Two past champions and a first-time applicant have earned opportunities to vie for the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s “Battle of the Fans X” championship recognizing the top high school student cheering section in Michigan, as awarded by the MHSAA’s Student Advisory Council.
Buchanan, Midland Dow and Traverse City West were selected as finalists by the Advisory Council from a group of nine semifinalists that took part in a series of 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 website.
The winner will be selected by another vote by the 16-member Advisory Council, with consideration given to a public vote on the MHSAA’s social media channels. This year’s winner will be announced Feb. 18 and recognized March 25 during the Boys Basketball Semifinals at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Buchanan is a three-time BOTF champ (2013, 2018 and 2020) and has reached the final round for the fourth-straight competition. Traverse City West was the winner in 2016 and has been a semifinalist seven times since 2014. Midland Dow entered the competition this school year for the first time.
The MHSAA will visit the finalists for the following home boys basketball games (unless noted):
Jan. 28: Midland Dow vs Midland (at Midland High)
Feb. 4: Buchanan vs South Haven
Feb. 8: Traverse City West vs Ludington
Howell, North Muskegon and Spring Lake filled out the next three spots, while Imlay City, Petersburg Summerfield and Yale also were semifinalists.
“After the pandemic cancelled the competition in 2021, it’s no surprise that two schools with rich student section histories made the final three this year,” said Andy Frushour, the MHSAA’s director of brand management and advisor to the Student Advisory Council.
“The Herd from Buchanan and the Bleacher Creatures at Traverse City West have to be considered the favorites going into the final round. They have been in this position many times, winning four of the nine championships. But don’t sleep on Midland Dow; we could tell right away this first-time challenger would be a contender, and this section has been strong all year long.”
Battle of the Fans is organized by MHSAA staff and the Student Advisory Council. Schools were invited throughout the fall to submit short videos, via TikTok, 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 five mandatory challenges, and up to a total of 20, and highlight them in a three-minute TikTok. The 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. Descriptions of all 20 challenges are available on the MHSAA Website.
Let's meet the finalists:
BUCHANAN - THE HERD
@theherd_bhs #MHSAABOTF2022 @mhsaasports ♬ The Nights - Avicii
@dowstudentsection Herbs House 💛💚 semifinals #mhsaabotf2022 @mhsaasports ♬ this is what falling in love feels like - JVKE
TRAVERSE CITY WEST - BLEACHER CREATURES
@tcwbleachercreatures 🚨ATTENTION WEST WINNERS🚨 💯FINALS IMMINENT💯 @mhsaasports #mhsaabotf2022 ♬ original sound - Tcw BC
Battle of the Fans is organized by MHSAA staff and the Student Advisory Council. Schools 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.
The contest is sponsored in part by the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, which promotes Michigan's locally-produced dairy products and nutrition education. Rules plus links to past years’ coverage of the contest can be found on the MHSAA's BOTF web page.
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.
A record-tying 27 schools applied for this year’s contest, including 14 schools for the first time. Three semifinalists each were selected from the Class A, Class B and Class C/D applicants. See below for a compilation of highlights from all nine semifinalists:
@mhsaasports 🚨𝙱𝙰𝚃𝚃𝙻𝙴 𝙾𝙵 𝚃𝙷𝙴 𝙵𝙰𝙽𝚂 𝚇🚨Congrats to all 9 Semifinalists! #MHSAABOTF2022 #battleofthefans #letsgo #sportsmanship #MHSAA #fyp ♬ Let's go! - Official Sound Studio
Caleb Lewandowski ♦ Traverse City West
Senior ♦ Skiing
Lewandowski, a three-time past Finals individual event winner, will head to his final championship meet Monday after claiming last week's slalom (1:20.90) and giant slalom (55.85) Regional titles at the Division 1 meet at Marquette Mountain. Lewandowski is the reigning two-time Finals champion in the slalom and also won the giant slalom at the Finals in 2023. Another slalom win Monday would make him the first in MHSAA boys skiing history to claim that championship three times.
Traverse City West as a team won the Regional title as well and will attempt to claim a fourth-straight Division 1 Finals team championship at Boyne Highlands. Lewandowski is actually the second individual Finals champion from his family – older brother Aiden was the Division 1 giant slalom winner in 2021 – and Caleb also might not be the last as he has three freshman brothers and a freshman sister skiing for the Titans this winter. Caleb Lewandowski also plays lacrosse for the Traverse City United cooperative program that includes athletes from West and Central.
@mhsaasports ⛷️POW: Caleb Lewandowski #skiing #slalom #giantslalom #traversecitywest #letsgo #part1 #highschoolsports #tiktalk #interview #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA
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Past 2023-24 Honorees
Feb. 15: Jadin Mix, Onaway basketball - Report
Feb. 8: Onalee Wallis, Cadillac skiing - Report
Feb. 1: Abbey DeGraw, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek competitive cheer - Report
Jan. 25: Ewan Todd, Riverview swimming - Report
Jan. 18: Ashley Weller, Jackson Northwest basketball - Report
Jan. 11: Michael Baldwin, Saginaw Arthur Hill wrestling - Report
Dec. 15: Jena Fijolek, Fenton bowling - Report
Dec. 8: Sophia Wagner, Escanaba gymnastics - Report
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 the Traverse City West athletic department.)