She was an innocent spectator when she suddenly was called to flight.
Sabrina Levy had been sitting in the stands last year, watching a Bethpage high school boys basketball game, when she heard the shouts of athletic director John Franchi from across the court.
"Levy, come over here!" she recalled him saying. Then later: "Go put on the bird suit."
Several pounds of felt and feathers later, Levy, now 16, began her ascent as the beak of Bethpage athletics - the Bethpage Golden Eagle. She appeared at every home football game last year and flocks to the field with the cheerleaders at halftime.
"It's a big thrill to be part of the game," said Levy, a three-sport athlete in her own right. "You get the crowd pumped. You hit the kids' hands as you run by."
One of the best parts, she said, is the recognition.
"People are like, oh my God, you're the eagle!"
Levy, though, isn't alone in her fame. Amanda Kloos, 17, also has donned the eagle head when Levy couldn't. "It was the coolest thing" to put on the costume for the first time, said Kloos, a senior. "I love that I can make people really happy.''
The job isn't without its impediments. "It's heavy and you can't see through it most of the time," Levy said. The foam feet are roughly the size of tennis rackets. "The first time, it was kind of awkward," Levy said.
The smell, Kloos said, is "probably the worst thing ever."
But no matter, said Levy, who added that she's trying to make her routine more elaborate. She shimmies and jokes with the spectators, and she has no worries about being one-upped. Levy is an endangered species of sorts, as mascots are becoming somewhat rare in Long Island athletics. For those few remaining, she said she hopes they'll step up their game.
Smack talk, it seems, isn't just for those on the gridiron.
"There are a few [mascots] I've seen, and it's like, 'I can do better than that,' '' Levy said. "But nothing can beat this."
She paused, then added, "I'm kidding."