The 69th Mountaineer Mascot prepared for sideline spirit patrol

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. The 69th Mountaineer mascot for the 2023-24 season is Mikel Hager from Boone County, and he brings his four years of experience with the WVU Gold Cheer Team to inspire fans for the next year. Other finalists in the competition included Braden Adkins, Christian Adkins, and Bailey Gatens.

Adkins has been designated the alternate.

Hager said he wants to use his title as an opportunity to inspire all 1.8 million residents in the state.

“I’m an exercise physiology major, so I’m really passionate about physical activity and exercise,” Hager said. “That’s something I’d like to try to emphasize and bring to the forefront, especially to show young Mountaineers that physical activity doesn’t have to be work; it can be fun.”

Hager won’t officially assume the title until the “Passing of the Rifle” ceremony, but he said the support from Mountaineer Nation has been overwhelming.

“I haven’t received my buckskins yet, but the support that has poured in from all the former Mountaineers and knowing that everyone wants the best and really wants me to succeed has really been awesome,” Hager said.

Hager said he had the inside track to win the title based on his four years working crowds with the WVU Gold Cheer Team. That experience allowed him to understand what works and how to pull it off with confidence.

“I think what helped me is that I’ve been leading crowds like that for the past four years, so I had the unique advantage of knowing when to start a cheer and when to cut a cheer,” Hager said. “You don’t want to try to start a Let’s Go Mountaineers chant when we just threw a turnover into the third row.”

In addition to having the inside track, Hager said he also spent a year watching the 68th Mountaineer mascot, Mary Roush from Mason County. During that time, Hager developed a friendship with Roush that encouraged him to follow her lead and challenge for the position.

“I’ve stood beside her on the sidelines all year, so she’s been super supportive,” Hager said. “She tells me anytime I need anything at all, even if it’s not mountaineer-related, to never be afraid to reach out. She’s been an awesome resource to have and a really great friend I’m glad I got to make.”

Hager is a Promise Scholarship recipient and serves as a non-paid assistant coach for the Scott High School football team. Hager also volunteers as a math tutor at Suncrest Elementary School in Morgantown.

“To me, that’s where everything starts, at a young age, you need mentors and role models that you can go to,” Hager said. “With kids, I do everything from helping them pass summer school, and they even ask me about girls sometimes.”

Hager will make his sideline debut April 22 during the Gold-Blue Game.