By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half
BOYNE FALLS – Coming into this year’s Division 2 Boys Ski Finals at Boyne Mountain, Great North Alpine senior Finn Husband had reasons to be both motivated and reassured based on last year’s results at the championship meet.
Finn felt confident he could win the slalom after doing the same last year, but he also was inspired because a bad turn cost him a chance to win last season’s giant slalom, as he instead finished third in that race.
“I remember that it was my own fault, and I could’ve been a better skier,” Finn said.
Finn certainly couldn’t have been a better skier this time around, as he won both the giant slalom and slalom races Monday.
Even better, Finn’s performance led to some noteworthy news from a team perspective.
For the first time in nine years, a team other than Petoskey won the Division 2 championship.
GNA, comprised of skiers from Elk Rapids, Traverse City St. Francis, Central Lake and Grand Traverse Academy, ended Petoskey’s reign as champion by collecting 48 points, comfortably ahead of Petoskey’s total of 83. Petoskey’s streak of eight straight titles was tied for the longest in MHSAA boys skiing history.
GNA also had defeated Petoskey at their Regional two weeks ago.
“I told them (Sunday night) that they didn’t have to be extraordinary, they just had to be ordinary,” said GNA co-coach Ben Ferris. “You just have to ordinary. Just be you. You already ski fast. That was kind of the message.”
Leading the way was Husband, who won the giant slalom with a time of 1:09.49 and the slalom in 1:02.88.
Conditions at Boyne certainly were a lot different than last year, when it was nearly 40 degrees and slushy.
Following a blizzard and windstorm Sunday night, the course was firm throughout.
“What we had when it rained and then froze up again made it a really nice base here,” Husband said. “Last year, it was starting to get slushy and made it (sink) the course. We had a good base where we can push off of that.”
Andrew Truman of Harbor Springs finished second in both events, finishing with a time of 1:10.50 in the giant slalom and 1:03.89 in the slalom.
Tripp Thomas of Petoskey was fourth in both events, earning a time of 1:11.43 in the giant slalom and 1:04.60 in the slalom, and Will Blackmer of Rochester Hills Stoney Creek had two fifth-place finishes, with a time of 1:11.64 in the giant slalom and 1:05.59 in the slalom.
The only deviation in the top-5 between the events was that Alex Netzley of Cadillac finished third in the giant slalom in a time of 1:10.63, while Colin Dehart of Rochester Adams took third in the slalom in 1:04.52.
Ultimately though, every other team bowed to GNA, which ended Petoskey’s quest to take over the championship streak record alone.
“They are awesome guys, and I love them all,” Husband said of Petoskey. “But I think we really deserved it. I think we came out and showed them what we had. It was a team effort to really take it.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Great North Alpine's Finn Husband skis the slalom course on the way to winning both event titles Monday. (Middle) Tripp Thomas, here in the slalom, led Petoskey to the runner-up team finish. (Photos by James Cook. 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.)