Five finalists -- Frankenmuth, Grand Rapids Christian, Petoskey, Reese and Rockford -- have been selected for the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s inaugural “Battle of the Fans,” which will recognize the top student cheering section from among member schools and culminate in a video presentation including all five finalists during this season’s Girls and Boys Basketball Finals at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.
The contest, organized by MHSAA staff and its 16-member Student Advisory Council, will reward the cheering section that best creates the positive and festive atmosphere made possible when students show enthusiasm, togetherness and sportsmanship while rooting for their team.
Finalists were selected based on a vote by the Student Advisory Council. MHSAA staff and Student Advisory Council members will visit all five finalists for home games during the second half of this regular season, with the winner being announced Feb. 24. Video of all five sections will be played on the Breslin Center HD scoreboard during the Finals in March.
Sections were invited in December to submit a short video, via YouTube and Facebook, of their cheering sections in action. Video submissions also included explanations on how that section meets the following contest criteria: positive sportsmanship, sound volume, school spirit, originality of cheers, organization of the group and student section leadership. A total of 19 sections submitted videos by the deadline earlier this month.
“The Student Advisory Council decided to put its primary focus this fall on a sportsmanship campaign that would engage and motivate student cheering sections throughout the state,” said Andy Frushour, MHSAA director of brand management and advisor to the Student Advisory Council. “We’re thrilled with the level of participation and look forward to the coming months as we look to crown our first ‘Battle of the Fans’ champion.”
MHSAA staff will produce videos from each stop on its tour of the finalists. Those videos will be posted to the MHSAA’s Facebook page. An online vote Feb. 20-23 will contribute in determining the winner.
Finalists will be visited for the following home boys basketball games:
Jan. 21: Frankenmuth vs. Freeland
Jan. 27: Grand Rapids Christian vs. East Grand Rapids, Reese vs. Cass City
Feb. 3: Rockford vs. Hudsonville
Feb. 17: Petoskey vs. West Branch Ogemaw Heights
To view finalists’ submissions on YouTube, click on http://ow.ly/8y9s3.
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, Captain's Clinics and other student leadership events; participates in a yearly focus group about the state of high schools sports for Michigan State University's Institute for the Study of Youth Sports and assists with medal ceremonies at MHSAA championship events.
Photo courtesy Laingsburg student cheering section.
Sophia Wagner ♦ Escanaba
Senior ♦ Gymnastics
In just her team’s second competition this season, Wagner set program records with a 9.8 on floor exercise and 37.380 all-around to finish first in both at the Escanaba Elks Invitational. The floor exercise record topped the previous Escanaba-best 9.7 scored by current senior teammate Sophie Lehto last season.
Escanaba’s gymnastics program has made major statewide strides over the last half-decade, and Wagner reached the Finals podium last season tying for fifth on Division 2 balance beam with a score of 9.025 while also tying for 22nd on vault. The week before, Wagner helped lead Escanaba to a sixth-place Regional finish against a field that included the last two Finals team champions. She also played tennis and was part of the No. 3 doubles runner-up as Escanaba shared the Upper Peninsula Division 1 team title this fall, and she finished second in pole vault and ran on the seventh-place 400-meter relay in the spring as Escanaba finished third at the UPD1 Girls Track & Field Finals.
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Past 2023-24 Honorees
Dec. 1: Isaiah Marshall, Southfield Arts & Technology football - Report
Nov. 24: Sarah Bradley, Clarkston Everest Collegiate volleyball - Report
Nov. 17: Kalieb Osborne, Waterford Mott football - Report
Nov. 10: Tekalegn Vlasma, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3: Colton Kinnie, Birmingham Seaholm football - Report
Oct. 27: Lauren Timpf, Macomb Lutheran North golf - Report
Oct. 20: Alena Li, Okemos golf - Report
Oct. 13: Seth Norder, Grand Haven cross country - Report
Oct. 5: Paige Anderson, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer golf - Report
Sept. 29: MacKenzie Bisballe, Lake City volleyball - Report
Sept. 22: Jhace Massey, Gladwin football - Report
Sept. 15: Kaylee Draper, Sturgis swimming - Report
Sept. 8: Owen Jackson, Traverse City St. Francis tennis - Report
Sept. 1: Rachel Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country - Report
(Photos courtesy of Victory Video and Photography.)