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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Wilbur, Wilma revealed”

    Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Arizona meets Stanford in an NCAA basketball game at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, March 7, 2009. Arizona went on to win 101-87 in the last game of the regular season, snapping a four-game losing streak.
    Michael Ignatov
    Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat Arizona meets Stanford in an NCAA basketball game at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, March 7, 2009. Arizona went on to win 101-87 in the last game of the regular season, snapping a four-game losing streak.

    Nearly 23 years ago, Wilbur and Wilma were officially married.

    But a couple of years ago, they dated.

    UA seniors Kathryn Wright and Dan McKee started seeing each other freshman year. The former high school softball player and football player always wondered who was beneath the costumes, representing the Wildcats.

    Of course, Wilbur and Wilma couldn’t release their identity. Now Wright and McKee know the feeling. Arizona Athletics recently made it public as to who the most recent Wilbur and Wilma were: McKee and Wright.

    At the end of their sophomore year, they filled out applications to be Arizona’s mascots. Wright said she did it more as a joke, while McKee was interested in being a UA cheerleader. Then he met a former Wilbur and decided he wanted to be a mascot, too.

    “”We thought it would be funny to try out and just see what it was like,”” Wright said. “”We ended up getting past the essay part and past the interview part, and we did the actual tryout as Wilbur and Wilma.””

    Coincidentally, both Wright and McKee were chosen for their respective parts.

    “”Wilbur and Wilma were actually dating,”” Wright said. “”When we held hands, it was for real.””

    The new mascots had to get used to a couple of things right away. First, there were the 6:30 a.m. workouts twice a week. Next, and maybe more pressing, was keeping their identities a secret.

    Family members knew, but that was about the extent of it.

    “”A lot of my friends thought that I had an internship for athletics,”” Wright said. “”Some people thought I was an actual cheerleader. It was hard to explain my story when they asked why I wasn’t sitting with them at football games.””

    It was a little easier for McKee. Many people just overlooked the fact that he often wore Arizona cheerleading apparel, and when they did ask questions, he always had an answer.

    “”I have a pretty big repertoire of stories,”” he said with a laugh.

    Keeping the mascots’ identity secret was a task for the cheerleaders, too.

    Freshman Tiffanie Nauta said she was good friends with McKee while he was Wilbur, but nobody could know.

    “”It was really, really hard to talk about my friend Dan,”” Nauta said. “”I couldn’t say he was on my team because people would see that he obviously wasn’t out there with me. I told people he was an intern.””

    The experience, Wright and McKee agreed, was irreplaceable: They went to the Las Vegas Bowl together in December and the Pacific 10 Conference in Los Angels last month. They had police escorts and were able to walk down the runway to their airplane instead of going through the Tucson airport.

    Wright and McKee also joined the UA cheer squad on the MTV TV show “”Paula Abdul’s Rah! Cheerleading Bowl,”” in New York City.

    “”The privileges are really great,”” Wright said.

    But the best part for McKee and Wright was the joy they brought out in others, and that others brought to them.

    “”When you’re Wilbur, you’re a celebrity,”” McKee said. “”It doesn’t matter if you’re having the worst day in the world. You could fail a test or have a fight with your girlfriend -ÿit doesn’t matter. Once you put that Wilbur suit on and get fired up, everyone loves you and you love everyone.””

    McKee, a physical education major, wants to become a firefighter after school. Wright, who is majoring in communications and plans on going into pharmaceuticals, has dreamed of becoming Minnie Mouse at Disneyland, but knows she’ll be faced with the task of getting “”a real job after college.””

    But no matter what path they end up on after their time at the UA, one thing is for sure: Being so close during their days as Arizona’s most famous couple most certainly made things easier.

    “”It’s definitely helpful to know that person in and out of the costume,”” McKee said.

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