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.

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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.)

Galbraith Sets Pace as Petoskey Continues Magnificent Finals Run

By Jordan Puente
Special for

February 27, 2024

HARBOR SPRINGS — The Petoskey boys ski team remains in a class of its own.

Petoskey crushed the slopes at Nub’s Nob in Harbor Springs on Monday by collecting its fifth-straight Division 2 championship with a combined score of 68 points. Monday’s title run marks the program’s 12th D2 title in 13 years, and the Northmen show no signs of slowing down.

Coach Ben Crockett credited his entire coaching staff and parents for the team’s success since he began guiding the Northmen in 2019.

“The boys came together after a Regional event where we had some strong competition,” Crockett said. “When they realized it was a foregone conclusion they were going to win another state championship, they rallied and came together to execute a plan.”

Houghton’s Eli Heathman speeds down the hill on the way to winning the giant slalom.With Petoskey coming in first place, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s finished runner-up (102), and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (134) finished third. Great North Alpine placed fourth (134), and Harbor Springs finished fifth with a team score of 155.

Northmen junior Gavin Galbraith finished with an individual title in the slalom and third-place finish in giant slalom.

Galbraith finished the slalom with a combined time of 1:08.53 and the giant slalom with a combined time of 50.85. Teammates Taylor Keiswetter and McClure Galbraith placed in the top 10 in the giant slalom.

Keiswetter finished fifth with a combined time of 50.98, and McClure placed eighth with a combined time of 52.21.

"It's great that all of my hard work has paid off this season. Thanks to all my coaches and the Nub's Nob staff," Gavin said.

Gavin’s journey to get to where he is today started freshman year when he was named the 16th skier on the varsity roster. After waiting for his turn, he didn't shy away from the moment.

Last season, Galbraith watched the Northmen capture the team title, and the junior sensation was motivated to continue that streak Monday.

"All my coaches and family have been pushing me to keep this streak going," he said. "If we didn't win today, it would've been a bummer. But we tried our best, and that's all that matters."

Houghton’s Eli Heathman won the giant slalom with a combined time of 50.09, followed by Cadillac’s Brady Koenig in 50.74 and Galbraith in third. Gaylord’s Keaton Abraham was fourth (50.96) and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s CJ Studt was fifth (50.98).

Onekama’s Braydon Sorenson finished runner-up in the slalom with a combined time of 1:09.07, East Grand Rapids' Quinn Irwin finished third (1:09.42), Harbor Springs’ Jackson Deegan finished fourth with a combined time of 1:10.10, and St. Mary’s Pierson Kuhn finished fifth with a combined time of 1:10.93.

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PHOTOS (Top) Petoskey’s Gavin Galbraith races to the Division 2 slalom championship Monday. (Middle) Houghton’s Eli Heathman speeds down the hill on the way to winning the giant slalom. (Photos by Sarah Shepherd. Click for all photos.)