Adams' Fodale Repeats, Marquette's Grzelak Wins 1st & Titans Take Team Title

By James Cook
Special for

February 27, 2023

BELLAIRE – Katie Fodale aims for three next year. Anna Grzelak got her first in her last chance.

Fodale, the Rochester Adams junior star, won the Division 1 girls slalom championship for the second-straight season Monday at Schuss Mountain in Bellaire.

Grzelak capped off her standout Marquette career with her first Finals championship after multiple all-state performances.

“I'd say it was pretty different last year,” Fodale said. “It was kind of unexpected and I was super happy to win, obviously, but I didn't know that I could do it. This year coming back, I knew I had done it last year. I felt the pressure from myself to try and win again. I knew I could do it, but I also knew that there was a lot of other girls that could beat me, too.”

She led by 12 hundredths of a second after the first run, but extended that to 0.89 following the second, posting the best time with each.

“When I was skiing it, I could feel I was getting a lot of speed and doing really well,” said Fodale, who also took fifth in giant slalom. “I was just full speed ahead. Then once I was on the last three gates, I was like, 'OK, I think I got it.' And then I finished through and I was like, 'Yeah, that was a great run.'”

Fodale said she was happy with the team's fifth-place finish, especially since the Schuss Mountain slopes are far bigger than their home hill. Adams arrived early and trained for three days on the Kingdom Come and Goosebumps courses they'd compete on Monday.

“It was really good because a lot of our team was intimidated coming up here,” she said. “Our hill is very flat, and obviously this hill is super steep. But we came up to the challenge, and I think we did a great job.”

Marquette won the team title Grzelak's freshman year. Ever since, a Traverse City team has won the overall crown.

“It took a lot of training, and a lot of people helped me out and support me,” Grzelak said. “I think that was really nice.”

Traverse City West emerged from a tiebreaker with the girls title, as both West and TC Central ended with 69.5 points. The Titans won the tiebreaker with 30 points to 38 for Central, counting the fifth skier in both disciplines (Dillyn Mohr and Avery Plummer for West).

"Our team goes really deep, all the way to six," West coach Ed Johnson said. "So many teams fall off after three or four."

Traverse City West's Quinn Gerber races amid some flurries.Johnson said it's the first time he saw the tiebreaker system used to decide the Finals champion.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern, which won the Regional over both West and Central, finished third with 100 points, 30.5 back. The rest of the top nine were Clarkston (109), Rochester Adams (201), Bloomfield Hills (212), Brighton (242), Milford (246.5) and Farmington Hills Mercy (298).

West’s boys also won, completing a Finals sweep for the school.

"It's so cool," West junior Charlie Schulz said of winning both team titles. "It's never happened in our school history. It's so cool. I'm super proud of our team, and we've been working hard for it. I was pretty confident in us, but there's definitely some good competition here today."

Schulz said this year's outcome makes next year's goal obvious.

"I'm hoping to do it again," Schulz said. "We aren't losing anybody, at least for the girls side. So I'm hoping we can even be even better next year."

Grzelak, with two cousins also competing in the Division 1 Finals for Forest Hills Northern/Eastern, took third in slalom to earn dual first-team all-state honors.

“We got that family competition going on every time, so I think it's fun,” Grzelak said of her cousins. Katie Grzelak took third in slalom and Holly Grzelak fourth. Holly took third in GS.

“I'm glad I was able to get it in my last try,” Anna Grzelak said. “It's a good way to end off my high school career.”

Anna Grzelak tied Traverse City Central freshman Quinn Gerber for the GS championship, with both posting a combined time of 53.39 seconds.

"I did not expect it at all," Gerber said. "I was hoping to top-10 in both. My GS has been stronger this year, so I was hoping to do even better in that. I was hoping for top five in GS, so I was not really expecting this."

Gerber's first run was the fastest. Grzelak posted the best second run to put the two in a tie for combined time. They were both named GS champions.

“I was going all or falls on that one,” Grzelak said. “So I think I just had enough in me, and I was able to push through. I saw Quinn at the bottom, and we were celebrating.”

Gerber came out of the second flight to share the GS title.

"I was so happy to see Quinn ski so well today," TC Central head coach Amy Kudary said. "A state championship as a freshman is a pretty big deal. We are very young on both teams, so now I’m more excited than ever to see what we can do in the next couple of years."

Gerber said winning a championship as a freshman lifts her expectations for the future.

"I would hope for the same thing in the future, but the competition is so hard," Gerber said. "Especially tying like that. Any day, people ski differently."

The top 10 in giant slalom – who all earn first-team all-state honors – were Gerber, Anna Grzelak, Holly Grzelak, TC Central's Kellan Kudary, Fodale, FHNE's Jaycee O'Neill, TC West's Lila Warren, TC Central's Erinn Hale, Schulz and TC Central's Pearl Hale.

The top 10 in GS were Fodale, Katie Grzelak, Anna Grzelak, Holly Grzelak, TC West's Avery Plummer and Olivia Bageris, Gerber, Clarkston's Sydney Thomas, O'Neill and TC West's Ellie Gruber.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Rochester Adams' Katie Fodale speeds through a run Monday at Schuss Mountain. (Middle) Traverse City West's Quinn Gerber races amid some flurries. (Click for more from Sports in Motion - Division 1.)

Petoskey's Spence Caps Ski Career Among State's All-Time Racing Greats

By Tom Spencer
Special for

March 6, 2024

Let’s be clear. Marley Spence is the most decorated racer in Petoskey High School girls skiing history.

Northern Lower PeninsulaBut her favorite memory from the sport is not winning one of her five MHSAA Finals individual championships.

It is helping the Northmen earn Division 2 runners-up honor her junior year when Petoskey had just the minimum – four skiers — in the competition won by Pontiac Notre Dame Prep.

Spence has to admit the odds were stacked against the Northman that day on Boyne Mountain And to top it off, it is a memory that is connected to her middle school days with senior classmate and all-stater Sydney Hoffman.

“It was me and Sydney and two other seniors, and that was our entire team,” Spence recalled this week. “We had to do everything right to place second, and we did that that day and we were super thrilled. That was the highlight of my career.”

Quite a statement for the perennial Big North, Regional and Finals champion in the slalom and giant slalom. She has been a top-10 finisher at the Finals going back to her freshman year.  

“Marley has sort of come along in an era when we have not had as many female athletes in the program,” said Ben Crockett, who with sister Jennifer Crockett coaches the Petoskey ski teams. “She should be proud of the fact that a pretty small team was able to have collective success at the state meet.”

All of the time spent on those powdery white hills since the age of 2 has certainly paid off.

She was the runner-up in slalom and 10th in giant slalom as a freshman. As a sophomore, her accomplishments ranged from Big North Conference and Regional titles in both the slalom and giant slalom to a Finals championship in the GS. She also captured runner-up in the slalom race to finish that winter.

As a junior, she won both the giant slalom and slalom at the Finals while leading Petoskey to the second-place team finish.

And this year, she did it again. Petoskey did not qualify as a team, but she and Hoffman did. Spence and Hoffman have been teammates since middle school, and they both picked up all-state honors this year. Hoffman placed in the top 10 of both the slalom and giant slalom Feb. 26 at Nub’s Nob.

“It helps to train with my teammate because we’re all on one team and we compete against each other and (are) pushing each other,” Spence said. “We watch each other and can all learn from our mistakes and watch we do well.”

This year, Spence put together a time of 51.17 in the giant slalom, then 1:12.19 in the slalom, holding off some tough competition from Cadillac's Onalee Wallace in both races. 

Spence’s performance at Nub’s Nob allowed her to tie Eric Behan for the most titles by a Petoskey skier and set the girls record at the school. Behan collected his fifth in 2005.

Spencer stands atop the medal stand after sweeping the slalom and giant slalom this season.Spence also tied the MHSAA record for career Finals titles in Division 2, Class B or the previous open class, matching the mark of Christy Salonen of West Iron County from 1993-96. 

"From her freshman year on the team, Marley has been serious and committed to high school competition. At times, she has dominated high school racing, yet she is always respectful of her competitors. I’m very proud of her for exhibiting that character trait," said Jennifer Crockett, who similarly graduated from Petoskey in 1995 as one of the program's most accomplished skiers. "This season she had teammates who were not as experienced as Marley, and she really stepped up and took on a leadership role, helping them with course inspections and race day timeline management."

Spence had the luxury, and challenge, throughout her career of skiing against what many would consider the toughest high school competition in Michigan with Petoskey part of the BNC.

This year, Traverse City West’s girls repeated as Division 1 champions. Cadillac won the Division 2 girls team title for the second time in three seasons.

Spence intends to compete this spring in sprints for the Petoskey track team. She is thinking of attending Montana State University next fall and ski for the Bobcats. 

Recently labeled one of the best places for college skiers by POWDER magazine, MSU is recognized nationally and internationally for its snow science research.

“I might be going out to Montana State, and if I do then I’ll definitely ski,” she said. “It is very hard to ski in college – more than any other sport – because they bring in all the Europeans and they take the spots, but I am going to strive for that.”

As she wraps up her high school career, Spence reflected on the challenges of being a high school skier and noted slalom is her favorite race.

“I would say slalom because it is high tempo, and you have to think more about it,” she said. “It is more strategic.

“Sometimes it is hard to stay focused when you have so much going on with friends and other things like parents there, coaches there,” she continued. “Trying to keep a routine every race is what has helped me succeed.”

Part of that routine, as Jennifer Crockett noted, is inspecting the course as a team – something Spence will miss as it allowed her to mentor her younger teammates. But her impact on Petoskey's program, and high school skiing statewide, will not be forgotten.

“Marley has five individual state championships and there are only two other individuals in the history of skiing in Michigan to make that accomplishment,” Ben Crockett said. “Any review of the history would have to include her as one of the best to ever ski at the high school level.”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Petoskey's Marley Spence skis a slalom run during the Feb. 26 Division 2 Finals at Nub's Nob. (Middle) Spence stands atop the medal stand after sweeping the slalom and giant slalom this season. (Photo by Sarah Shepherd.)