By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Two repeat finalists and a past champion have earned the opportunity to vie for the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s “Battle of the Fans VII” title recognizing the top high school student cheering section in Michigan, as awarded by the MHSAA’s Student Advisory Council.
Boyne City, Buchanan and Petoskey were selected as finalists by the Advisory Council from a group of nine semifinalists that took part in a series of social media challenges highlighting their sections over the last two weeks.
Members of the MHSAA staff will visit all three finalists over the next three weeks, producing articles about each section and videos of those sections in action, all to be published on the MHSAA’s Second Half.
The winner will be selected by another vote by the 16-member Advisory Council, with serious consideration given to a public vote on the MHSAA’s social media sites. This year’s winner will be announced Feb. 23 and recognized March 23 at the Breslin Center.
Buchanan was named BOTF champion in 2013 and was a finalist in both 2014 and 2015. Boyne City was a finalist for the first time last year, and Petoskey also was a finalist in 2012 and 2017.
The MHSAA will visit the finalists for the following home boys basketball games
Feb. 2: Boyne City vs. Kalkaska
Feb. 2: Petoskey vs. Traverse City West
Feb. 16: Buchanan vs. Berrien Springs
Voting among the top five semifinalists was particularly close. Cedar Springs and Charlotte just missed earning spots among the top three. Munising, Negaunee, Pellston and Traverse City West also were among the semifinalists.
“Our ‘Challenge Round’ over the last two weeks added a lot of excitement to Battle of the Fans, and also gave us great insights on the finest student sections in our state,” said Andy Frushour, MHSAA director of brand management and advisor to the Student Advisory Council. “We’re excited to go back to see three sections that have shown us a ton in the past, and checking out a couple of northern neighbors is an incredible way to kick things off.
“Charlotte and Cedar Springs were very close to becoming part of this year’s finalists tour,” Frushour added. “Both have established incredible fan cultures, and we certainly plan on seeing them in this contest again next year.”
Battle of the Fans, organized by MHSAA staff and the Student Advisory Council, was revamped this year to allow for more schools to remain in title contention past the application round. As in past years, schools again were invited throughout the fall to submit short videos, via YouTube, of their cheering sections in action. The Advisory Council then selected nine semifinalists to accomplish a list of tasks showing off their sections over a 12-day span.
Semifinalists were required to complete 10 challenges via their social media channels. Five mandatory challenges focused on contest criteria: positive sportsmanship, student body participation, school spirit, originality of cheers, organization of the group, student section leadership and overall fun. Semifinalists then selected five elective challenges (taken from a list of 15 opportunities). Descriptions of all 20 challenges are available on the MHSAA Website.
A total of 19 schools applied for this year’s contest – seven from Class A schools, six from Class B, four from Class C and two from Class D. Three semifinalists each were selected from the Class A, Class B and Class C/D applicants.
The contest is sponsored in part by the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, which promotes Michigan's locally-produced dairy products and nutrition education.
The Student Advisory Council is made up of eight seniors and eight juniors who each serve two-year terms. The Council acts as the voice of Michigan's student-athletes; it serves as a student sounding board for the MHSAA's Representative Council, assists in planning Sportsmanship Summits, Captains Clinics and other student leadership events; participates in a yearly focus group about the state of high school sports for Michigan State University's Institute for the Study of Youth Sports and assists with medal ceremonies at MHSAA championship events.
Eight student-athletes who will be juniors at their schools during the 2022-23 academic year have been selected to serve two-year terms on the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Student Advisory Council.
The Student Advisory Council is a 16-member group which provides feedback on issues impacting educational athletics from a student’s perspective, and also is involved in the operation of Association championship events and other programming. Members of the Student Advisory Council serve for two years, beginning as juniors. Eight new members are selected annually to serve on the SAC, with nominations made by MHSAA member schools. The incoming juniors will join the group of eight seniors-to-be appointed a year ago.
Selected to begin serving on the Student Advisory Council in 2022-23 are: Kannon Duffing, Manchester; Claire Gorno, Gaylord; M'Khi Guy, Muskegon; Dawsen Lehew, Marcellus; Christian Sanders, Detroit Renaissance; Ben Sytsma, Grand Rapids Christian; Madeline Werner, Bay City All Saints; and DaNia Womack, Dearborn Advanced Tech Academy.
Those eight new members were selected from 115 applicants. That applicant total was the second-most ever, with the last three years featuring the three highest totals.
The first Student Advisory Council was formed for the 2006-07 school year. With the addition of this class beginning this summer, members will have represented 129 schools from 48 leagues plus independent schools that do not play in a league. Combined, the new appointees have participated in nine MHSAA sports, and seven will be the first SAC members from their respective schools.
The Student Advisory Council generally meets seven times each school year, and once more for a 24-hour leadership camp. In addition to assisting in the promotion of the educational value of interscholastic athletics, the Council discusses issues dealing with the 4 S’s of educational athletics: scholarship, sportsmanship, safety (including health and nutrition) and the sensible scope of athletic programs. There also is a fifth S discussed by the group – student leadership.
This school year, the Council selected the 2021-22 “Battle of the Fans X” champion, handed out championship trophies at Finals events, continued discussions about COVID-related issues and provided feedback to the MHSAA Representative Council on proposed rule changes.
The new additions to the SAC will join the Class of 2023 members who were selected a year ago: Sam Gibson, Plainwell; Brady Leistra, East Grand Rapids; Caroline Li, Okemos; Sam Matias, Lansing Catholic; Zar'ria Mitchell, Saginaw Heritage; Carney Salo, Escanaba; Brandon Thompson, Petersburg Summerfield; and Keira Tolmie, Clarkston.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.4 million spectators each year.