Positive presence: Superfans give AHS student section a boost

Published 7:37 pm Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Whenever an athlete needs a little extra motivation to push harder, it doesn’t get much better than the roar of well-organized student section. A simple chant or a standing ovation can often push an athlete to the next level.

Austin High School’s student section developed a reputation as the ‘Sea of the Red’ on big game nights and that student section has stayed effective, while remaining respectful thanks to a superfan program started by the Big Nine Conference three years ago. The program encourages positive chants and it allows students to step up as leaders in the stands.

Austin senior Hunter Guyette, who plays football, hockey and basketball, said that the student section always fires him up when he’s competing. Guyette gets equally fired up when he’s wearing his superfan jersey in the crowd himself.

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“When people see the superfan shirts, they think of us as the people that are going to lead them through each game,” Guyette said. “I feel like it makes them feel a little more confident when doing chants, because they have us there.”

AHS has 35 total superfans come out and volunteer this season. With such a big group, they try to disperse into separate Austin events so every Packer team has a student section cheering it on throughout the season.

“A lot of us are athletes and we know that it’s fun when we have a student section,” Austin senior Erin Bickler said. “When we don’t have games, we’ll go and be part of the student section. It’s nice. I think this year we’ve had a lot more people going to a lot more sports and we’re supporting everyone.”

While sometimes crowds can get out of control, rude or downright offensive during games, the job of the superfan is to keep everyone in line and everyone supportive. When superfans of different schools unite at games, they’ve found ways to pay homage their opponent. Last season, Red Wing wore red during a football game to honor Austin football Chris Fischer, who had passed away and this year the AHS student section wore orange at a home girls soccer game to honor Winona soccer player Sophia Moe who had passed away over the summer.

All Big Nine superfans were able to meet up at a conference in Rochester recently, and it brought out mutual respect from the different schools.

The superfan program in Austin High School has grown since it began three years ago. Back row, left to right, Jenna Braaten, Erin Bickler and AJ Mueller; front row: Irma Valladares, Kara Nyikew and Hunter Guyette. Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

“It was cool because we got to meet all of the other superfans from the other schools,” Austin senior Jenna Braaten said. “When we go to away games or when they come to our home games, we know some of the people and we can do chants together or do chants against each other. It’s just fun. It’s a lot more fun when you know more people.”

Austin student Irma Valladares said being a fan at a sporting event means allowing every student in the high school to be be a participant.

“I’d like all of the freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors from both student sections involved,” Valladares said. “We want to keep it going back and forth, nice and loud. We want to make as fun as we can for the younger ones too.”

Austin student Kara Nyikew said the Packers take a lot of pride in their student section being a positive force on game nights.

“We all just want to have fun and get together,” Nyikew said. “It’s fun seeing other students being just as loud as you are, but Austin does have the best student section.”

Austin senior AJ Mueller said he could feel the crowd give his team energy when he was was playing for the Packer hockey team in a home tournament game last season. He’s all for a loud crowd, but Mueller also knows it’s the duty of superfans to keep negative voices silenced.

“Once you hear stuff that’s not appropriate, everyone else kind of notices it and a lot of times people will turn and stare at that person like ‘why did you say that?’” Mueller said.

AHS Activities Director Lisa Quednow said the superfan program gives students a great opportunity to learn some life lessons through sports.

“I can meet with these kids and tell them what our expectations are,” Quednow said. “They understand that the kids on the other team are somebody’s son or daughter and just trying their best. It’s always better to be nice to people and you can still be competitive and have fun. Our kids have been great.”