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.
Shayna Hruska ♦ Iron Mountain
Junior ♦ Wrestling
With an 8-2 decision win in the 106-pound final Saturday, Hruska became the first female champion at the annual Upper Peninsula Championships, and she then was selected the event’s “Outstanding Wrestler” for going 3-0 also with pins in her first two matches of the tournament. Those victories improved her record to 18-6 this season.
Hruska began wrestling in third grade and finished fourth at 97 pounds as a freshman at the 2021 Michigan Wrestling Association Girls Championships. She then finished second at her District to reach Regionals competing in the bracket with the boys last season. She entered last week’s U.P. Championships title coming off a runner-up finish at the Escanaba Elks Invitational on Jan. 7 and the championship at 106 at Kingsford’s Ray Mariucci Wrestling Invitational on Jan. 14.
@mhsaasports 🤼♀️POW: Shayna Hruska #performanceoftheweek #wrestling #upchampionship #outstandingwrestler #congrats #meetchamp #uppower #mountaineers #ironmountain #MHSAA #highschoolsports #tiktalk #interview #TikTok #mistudentaid #fyp @shaynahruska ♬ Beat Automotivo Tan Tan Tan Viral - WZ Beat
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MHSAA.com's "Performance of the Week" features are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
Jan. 19: Kayla Tafanelli, Warren Woods-Tower bowling - Report
Dec. 20: Brenden Paden, Riverview Gabriel Richard hockey - Report
Dec. 16: Tuff Scott, Holton bowling - Report
Dec. 9: Macey Fegan, Standish-Sterling basketball - Report
Dec. 2: Treyton Siegert, Gladwin football - Report
Nov. 24: Lily Witte, Dexter diving - Report
Nov. 17: Navea Gauthier, Shelby volleyball - Report
Nov. 10: Derek Huisman, Holland Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3: Thomas Westphal, New Baltimore Anchor Bay cross country - Report
Oct. 27: Justin Wickey, Colon football - Report
Oct. 20: Owen DeMuth, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood tennis - Report
Oct. 13: Mia Melendez, Ann Arbor Greenhills golf - Report
Oct. 6: Shawn Foster, Grand Ledge football - Report
Sept. 30: Hannah Smith, Temperance Bedford swimming - Report
Sept. 22: Helen Sachs, Holland West Ottawa cross country - Report
Sept. 15: Nina Horning, Lake Orion volleyball - Report
Sept 8: Arturo Romero, Muskegon Oakridge soccer - Report
Sept. 1: Austin King, Midland Dow tennis - Report
Aug. 25: Olivia Hemmila, Troy Athens golf - Report
(Photos courtesy of the Iron Mountain High School athletic department.)