By Andy Sneddon
Special to Second Half
HARBOR SPRINGS – A first for Cadillac, and more of the same for Petoskey.
Keenan Cooper became the first male skier in Cadillac history to sweep the MHSAA individual ski titles Monday when he accomplished the feat at the Division 2 Final at Nub’s Nob.
Petoskey, led by double-medalist Gunnar Lundteigen, ran away with the team championship, its fourth consecutive and 15th in the storied history of the program.
“The team’s been really solid in the past, obviously, and being a part of it really feels good,” said first-year Petoskey coach Erik Lundteigen.
“Watching this senior class, they haven’t lost a conference, a Regional or a state Finals in four years, which is unbelievable.”
Almost as unbelievable was the performance of Cooper, who edged Andrew Schumacher of Grand Rapids Christian to win the slalom, and beat out Robbie Cort of Birmingham Brother Rice to capture the giant slalom.
“I woke up feeling good today, and it was just an on day for me,” said Cooper, a senior whose previous best Finals finish was a fourth in slalom last season. “I took that first run today and it just felt smooth. From that point on I could let it all out today.
“I knew I had a chance at it, but I knew I had to ski really well because there’s a lot of good skiers here. Just had to ski my own race and not really think about what other people were doing. Just go out there and do what I could do.”
Familiarity with the steep and tricky terrain at Nub’s helped, said Cooper, who estimated he had competed on the hill at least five times in his career.
“Scarface is just a brutal hill no matter what course is set on it because you’re doing every type of turn you can throw in there, fall-aways, bank turns, and it just becomes a tough course,” he said. “You kind of take all the tools you’ve learned over the years and you apply it to one course.
“I’m decently familiar with it. Makes a huge difference.”
Gunnar Lundteigen was in Cooper’s ski boots a year ago, when he swept the individual titles at Marquette Mountain.
He failed to repeat, but brought home medals in the slalom (third place) and GS (fourth) as Petoskey dominated the team competition. The Northmen finished with 41.5 points, a whopping 62 better than runner-up Cadillac.
The Northmen ripped through the morning slalom competition, placing four skiers – Gunnar Lundteigen, Trevor Kingsbury, Garret Lundteigen and Patrick Sheperd – among the top 10.
By the time the afternoon giant slalom started, all Petoskey had to do was get four skiers to the finish line.
“Everybody skied up to their potential,” coach Lundteigen said. “They’re all good skiers, they’ve trained hard all year, they’ve worked hard all year. We had one of our best days today.
“There’s a lot of depth. If one guy makes a mistake or goes down, the rest of the guys pick him up.”
While Gunnar Lundteigen recorded Petoskey’s lone top-10 finish in the GS, the Northmen had four other skiers finish from 11th-16th.
Joining Cooper and Gunnar Lundteigen as double medalists were Schumacher, Nate Houk of Cadillac and Ben Hicks of Bellaire.
PHOTOS: (Top) Petoskey skiers celebrate with another MHSAA championship trophy. (Middle) Ironwood's Ethan Johnson works downhill during one of his runs Monday.
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.)