By James Cook
Special for Second Half
BELLAIRE — Ethan Siegwart knows nothing but winning MHSAA Finals championships.
The Petoskey senior saw that through to its conclusion Monday, leading the Northmen to the school's eighth consecutive Division 2 crown at Schuss Mountain.
The streak matches Traverse City Central's from 1988-95 as the longest in state skiing history.
"There's been a lot of energy all season," said Siegwart, who placed second in giant slalom and fourth in slalom to earn his fourth and fifth first-team all-state finishes. "Coach always tells us it's hard to win it, and once you do, it's ever harder to keep winning it. It's never been easy. To keep up that record has been a goal since we were in middle school."
Petoskey led Great North Alpine — a cooperative program of Traverse City St. Francis, Elk Rapids, Central Lake and Grand Traverse Academy — by 16 points after the morning's giant slalom. The Northmen typically specialize in the slalom, but a few bobbles and some great GNA times saw the lead advance only 7.5 points.
The Northmen ended with 82.5 points to GNA's 106. The rest of the leaders were Pontiac Notre Dame (132), Benzie Central (136), Harbor Springs (146.5), Cadillac (186), Flint Powers Catholic (186.5), East Grand Rapids (195.5) and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (294).
Siegwart said a friendly rivalry with Great North Alpine — which finished second for the third consecutive year — has been a good thing for everyone involved.
"We were watching them, for sure," Siegwart said. "I'm pretty good friends with all the guys over there. We're always egging each other on. Last night and this morning, we were texting each other to make sure we were on our toes. Just a lot of trash talk going back and forth, which is healthy. It pushed everyone."
GNA coach Doug White held the runner-up trophy after team photos Monday. Aside from a contrasting hue, the first and second-place trophies look almost exactly alike.
"Just a little bit different," White said. "Theirs is gold, ours is silver.
"Naturally, do you want to walk away with first place? But second-place isn’t that bad. To beat Petoskey, you can’t make a mistake."
GNA's Finn Husband won the slalom, and was the only entrant to finish two runs in under a combined one minute.
"Petoskey is a juggernaut, for sure," Husband said. "What is it, eight years now? They're deep and have a lot of guys who can put down a good run. It's really difficult for other teams to sneak in there. We're a young team this year, so hopefully we can take it next year. Eight is enough for them. We need one."
Husband had the second-best time on his first slalom run, and shaved almost 0.8 seconds off that the second time around.
"His first run in slalom, he came down and had a really clean run," White said. "He was sitting in second at that time, back by just a couple hundredths of a second. He came down that second time, and you just had to hold your breath a couple times. It looks like he was going to come out, but he’s very athletic and held it in the course. He pushed that to the limit."
His second run came in at 29.55 seconds — the only one under 30 seconds all day.
"The snow was a little iffy for me, running in the second seed, but I felt like I was able to take control of it and just feel it through," Husband said. "Speed-wise, on the second run, I just kind of sent it and really hoped for the best. Obviously, it worked. I almost blew out a couple times. Just had to hold it."
Cadillac's Alex Netzley trailed Flint Powers' Devin Hope and Husband after the GS' first runs, but posting the best time the second time down the hill leapfrogged him into first as he won the race for the second straight year.
"My first run wasn't great," Netzley said. "I skied a little conservatively. I knew that second run I just had to attack and lay down a good run."
The junior also placed third in slalom, improving upon last year's result by four spots.
"I just wanted to go out and lay down four good runs," Netzley said. "I was happy. I just skied solid in both events."
Hope finished second in giant slalom, followed by Husband, Siegwart, GNA's Cooper Kerkhof, Benzie Central's Gabe Johnson, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep's Joseph Warsecke, Onekama's Keagan Thomas and the Petoskey duo of David Paquette and William Thomas.
William Thomas' 10th-place finish in GS made him the only D2 racer with a top-10 finish out of the fifth or sixth flight. He also took seventh in slalom.
Husband, Siegwart, Netzley and Johnson occupied the top four slalom spots to each double up on first-team all-state honors for the day. Keagan Thomas was again eighth, with East Grand Rapids' Rori Anderson sixth, William Thomas seventh, Benzie Central's Bowen Stoops ninth and Harbor Springs' Andrew Truman 10th.
Siegwart said proximity to good ski slopes is a major factor in Petoskey's dynasty.
"Location for us is huge," Siegwart said. "We have Nubs (Nob) and Boyne (Highlands) right there on our backdoor, so it's easy to get good, free skiing in."
Northmen coach Erik Lundteigen wouldn't even rule out winning a ninth title in a row next year.
"We'll be pretty strong," Lundteigen said. "We'll be losing some great seniors, but we always do. The key to the program is building it up. We've got underclassmen that learned this year, and they'll step into that role next year. I'm optimistic."
PHOTOS: (Top) Petoskey’s Ethan Siegwart sends up a spray of snow during one of his runs Monday. (Middle) Finn Husband was the slalom champion, representing Great Northern Alpine. (Photos by James Cook.)
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.)