By Scott Keyes
Special for Second Half
BELLAIRE – Regardless of the sport, winning an MHSAA championship is an impressive feat.
But what about winning six titles in a row?
That's the possibility the Petoskey boys ski team faced entering Monday's Division 2 Finals at Schuss Mountain.
With hard work, dedication and a few breaks along the way, Petoskey pulled off the inevitable by winning its sixth straight championship, and third straight under current coach Erik Lundteigen.
Following Petoskey was the Elk Rapids/Traverse City St. Francis cooperative program in second, Cadillac (third), East Grand Rapids (fourth) and Charlevoix (fifth).
"Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought about being a part of six straight championships," Lundteigen said. "To be that good for so long comes with a lot of hard work and definitely a lot of luck along the way. But to take nothing away from our kids, they work so hard every time they hit the slopes. We have a tremendous feeder program, and the kids buy into what we are teaching. It's that dedication that allows us to stay competitive year after year."
Lundteigen tried to downplay the feat of six titles, which is second only to Traverse City’s run of eight consecutive MHSAA championships from 1988-95.
“When you ski well, good things happen," he said. "We had a tremendous season."
The Northmen were led by Garrett Lundteigen and Mitch Makala.
Makala won the giant slalom in 47.24, defeating last year's champion Ben Hicks of Elk Rapids/St. Francis (47.30), and Makala’s teammate Garret Lundteigen was third. (47.43).
In the slalom, it was Garret Lundteigen finishing first in 1:03.01, Makala was second (103.88) and Victor Pierret of Harbor Springs was third (1:05.57).
“We’ve got a great one-two punch with Garret and Mitch,” Erik Lundteigen said. “They go back and forth. They push each other, and I love it.
“It’s like we have a one and a 1-A.”
With the win, Garrett was able replicate the feat of his older brother Gunner, who won both the slalom and giant slalom championships in 2013. But, echoing his father, Garrett also said the titles aren’t what’s at the forefront at the starting line.
“Once you get to the top of the hill, it’s just all about skiing,” Garrett said. “We don’t even think about the record. It’s just thinking about getting to the bottom as fast as you can.”
PHOTO: The Petoskey boys ski team poses with its championship trophy after its sixth straight win in Division 2. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.)