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.