Petoskey Adds to D2 Dominance with 11th Finals Title in 12 Seasons

By James Cook
Special for

February 28, 2022

BELLAIRE – “Send it” was the motto of this year’s Petoskey skiing team. 

Consider it sent. 

The Northmen boys won their third-straight Division 2 championship – and 11th in 12 years – edging Pontiac Notre Dame Prep by 13 points Monday at Schuss Mountain in Bellaire.

The Northmen used a dominating afternoon in the slalom to pull ahead of Notre Dame and finish with 86 points. Petoskey trailed Notre Dame by four after the morning GS. Cadillac placed third at 116, followed by Gaylord (129) and Harbor Springs (149.5). 

All the while, coaches wore hats emblazoned with the motto.

"It's a great streak and it's a testament to the community that's built around this program," said Petoskey boys skiing head coach Ben Crockett. "That is really the strength, is having families involved and it being valued in Petoskey and being something that our community is really proud of. And we just continue to have success." 

The Petoskey win was even more impressive given the team had two falls in the morning GS session and another in the slalom. 

"We were in need of having a finish to keep us in the in the competition," said Crockett, who won his second Finals title in as many years leading the program. "We got that with Gavin Galbraith, who's a freshman coming through at the very end when we needed him. So that kept us in the hunt." 

Gaylord's Connor Abraham won the slalom title, posting the fastest run of each session by a fraction of a second ahead of Petoskey junior Nolan Walkerdine, who took second. 

"It's just super cool to actually pull it off," Abraham said. "I've been working at it for a long time, so I'm really excited right now." 

The boys slalom saw a lot of skiers hiking, with eight falls in the first three flights of the first run. 

The second run ended up better, the snow firming up in between. 

"You never know what you're going to get," Abraham said. "That could happen to anyone and it happened to a lot of people today. I've been there many times before." 

Houghton’s Reed Heathman won the giant slalom, just beating out Harbor Springs’ Connor Truman by 0.33 seconds. 

Gaylord skiingAbraham also placed fifth in giant slalom, in what he called his best GS race of the year. 

Walkerdine also placed third in giant slalom after top-flighted teammate and senior captain Will Goelz fell on his first run. 

"There are situations where a hike can make the difference between winning and losing and that was going through my head," Goelz said. "I also wanted to be able to have a second run to finish off my high school skiing career on a good note." 

Goelz bounced back with the fourth-fastest second slalom run. 

"Nice be able to keep our streak alive," Goelz said. "It was just a really great team effort from our entire team. We counted on every single one of us. I've got a great team to back me up and find some really great results themselves." 

Junior Wyatt Mattson brought home a pair of first-team all-state honors, placing fourth in giant slalom and sixth in slalom. 

Goelz took 13th in giant slalom, and freshman Charlie Thomas earned 12th in slalom. 

"It's such a cool thing to be able to be part of a team with that much of a legacy," Goelz said. "A lot of great skiers and great people come out of our program, and it's really great to be able to add to that going forward." 

Great North Alpine — a co-op team consisting of Traverse City St. Francis, Elk Rapids, Central Lake and Grand Traverse Academy — had junior Corbin Murphy place seventh in slalom and tie for 10th in giant slalom to earn all-state in each after qualifying as an individual. 

"Coming as an individual this year was a little different because ever since freshman year, I've been coming here as a team," Murphy said. "But it was fun this year. I didn't have to worry about anything for the team, so I could go full gas." 

GNA doesn't lose any seniors, so Murphy expected to be back next year as a team during his senior campaign. 

Whereas Great North Alpine's entire team — the one squad to interrupt Petoskey's run at 12 titles in a row — wasn't at the Final, another team made its return after a long while. 

Onekama qualified at a team for the first time since 1994, the program's only other time making the Final as a team. 

Kylar Thomas earned all-state honors with a sixth-place finish in giant slalom, with teammate Braydon Sorenson taking 15th. The Portagers placed seventh as a team. 

"We just made it as a team finally, which was kind of a cool thing for my senior year," Thomas said. "After all these years, we're working hard all year skiing, practicing lots and trying to get better." 

Mount Pleasant also made its Finals debut as a team, finishing eighth with 223 points, tied with Grand Rapids Christian.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Petoskey’s Nolan Walkerdine cuts past a gate during a slalom run Monday at Schuss Mountain. (Middle) Gaylord’s Connor Abraham surges into a turn on the way to winning the slalom. (Click for more from Sports in Motion.)

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.

Click for full results.

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.)