Petoskey Adds 2023 Team, Individual Championships to Finals Dominance

By Jordan Puente
Special for

February 28, 2023

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.

Houghton’s Eli Heathman eyes the path ahead during one of his races. "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.

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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.)

Lewandowski Sweep Paces TC West Boys' 3rd-Straight Championship Run

By James Cook
Special for

February 27, 2023

BELLAIRE – Dubs turned into trips, which could become quads.

Traverse City West won its third straight Division 1 boys skiing championship Monday at Schuss Mountain in Bellaire.

Titans junior Caleb Lewandowski won both the slalom and giant slalom, his third individual Finals crowns and his family's fourth (his older brother Aiden won the 2021 GS title), and next year three younger brothers who are part of quadruplets will join the West program as freshmen as well.

The Titans girls edged Central as well at their Division 1 Finals on Monday, making West just the sixth school to win boys and girls skiing state titles in the same year, joining TC Central, Petoskey, Cadillac, Harbor Springs and Marquette. Only Central, West and Marquette did that at the Division 1 (or Class A, previously) level.

After the Titans (52) and Traverse City Central (57) boys, Marquette placed third with 106 points, followed by Brighton (167), Clarkston (177), Fenton-Linden-Lake Fenton (194), Birmingham (238), Rochester Adams (256) and Milford (277).

TC West and Central combined for 24 of the 40 first-team all-state spots, including eight of 10 in boys slalom.

"It's exciting just for Traverse City in general to see first and second place from both sides," said West head coach Ed Johnson, who now has six Finals championships, three each for boys and girls. "Obviously, we love to win, but it's really cool to see how many trophies we took home to Traverse City today. It speaks highly of the programs that are going on there right now and the junior programs and the up-and-comers."

Four trophies were handed out Monday — two champions and two runners-up. All went back to Traverse City.

The Titans celebrate their championship at Schuss Mountain.There wasn't much question about it, either. The third-place team resided at least 30 points back on both sides.

"Coming into it, I knew it was a real possibility that we could do it, but everything had to come together at the right time," Johnson said. "We've been working on getting the kids to peak at the right time in the season, and it's worked out pretty well."

"For a second year in a row we have shown the state how strong our skiing is here in Traverse City," said Central head coach Amy Kudary, who led the Trojans to back-to-back girls titles in 2021 and 2022. "That’s something we can all be proud of.”

Luke Wiersema's first slalom run wasn't great. The TC West junior hiked after missing a gate and still managed to sit in 22nd place. Then his second run was the third-fastest to move him all the way up to ninth place and a first-team all-state finish.

That move essentially boosted West's score by 13. The Titans won the boys championship by five.

"I just kind of leaned in (too much) and then just had to hike a little bit, but then made it down," Wiersema said. "(The second) was an awesome, surreal run."

Wiersema said the second run was his best of the season.

"Everyone's happy, so it's good," Wiersema said. "We've definitely put in a lot of hard work. Skiing in the rain and when it's 50 degrees, it's been a lot of hard work."

West's boys scored 18 in slalom. For reference, a perfect score in which all four top spots go to the same team would be 10.

Lewandowski also had won the slalom last season as a sophomore.

"It feels amazing," Lewandowski said. "Just to help my team out, helped my boys."

Lewandowski posted three of the day's four fastest times, with Wiersema getting the other one in his second GS run.

"I don't really want to sound cocky, but all of us were wanting to win it really bad," Lewandowski said. "We thought we could. We had a few mess-ups that gave us some pushback, but we fought hard and we came away with it."

The top 10 in giant slalom – who all earn first-team all-state honors – were Lewandowski, Wiersema, Marquette's Sam Dehlin, TC Central's Jace Rowell, Lake Orion's Broden Janczarek, Brighton's Cru Smith, TC Central's Asher Paul, TC West's Isaac Shapiro, TC Central's Didier Ramoie and Flushing's Anthony Trovato.

The top 10 in GS were Lewandowski, Dehlin, Paul, TC West's Ben Schramski, Shapiro, Rowell, Ramoie, Trovato, Wiersema and TC Central's Luke Farella.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Traverse City West's Caleb Lewandowski approaches a gate during one of his runs Monday. (Middle) The Titans celebrate their championship at Schuss Mountain. (Click for more from Sports in Motion - Division 1.)