Marquette senior – Skiing
The four-year standout capped his high school career with an individual sweep at Monday’s Division 1 Finals at Boyne Highlands, winning the slalom and giant slalom to lead Marquette to its eighth-straight team championship. The two individual titles gave him three total during his high school career and earned Grzelak the MHSAA “Performance of the Week.”
Grzelak’s combined time from two giant slalom runs was 59.53 seconds, nearly half a second ahead of the next finisher. His 79.23 combined finish in the slalom set the pace by nearly two seconds. Grzelak also won the slalom in 2018 as a sophomore, and he’s one of only 13 skiers who have won that race twice at an MHSAA Finals. The Redmen, meanwhile, tied Petoskey (2011-18) and Traverse City (1988-95) for the longest team championship winning streak. It was a good day for the Grzelak family as a whole; freshman sister Anna finished sixth in slalom and 10th in giant slalom for the winning Redettes, and cousins Holly and Jenna Grzelak led Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern to second place in the team standings – Jenna posting top-four finishes in both events and Holly coming in second in giant slalom.
Aaron Grzelak is an accomplished skier on a variety of levels nationally as well, and last year claimed the male overall championship at the Eastern Championships in New Hampshire. He also is an avid mountain biker and general lover of the outdoors, and is considering attending college close to home in part so he can continue to partake in those favorite activities. He carries a 3.4 grade-point average, and while he is finalizing his college plans would like to continue skiing at that level.
Performance Point: “Being in high school for four years and finally being able to win GS and slalom was a great accomplishment for me – along with (reward for) all the other skiing that’s helped me build up to this point,” Grzelak said of Monday’s individual sweep. “I had to ski pretty conservatively just because I needed to finish for our team to be able to win. Then a lot of kids were blowing out, which made me ski good and not just go full send at it and risk blowing out. So I had to ski pretty clean and I had to pull out some good runs, which ended up letting me win at the end.”
Fun in Team: “I do a lot of other race leagues and (skiing is) more of an individual sport. But what I think is cool about high school is that it’s just a team sport, which is pretty cool because that’s the only time I get to be with a team. And having you do good on a run helps your entire team out towards winning. … It’s just a fun thing to do. With the local races in the UP, which aren’t too competitive, it’s just a fun thing to get out and go have run racing with your team. And going to states is pretty cool because there’s so many kids there from Michigan, which is a pretty awesome thing.”
8 straight is great: To tie the state record … to be able to pull that off for eight years in a row, that seems pretty crazy to me honestly – to be able to produce that great of skiers to be able to pull that off. Through all the race programs … every day we’re always down here training, and it’s just a super good training program.
Outdoors, every season: “I’ve just always fallen in love with skiing, training, and like skiing park and back country in the woods, just having fun with it all the time. Biking is one of those things that started out because of skiing, and I started out with cross country biking just to get in shape for the ski season. Biking all summer and skiing all winter … those are pretty much my two favorite things to do. … You don’t even have to be competitive to ski or bike. You can just go out and do what you want for fun.”
Runs in the family: “I think we’ve all just been skiing since we were younger. My dad skis, my uncles ski, my grandpa skis. It’s just kinda a family thing I guess. It’s just something all of us has been doing for so long, and none of us has left skiing. .. My dad (taught me) when I was younger, and then going into these training programs with Wendy Maas and GLSA (Great Lakes Ski Academy), that was probably the number one thing right there that made me a good skier, training every day and pushing farther and farther to be the best that I could be.”
– Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
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PHOTOS: (Top) Marquette's Aaron Grzelak leans into a turn during Monday's slalom at Boyne Highlands. (Middle) Grzelak gets around a gate during the giant slalom. (Photos by Daniel Teetor.)
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.)