said others told her that her and Smith’s interviews sealed them as the homecoming king and queen.

“We both let who we are shine through … and I think that ultimately got us to where we are,” Kreutzer said.

Harris said Kreutzer stood out to the judges because she is ambitious and authentic.

Kreutzer is from Lake Orion, Michigan. She described herself as very goal-oriented and passionate about the university. She said the university molded her into the person she is today. Kreutzer said she came to UK as an average student but got involved with multiple organizations on campus and became a leader on campus. Kreutzer said Harris encouraged her to apply for homecoming court.

“It’s not very common for a woman from a new sorority to win homecoming queen, but we picked an amazing woman to represent us,” Harris said.

Smith is from Belleville, Illinois. He said he made a good homecoming king candidate because he is involved in Greek and non-Greek organizations at UK.

Pre-medical and psychology senior and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. President Lucas Clay said Smith won homecoming king because “he’s truly a people’s person.”

“It’s not every day that a member of our fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc. or NPHC is nominated for homecoming king, so he had overwhelming support from the frat as well as the other organizations he represents from the NPHC,” Clay said.

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Smith’s parents and Kreutzer’s mother came to Lexington for the football game. Kreutzer said her mother was there for her along the way, and even came to the court’s practice the morning before the game.

Kreutzer and Smith said they would have been happy with whoever won. Both said the 2016 homecoming court had many great candidates.

NPHC and new sorority chapter adviser Jenna Lyons said Kreutzer and Smith were clear nominees from their organizations.

“To me, they’re very representative of the UK students I interact with on a daily basis, whether in the Starbucks line, as a UK 101 instructor or as an adviser,” Lyons said. “They work hard, have fun and give back to the UK and Lexington communities. What more can you ask for in a Wildcat?”

Smith said after graduation he plans to apply to law school. Kreutzer plans to take a gap year after graduating from UK and then hopefully go to Washington D.C. to work for the Department of State and to attend graduate school.

Both said wining the homecoming king and queen title made their last year at UK interesting.

“It is an experience that is unmatched,” Smith said. “It something that I will remember forever.”