Bryce Johnson found himself lost in the middle of the Dome Friday, Feb. 19. He was expecting to hear that the Flight Club had won the MHSAA Battle of the Fans. Instead, he learned the Orioles had fallen just short of Traverse City West High School.
“I was waving around the Flight Club flag because I had planned on running through the school with it,” said Johnson, one of the senior leaders of the Charlotte High School student section known as the Flight Club. “I was lost.”
“It was pretty devastating,” added senior Flight Club leader Lindsey Carlson.
Members of the Club learned of the MHSAA decision just after 10 a.m. that morning. By noon, Club members were determined to move forward, keeping their head held high.
“We decided the correct action is continue with the club and be thankful for being a top five student section,” Johnson said.
The moment, though still wasn’t easy.
“We know the obstacles we had to overcome to get to this point,” Carlson said. “We almost had the feeling that we let the community down.v”
The Club had worked tirelessly leading up to the opportunity to showcase what it had to offer during the Charlotte High School varsity basketball games on Friday, Feb. 12. The community came out in full force that evening and the Flight Club did not disappoint.
“We got a lot of support after we got the results,” said junior leader Jess Ramos. “Our community still loved what we did.”
The student section featured close to 450 students that night. Carlson said the Club typically draws 250 students for a regular basketball game. Last winter, before the Flight Club got off the ground, the student section drew closer to 20 to 30 students per game.
The idea for the improved club came during a snow day in 2015. Charlotte High School teacher and current varsity basketball coach, Tyler Bartolacci urged a few of his students to beef up the attendance and peppiness at basketball games. A few students came together, committing to putting together a stronger student section presence.
“We had about 75 submissions for names, before settling on the Flight Club,” Carlson said.
From there the students took ownership, almost immediately, something Bartolacci said was his goal from the start.
“A lot of our kids are very committed and itching really to get the chance to show their pride in their school,” Bartolacci said.
The entire student body takes leadership and ownership in Flight Club, Johnson said.
“It’s unbelievable,” Bartolacci said of how the students have come together. “To see students that I’ve witness grow up in high school, from pre-teens to now adults become great leaders makes me a proud teacher and advisor.”
Though Charlotte did not win the MHSAA Battle of the Fans, the Flight Club did receive the Dazzling Debut Award. The MHSAA press release announcing the winner of this year’s contest had this to say about the Flight Club: “We believe the Flight Club is here to stay, and we’re glad for it.”
The Flight Club’s popularity among the entire school district even led the creation of the Jr. Flight Club at Charlotte Middle School. Johnson and Carlson said they led a pep assembly prior to the Battle of the Fans game and could tell they will be leaving the Club in good hands for the future.
“We have a pretty bright future for Flight Club,” Carlson said.