By John Gillis
Special from NFHS
Hunter Gandee, a student-athlete at Temperance Bedford High School, has been selected as the 2017 Section 4 recipient of the “National High School Spirit of Sport Award” by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
The National High School Spirit of Sport Award was created by the NFHS to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics.
The mark of a “good big brother” is often to what lengths he might go to assist his younger siblings.
That sense of familial assistance has perhaps never been taken to the extremes that Hunter Gandee has repeatedly done for his younger brother Braden.
A standout student, Hunter is a junior with a 3.92 grade-point average and a member of the National Honor Society.
On the sports side, Hunter is in his third season on the varsity wrestling team, and participates in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling during the offseason. He's also a member of the MHSAA Student Advisory Council.
While those accomplishments are unquestionably outstanding, they might pale in comparison to what he has done for Braden.
Born with cerebral palsy, Braden has limited use of his legs. Nonetheless, Hunter has taken it upon himself to help Braden know what it feels like to walk long distances – and he’s done it three times. Organized for the purpose of raising awareness of cerebral palsy, Hunter literally carries Braden on his back for long walks known as “CP Swaggers.”
In 2014, Hunter carried Braden 40 miles from the Bedford Junior High School wrestling room to the University of Michigan’s Bahna Wrestling Center. The following year, they upped the trek’s mileage to 57 miles.
However, that couldn’t foreshadow what was to follow in April 2016 when Hunter carried Braden on his back an amazing 111 miles – some 14 miles more than the first two walks combined.
About the Award: The NFHS divides the nation into eight geographical sections. The states in Section 4 are Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Nominations for this award were generated through NFHS member state associations and reviewed by the NFHS Spirit of Sport Award Selection Committee composed of state association staff members.
While the national winner will be recognized June 29 at the NFHS Summer Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, the section winners will be recognized within their respective states and will receive awards before the end of the current school year.
PHOTO: Hunter Gandee, second from right, carries his brother Braden as part of their effort to bring awareness to cerebral palsy. (Photo courtesy of The Cerebral Palsy Swagger.)
Michigan continued to rank 10th nationally in high school-aged population during the 2022-23 school year and continued to best that ranking in participation in high school sports, according to the annual national participation study conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
Michigan ranked ninth for overall participation nationally, based on a total of 268,070 participants who competed in sports for which the MHSAA conducts postseason tournaments. The total counts students once for each sport played, meaning students who are multiple-sport athletes are counted more than once.
Michigan also ranked ninth nationally for both girls (111,569) and boys (156,501) participation separately, while ranking ninth for high-school aged boys population and 10th for girls according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
Michigan’s national rankings in seven sports improved from 2021-22, while nine sports saw lower national rankings than the previous year. The biggest jumps came in girls volleyball and boys soccer, which both moved up two spots – volleyball to fourth-highest participation nationally, and boys soccer to eighth. Girls golf (fourth), softball (seventh), girls track & field (seventh), girls swimming & diving and boys swimming & diving (both eighth) also moved up on their respective national lists.
Participation in several more MHSAA sports also continued to outpace the state’s rankings for high school-aged population.
For girls, participation in bowling (fourth), tennis (fourth), cross country (sixth), basketball (seventh), competitive cheer (ninth) and soccer (ninth) all ranked higher than their population listing of 10th nationally. Among boys sports, bowling (second), ice hockey (fourth), tennis (fifth), golf (fifth), basketball (sixth), track & field (sixth), cross country (seventh), football – all formats combined (seventh) and baseball (eighth) exceeded that ninth ranking for population.
Only 11 states sponsor alpine skiing, but Michigan ranked third on both the girls and boys lists for that sport. Wrestling, with boys and girls totals counted together, ranked eighth.
Participation nationally rose more than three percent from 2021-22 to 7,857,969 participants, the first upward movement in participation data since the all-time record of 7,980,886 in 2017-18, which was followed by the first decline in 30 years in 2018-19 and the two-year halt in data collection by the NFHS related to the pandemic. (The MHSAA continued to collect and report its data during this time.) The national total includes 4,529,789 boys and 3,328,180 girls, according to figures obtained from the 51 NFHS member state associations, which include the District of Columbia.
Eleven-player football remained the most popular boys sport, and most popular participation sport overall, with the total climbing back over one million participants. The total of 1,028,761 participants marked an increase of 54,969 and 5.6 percent from the previous year. This year’s increase was the first in the sport since 2013 and only the second increase since the all-time high of 1,112,303 in 2008-09. There also was a slight gain (34,935 to 35,301) in the number of boys in 6-, 8- and 9-player football.
Next on the boys list were outdoor track & field, basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, cross country, tennis, golf, and swimming & diving, respectively.
On the girls side, outdoor track and field (up 6.5 percent) and volleyball (3.6) remained in the top two spots, while basketball reclaimed the third position. Cross country ranked fourth, followed by softball, soccer, golf, tennis, swimming & diving and competitive spirit, respectively.
Texas remained atop the list of state participation with 827,446, but California closed the gap in second adding 25,000 participants to climb to 787,697. New York is third with 356,803, followed by Illinois (335,801), Ohio (323,117), Pennsylvania (316,587), Florida (297,389), New Jersey (272,159), Michigan (268,070) and Minnesota (219,094), which climbed into the top 10 past Massachusetts.
The participation survey has been compiled in its current form by the NFHS since 1971.