By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The reigning champion and two first-time finalists have earned the opportunity to vie for the MHSAA's “Battle of the Fans VIII” championship recognizing the top high school student cheering section in Michigan, as awarded by the Student Advisory Council.
Buchanan, North Muskegon and Saginaw Heritage 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 Second Half.
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 sites. This year’s winner will be announced Feb. 22 and recognized March 15 at the Breslin Center.
Buchanan is seeking its second straight BOTF championship and also won in 2013 and was a finalist in both 2014 and 2015. North Muskegon and Heritage are both first-time finalists; this was the second time North Muskegon applied for BOTF, and the third time Heritage had applied.
The MHSAA will visit the finalists for the following home basketball games:
Feb. 1: Midland Dow at Saginaw Heritage (girls)
Feb. 8: Parchment at Buchanan (boys)
Feb. 12: Montague at North Muskegon (boys)
Petoskey and Wayland just missed claiming the third finalist spot. Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard, Carson City-Crystal, Petersburg-Summerfield and Traverse City West also were semifinalists.
“With Heritage from Class A, Buchanan from Class B and North Muskegon from Class C, we’re thrilled to have finalists representing such a wide range of school sizes – and we’re excited to see our three finalists up close and in person,” said Andy Frushour, MHSAA director of brand management and advisor to the Student Advisory Council.
“Buchanan is a perennial power and has become the gold standard for high school student sections. Heritage was very involved during the fall Sportsmanship Summits, and that momentum carried over to this winter as the section has supported its top-ranked girls basketball team. North Muskegon has come out of nowhere – but is proof of how just a little bit of organization can lead to major student section changes over only a few months.”
Let's meet the finalists:
BUCHANAN - THE HERD
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NORTH MUSKEGON - NORSE NATION
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SAGINAW HERITAGE - HAWK NEST
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Battle of the Fans is organized by MHSAA staff and the Student Advisory Council. For the second year under a revamped format, 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.
A total of 20 schools applied for this year’s contest – including six first-time applicants. Three semifinalists each were selected from the Class A, Class B and Class C/D applicants. See below for a play list of all 20 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. Rules plus links to past years’ coverage of the contest can be found on the MHSAA's BOTF
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.