By Chris Dobrowolski
Special for Second Half
BELLAIRE — The dynasty of the Marquette boys skiing team is alive and well.
The Redmen captured their seventh consecutive MHSAA Division 1 championship Monday at Schuss Mountain, and their 14th overall, when they finished 27 points ahead of runner-up Traverse City West, 65-92, to take a convincing victory. Brighton took third with 111 points.
Marquette had the top two finishers in the giant slalom, with Hayden Kauppila finishing first in 47.25 seconds and Aaron Grzelak taking second in 47.54, and had three finishers among the top 10. The Redmen were able to overcome two skiers going down in the slalom by getting four across the finish line in the top 25.
“It feels pretty good for all the work we put in, and it finally pays off,” said Grzelak. “I think it feels pretty cool. All clean runs and a lot of people finishing. We are pretty excited.”
Kauppila led the way as the sophomore posted the top Marquette time in both disciplines, coming in second in the slalom in 1:00.58.
“It’s an awesome experience,” Kauppila said of winning another championship. “I thought I did a great job, personally. I’ve had a pretty good season.”
Keaton Jones, the lone senior among Marquette’s contributors, also recorded a top-10 finish in the slalom, taking ninth in 1:05.11. Logan Audette was 15th in the giant slalom (50.48) and 17th in the slalom (1:07.55), Truman Durand took 10th in the giant slalom (50.07) and Drake Scheidt was 25th in the slalom (1:09.52).
Head coach Dan Menze, who had been in charge of the last three championships for the Redmen, said his team definitely feels some pressure with the bulls-eye on its back each season. But he said his skiers are able to rise above it and perform at a high level.
“It helps because we’ve been there before,” he said. “Most of the teams racing here have some experience, but we’ve got a lot of experience with kids who have raced at this race before or races just as big. So, the nerves for the boys aren’t really much of a factor. It helps them with being calm and being ready to race. There’s definitely pressure to try and produce. We have a lot of great skiers up there. They’re used to it. It’s easier on them than it is myself. I get a little nervous at times.”
Rockford’s Nick Rupert, who won the Division 1 giant slalom a year ago, captured the slalom this season after recording the only time under one minute with a 59.9 to edge Kauppila by just over a half of a second.
Marquette could become the third boys ski team in MHSAA history to win eight championships in a row — joining Traverse City from 1988-95 and Petoskey from 2011-18 — if it wins another title in 2020. With three juniors (Grzelak, Durand and Scheidt) and two sophomores (Kauppila and Audette) eligible to return, the Redmen don’t appear to be going away any time soon.
“I’m very fortunate to have a great program up in Marquette that kind of feeds the high school and makes my job a lot easier,” said Menze.
PHOTOS: (Top) Marquette's Hayden Kauppila races downhill during a slalom run Monday at Schuss Mountain. (Middle) Rockford's Nick Rupert speeds toward the Division 1 slalom championship. (Photos by Jake Atnip. For more from Monday's Finals, see Sports in Motion.)
BOYNE FALLS — Petoskey’s dynasty continued to brew at Monday’s Division 2 Ski Finals at Boyne Mountain.
The program added its 12th Division 2 championship over the last 13 years – and fourth straight – finishing first with a combined score of 63.
Pontiac Norte Dame Prep (83) finished runner-up, and Great North Alpine (116) finished third. Harbor Springs placed fourth at 128.
“It's great to see the seniors be able to close that out with four state championships in a row," Petoskey coach Ben Crockett said.
Northmen senior Nolan Walkerdine earned an individual medal finishing first in the slalom with a combined time of 1:10.87. Walkerdine said afterward he couldn't believe his team won again after experiencing an emotional roller coaster season.
"I've been working towards this for my entire life," Walkerdine said.
Senior teammate Wyatt Mattson won giant slalom (1:07.77) and finished seventh in the slalom. He noted he grew up watching Petoskey win 10 straight Division 2 Finals – a level of success he always wanted to take part in.
"When I was in eighth grade, we broke our winning streak," Mattson said. "I felt like we had to avenge that because I was used to us winning, to win four years in a row.
"This feels good," he continued.
Crockett has been coaching Petoskey for three seasons and never experienced anything but a Finals championship. Crockett realizes that won't last forever, but being undefeated on championship day is something he'll cherish.
He couldn't help but smile and laugh when realizing the feat.
"I had a few tastes of defeat, but that's just a testament to how strong the program is and how much it's a part of our community," Crockett said.
"It's a year where the team gelled together, and they enjoyed themselves the most of all the years," Crockett added. "Many of them are upperclassmen, and that sense of the end is coming — as every student (experiences) — as they get towards the end of their high school careers, they just seemed like they enjoy the experience as they're moving through it."
Walkerdine is hopeful that since his time on the team is at an end, newcomers can continue the dynasty they’ve continued building.
“Let’s keep this thing rolling,” he said.
Mattson was followed in the GS by Houghton’s Eli Heathman and Walkerdine, as Petoskey put four placers among the top 11 in that event.
Walkerdine was followed in slalom by Great North Alpine’s Corbin Murphy and Heathman in third.
PHOTOS (Top) Petoskey’s Nolan Walkerdine races past a gate during Monday’s Division 2 Finals at Boyne Mountain. (Middle) Houghton’s Eli Heathman eyes the path ahead during one of his races. (Click for more later this week from Sports in Motion – Division 2.)