Galbraith Sets Pace as Petoskey Continues Magnificent Finals Run

By Jordan Puente
Special for

February 27, 2024

HARBOR SPRINGS — The Petoskey boys ski team remains in a class of its own.

Petoskey crushed the slopes at Nub’s Nob in Harbor Springs on Monday by collecting its fifth-straight Division 2 championship with a combined score of 68 points. Monday’s title run marks the program’s 12th D2 title in 13 years, and the Northmen show no signs of slowing down.

Coach Ben Crockett credited his entire coaching staff and parents for the team’s success since he began guiding the Northmen in 2019.

“The boys came together after a Regional event where we had some strong competition,” Crockett said. “When they realized it was a foregone conclusion they were going to win another state championship, they rallied and came together to execute a plan.”

Houghton’s Eli Heathman speeds down the hill on the way to winning the giant slalom.With Petoskey coming in first place, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s finished runner-up (102), and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (134) finished third. Great North Alpine placed fourth (134), and Harbor Springs finished fifth with a team score of 155.

Northmen junior Gavin Galbraith finished with an individual title in the slalom and third-place finish in giant slalom.

Galbraith finished the slalom with a combined time of 1:08.53 and the giant slalom with a combined time of 50.85. Teammates Taylor Keiswetter and McClure Galbraith placed in the top 10 in the giant slalom.

Keiswetter finished fifth with a combined time of 50.98, and McClure placed eighth with a combined time of 52.21.

"It's great that all of my hard work has paid off this season. Thanks to all my coaches and the Nub's Nob staff," Gavin said.

Gavin’s journey to get to where he is today started freshman year when he was named the 16th skier on the varsity roster. After waiting for his turn, he didn't shy away from the moment.

Last season, Galbraith watched the Northmen capture the team title, and the junior sensation was motivated to continue that streak Monday.

"All my coaches and family have been pushing me to keep this streak going," he said. "If we didn't win today, it would've been a bummer. But we tried our best, and that's all that matters."

Houghton’s Eli Heathman won the giant slalom with a combined time of 50.09, followed by Cadillac’s Brady Koenig in 50.74 and Galbraith in third. Gaylord’s Keaton Abraham was fourth (50.96) and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s CJ Studt was fifth (50.98).

Onekama’s Braydon Sorenson finished runner-up in the slalom with a combined time of 1:09.07, East Grand Rapids' Quinn Irwin finished third (1:09.42), Harbor Springs’ Jackson Deegan finished fourth with a combined time of 1:10.10, and St. Mary’s Pierson Kuhn finished fifth with a combined time of 1:10.93.

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PHOTOS (Top) Petoskey’s Gavin Galbraith races to the Division 2 slalom championship Monday. (Middle) Houghton’s Eli Heathman speeds down the hill on the way to winning the giant slalom. (Photos by Sarah Shepherd. Click for all photos.)

TC Central Boys Break Rival's Finals Title Streak, Claim 1st Since 2011

By James Cook
Special for

February 26, 2024

HARBOR SPRINGS – The first birthday gift of the day for Jace Rowell was hard to beat.

The Traverse City Central junior had all his Trojans teammates and parents sing "Happy Birthday" as he went to the podium to accept his medal for placing third in the slalom at Monday's Division 1 alpine skiing championships at Boyne Highlands in Harbor Springs.

The medal was the first of several for Rowell and many of his TCC teammates, as the Trojans won the boys program's first Finals championship since 2011.

"It's super big," Rowell said. "We've been working hard at it and been super close the past few years and we finally, finally got it this year. It feels really good."

Rowell's all-state slalom effort helped Traverse City Central win its 20th Finals championship.

"He had a great birthday today," Trojans head coach Amy Kudary said. "What a present for his day. It was icing on the cake."

Kudary became only the fourth woman to lead a boys team to the Division 1 title, and sixth overall in any MHSAA Class/Division.

"It's pretty cool to be a female coach of a boys team and win this," Kudary said. "They give me the same respect they give everybody."

Traverse City West's Caleb Lewandowski finishes one of his championship runs.Central's boys were nearly flawless in the morning slalom session, leading three-time reigning champ Traverse City West 18-41. The Titans cut into that deficit in slalom with an 18-point performance of their own, but Central scored 29 to come away with a 47-59 final tally. The remainder of the finals field consisted of Marquette (97), Linden-Lake Fenton (191), Northville (202), Birmingham (210), Milford (235), Clarkston (244) and Detroit Catholic Central (246).

TC West senior Caleb Lewandowski added to his legacy with a GS championship, raising his career total to four individual Finals titles.

"It's pretty cool to do that, but kind of sad the team couldn't do it, too," Lewandowski said.

Lewandowski took a gate too tightly early in his first slalom run, resulting in a bobble that cost him precious time. He made up for it the rest of the run and with a solid second run that put him second overall to Marquette's Sam Dehlin by 1.02 seconds.

He rebounded in GS with the day's two fastest runs to edge out Dehlin by 0.56 of a second.

"It was my last high school race ever," said Lewandowski. "We were hoping to come away with it, but we had fun out there."

West had won the last three boys D1 titles, getting dual titles last year with the girls' first since 2015.

Central's boys were Finals runners-up in seven of the last 10 years.

"We finally ended that drought," Kudary said. "Anything could happen today. It's always been a battle with West all season. All of the team contributed to the effort today. So happy to bring one home this year. The boys have been working on this for awhile."

Sophomore Rocco Elkins helped lead Central's efforts with a fourth-place slalom finish and fifth in GS.

Last year it was really, really close," Elkins said. "It definitely felt good to come from a close loss last year to a pretty good win this year."

Central's slalom group put four in the top 10, with Rowell third, Elkins fourth, Asher Paul fifth and Trevor Suttle seventh.

Marquette's Sam Dehlin races the slalom."The morning was awesome," Kudary said. "The boys just completely dominated in slalom, and we knew we had a good lead going into the afternoon."

Isaac Shapiro (fourth) and Grady Ellis (ninth) joined Lewandowski in the GS top 10 for West, with Didier Ramoie (seventh) and Cooper Gerber (10th) joining Elkins in the GS top 10.

"It feels really good knowing (TC) Central is one of the best teams in Michigan," Elkins said. "The whole Traverse City area just has the best skiers in Michigan."

The remainder of the slalom top 10 consisted of Lake Orion’s Marcel Anders (sixth), Brighton’s John Popov (eighth), Flushing’s Anthony Trovato (ninth) and Kalamazoo United’s Sam Oberlee (10th).

Trovato took third in GS, with Popov sixth and Lake Orion’s Broden Janczarek eighth.

Dehlin earned his fifth and sixth all-state finishes as a junior, winning the slalom with the event’s two fastest runs.

“I thought I skied pretty well,” Dehlin said. “My slalom was good. I think my GS wasn't the best, but was pretty good. I'm happy with it.”

He took second in slalom and third in GS last season, and said slalom is his favorite of the two.

“Slalom is just a lot faster paced, and there's a lot more going on,” Dehlin said. “I just find it more interesting.”

Marquette could return five of its top six skiers next season.

Dehlin said Marquette looks to end Traverse City’s four-year stranglehold on the D1 boys title next year. Marquette had won eight Finals titles in a row before West ended that streak in 2021.

“We're going to try,” Dehlin said. “Next year, we have some promising athletes coming in. I think it's going to be interesting. It's going to be fun.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Traverse City Central's Jace Rowell approaches a gate during Monday's Division 1 Finals. (Middle) Traverse City West's Caleb Lewandowski finishes one of his championship runs. (Below) Marquette's Sam Dehlin races the slalom. (Photos by Tori Burley. Click for more; photos will be added throughout this week.)