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."
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.
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.)
Instead of “to be or not to be” or channeling The Clash and its hit song, “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” there’s another question that Rochester Adams senior Katie Fodale is pondering at the moment as it relates to her college athletic future.
Should I golf or ski?
Fodale said if it was simply about what sport she wanted to do in college, it would be skiing.
“Skiing is my passion. I love it so much,” she said. “I love playing golf. But I love the adrenaline rush and how fast skiing is. I love the feeling of going fast on the snow. You can feel the wind on your cheeks, and when you get to the end of the run, you think back on your run and it feels like it didn’t happen because it’s so fast. But it’s really fun that way. I like that adrenaline boost.”
A few more factors add to the dilemma.
There are not many college ski programs, and they tend to load up with skiers from European countries.
Fodale also wants to study biology, and finding school with a golf or ski program that can help with that ambition is important also.
“Golf is much more attainable,” said Fodale, adding that Kalamazoo College has given her an offer to play golf.
While uncertain about the future, Fodale can at least focus on the present as the best female skier in the Detroit area, which is following up a recent past that saw her part of a Division 1 championship golf team at Adams in the fall.
Fodale finished the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final tied for eighth individually with a two-day score of 158 (82-76) to help Adams repeat as champion.
On the slopes, Fodale is the two-time reigning Division 1 champion in the slalom, topping even the best skiers from Northern Michigan schools.
Fodale said despite their contrasts, golf and skiing have complemented her as an athlete from a mental standpoint.
“At golf, I have gotten a lot better at perfecting the mindset of one hole at a time,” she said. “For skiing, you can take it on one run and one turn at a time. Not focus on the end result.”
In addition to winning the slalom for a third straight year at this season’s Finals on Feb. 26, Fodale also is motivated to win her first title in the giant slalom after three top-five finishes. Adams will compete in Division 2 this time, at Nubs Nob and is racing in its Regional today at Pine Knob in Clarkston.
“I do want to win the GS this year,” Fodale said. “I really feel like this year my GS has improved too. I think I have what it takes, and hopefully the results work in my favor.”
When she is not at high school practices or meets, Fodale spends her weekends competing in races conducted by the International Ski and Snowboard Federation, otherwise known as FIS.
Adams head coach Jaime Jackson said that during a recent meet in Canada, Fodale held her own against skiers in their mid-20s, ranking as the top U.S. racer at the event.
“It’s hard to improve on what she did last year,” Jackson said. “She has so much experience and so much skill, whenever she’s not having a great run, she still is having a great run.”
Given that, there certainly isn’t much “coaching” Jackson has to do with Fodale, although there still is one important function he performs.
“Somebody has to put her name in the lineup, right,” Jackson quipped.
It’s been a frustrating winter for Fodale and other ski teams that have seen their season impacted by warm weather that has melted snow and created slushy conditions.
Ironically, the weather lately has been warmer than Fodale played in on the second day of Golf Finals weekend in October when it was windy, chilly and rainy at Forest Akers West.
But with a colder forecast for the latter half of February, Fodale should be nicely set up to win a third Finals title in the slalom and her first in the giant slalom.
Once the finals are over, the big question will intensify.
Should she golf or should she ski?
“I’m still figuring that out,” Fodale said.
If her high school athletic career is an indication, it won’t really matter. Whatever Fodale decides to do, she’ll thrive.
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties
PHOTOS (Top) Rochester Adams’ Katie Fodale finishes a run during last season’s Division 1 Ski Finals. (Middle) Fodale, third from left, celebrates her team’s Division 1 golf championship in the fall. (Top photo by Sports in Motion, middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)