We all have a favorite nickname or mascot, and a majority of the time it is the mascot that we associate with at school or in our community. Yet, there are always the ones throughout the state that you don't hear as often as Tigers (Stewartville, Lake City, Farmington, Marshall, Medford, Springfield, Mora, Hutchinson, Nevis, Delano, Belle Plaine, Albert Lea and probably more I missed).

Okay for real now, did you realize how many Tigers there are? C'mon everyone lets get creative. (I was a Tiger so I feel like I have the grounds to stand on this, but who knows.)

Sorry for the tangent, back to my original point. (Although I really did want to point out how many Tigers there are)

Southeast Minnesota has some awesome nicknames/mascots and when John Millea from the Minnesota State High School League came out with the 2020 MSHSL Nickname Challenge that has the entire state voting for their favorite nickname, Southeast Minnesota was well represented.

The Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms, Grand Meadow Superlarks, Lanesboro Burros, Winona Winhawks, Chatfield Gophers, Triton Cobras, John Marshall Rockets, Waseca Bluejays, and Houston Hurricanes all made the cut, with the Blossoms, Superlarks, and Burros earning a Top-2 seed in the final 64 nickname-bracket.

Now deciding which nicknames to go where would be very difficult and time-consuming, but what Millea has done is pretty incredible. I think the most incredible part has been the formation of the idea, which Millea credited to several other brackets he saw out on social media.

"We’re all pretty bored with no sports to watch and talk about, and I saw some radio stations, websites, etc. putting together brackets for favorite movies, TV theme songs, etc," Millea said in an email. "I was actually surprised when I realized that a Minnesota high school nickname contest like this had never been held. It seemed like something that would be lots of fun, and it’s sure turned out that way."

It has turned out to be a lot of fun with folks from all over the state participating. If you want to get involved, you just need to follow @MSHSLJohn on Twitter. He keeps track of the entire bracket and voting.

Another great bit that Millea came up with was the naming of each region that the nicknames would be placed in, and Millea again took to social media to help. The final determinations were #BeTheLightMN, #ThankARef, Pretzel & Cheese, and Pork Chop regions.

"I asked Twitter followers for suggestions, and the Pretzel & Cheese and Pork Chop regions came from some clever people who know my favorite concession items at high school sporting events," Millea said. "And using #ThankARef and #BeTheLightMN for the other regions seemed like a nice tribute to those social media campaigns that have been so successful and important."

The #BeTheLightMN is a huge movement across the state where schools are lighting up their football fields, baseball/softball fields, and tennis courts in support of the graduation class of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and the entire community. The #ThankARef campaign is a phrase used by Millea and Minnesota residents frequently to show appreciation to our officials that make playing the games we love possible.

So, which one is best? I am personally voting for all of the SE MN schools represented but I really do think the Awesome Blossoms and the Burros have a legit shot at winning this thing, and Millea seemed to agree.

"I would not be surprised to see the Moorhead Spuds and Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms meet for the championship. They are both top seeds, and the top-seeded Thief River Falls Prowlers and Wabasso Rabbits may have something to say before this is over. I don’t have a pick to win it all, but I know this is going to continue to be great fun."

The first round of voting is already complete, but you can still get involved next week as voting returns on Monday. You can vote and follow along on John Millea's Twitter page. 

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