The Centralia (Ill.) Orphans successfully defended their America's Best High School mascot championship. The contest began a month ago with 408 mascots - eight per state plus Washington D.C. From there, the field was cut to 56 for a regional round and 10 for the national round.
And, just as they did in 2013, the Orphans ruled the nation.
Centralia's athletic department will receive a $2,000 cash prize from USA TODAY High School Sports, along with another national champion banner to hang proudly. Centralia managed more than 210,000 votes in the final round alone to take the title. St. Marys (Pa.) Area Flying Dutch finished second.
The other national finalists were the Terryville (Conn.) Kangaroos, St. Mary's Episcopal School (Memphis, Tenn.) Turkeys, Bray-Doyle (Bray, Okla.) Donkeys, Chinook (Mont.) Sugarbeeters, Yuma (Ariz.) Criminals, Deering (Alaska) Northern Lights, Morse (Bath, Maine) Shipbuilders and the Gilmour Academy (Gates Mills, Ohio) Lancers.
This year's best mascots contest is the eighth installment in the America's Best series, which has drawn more than 100 million votes and attracted fans from all sections of the country. More than 1,800 different schools have been involved in at least one of the contests, and no state has produced multiple winners with past champions hailing from Missouri, Vermont, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Kansas.
The America's Best contest series launched in November 2012 with the first best high school football rivalry competition, won by Brookfield vs. Marceline in Missouri. Other champions in the America's Best series have been Hartford (Vt.) was crowned as the People's Champion high school football team for the 2012 season followed by the Centralia (Ill.) Orphans taking the first best mascots contest. The best high school football coach competition crowned Philip Haywood of Belfry (Ky.) as its champion, the second annual best high school football rivalrywent to the North Carolina small-town matchup of Bunn vs. Louisburg and Shane Cowherd of Edmond Memorial (Edmond, Okla.) took the best boys basketball coach title. Jesse Nelson of Olpe (Kan.) won the last competition, being voted as America's best girls basketball coach.