By Brett A. Sommers
Special for Second Half
HARBOR SPRINGS — Just two weeks ago, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central’s girls won their first Regional skiing championship in school history.
Now they have an MHSAA Finals championship trophy to place along side it, continuing a string of firsts.
The Rangers placed three skiers in the top 10 of the giant slalom and two in the slalom to edge Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 105-108.5 at Boyne Highlands Resort on Monday.
Sydney Reynolds added some personal hardware as well by winning the giant slalom — two years after winning a slalom title — with a time of 1:00.73.
“We won Regionals, and that is the first time it’s happened in the history of FHC,” Reynolds said. “Coming in we knew we had a good shot, so we just tried to finish. We came out on top, and it was amazing.”
Reynolds said taking the team trophy on the podium from head coach Alan Moore was unlike anything the senior had ever experienced.
“Being a senior, knowing we went off on that is amazing,” she said. “Hopefully they are able to do it again next year. They have a good chance, and knowing they can do it will make it even better.”
Moore has been coaching the Rangers for 26 years and said his athletes have kept him going for so long. Now he’ll have a championship to defend, too.
Forest Hills Central sat third after the morning’s slalom runs, trailing Notre Dame Prep and Houghton.
“We were still in the hunt. One skier fell and cost a few points,” Moore said. “We were (third) place, but not too far out of it. It was a pretty tight race, and we have pretty strong GS skiers. We held on for dear life, and it worked out.”
Rangers teammates Courtney McAlindon (1:01.51) finished third and Kayley Reynolds (1:02.86) 10th in the GS to help lead the comeback.
Sandwiched between the top two Forest Hills Central skiers was Houghton’s Jill Stein, who won the individual slalom championship, eclipsing long-time friend Reynolds by fewer than four-tenths of a second.
“I was super surprised,” Stein said. “Usually she’d be first in slalom and I’d be first in GS. Today I guess it flip-flopped.”
Monday marked the fourth season Stein has competed at the MHSAA Finals, but it was the first time she has completed all four runs without a fall.
Harbor Springs’ Maddy Fuhrman (1:01.54) was fourth in the GS, Notre Dame Prep’s Sydney Lintol fifth (1:01.79) and Gaylord’s Reagan Olli (1:01.80) sixth. Harbor Springs’ France Kelbel (1:02.55) was seventh, Cranbrook Kingswood’s Grace Krsul (1:02.70) eighth and Cadillac’s Emma Lloyd (1:02.80) ninth.
Notre Dame Prep hadn’t scored more than 17 points all season and won every meet leading into Monday.
“Really proud. Really proud,” Notre Dame Prep coach John Deibel said of his team. “They earned the right to be here. We were a pretty good team.”
Deibel had one of his top skiers post a DNF in each discipline, but the team was able to pull together for a runner-up finish anyway.
“It’s amazing. We’re such a close-knit team,” Deibel said. “Our girls come together. Our girls hug each, maybe they cry a little bit and get over (a fall) really quick.
“We expect to lose a skier. That’s the way we play our game.”
Lintol was Notre Dame Prep’s top finisher on the day, but Deibel said the Fighting Irish have a number of leaders, including some who will return next season looking to keep the program among Michigan’s best.
“I have four or five other kids on the team that are absolutely as good as Lintol is, and I fully expect they all will be competing next year for these same trophies.”
“We feel blessed to come here and work hard,” Lintol said. “We put all these hours in and all the seasons we’ve had as a group. We’ve grown up together. To see everybody improve and get to this point, and see not only team growth but self growth, is really exciting.”
Harbor Springs (120) finished third, Houghton fourth (147) and Great North Alpine fifth (153). Cranbrook Kingswood (167.5) was sixth, Spring Lake (186) seventh, Cadillac (207) eighth and Mount Pleasant (230) ninth.
Stein won the slalom in 1:03.19, and Reynolds was second in 1:03.26. Harbor Springs’ Furhman (1:03.98) was third in the slalom, Kayley Reynolds (1:04.16) fourth, Houghton’s Ally Fenton (1:04.44) fifth and Olli sixth (1:05.42). Milford’s Morgan Watts (1:06.35) was seventh, Lintol (1:06.58) eighth, Spring Lake’s Hannah Klein (1:07.35) ninth and Houghton’s Katherine Jarvis (1:07.36) 10th.
PHOTOS: (Top) Forest Hills Central’s Courtney McAlindon races Monday in helping her school to its first MHSAA team title. (Middle) A competitor at Boyne Highlands speeds past a gate. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
BOYNE FALLS — Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s girl ski team has dominated the slopes since 2016 and continued the trend Monday at Boyne Mountain.
The Irish placed first at the Division 2 Finals with a team combined score of 61. Petoskey finished runner-up with just four skiers to collect a team score of 87, and Great North Alpine finished third.
Senior Syndey Schulte was Notre Dame Prep’s top placer, finishing runner-up in slalom (1:09.19), and she was followed in that event by senior Peyton Schindler in fourth and senior Claire Kirchner in seventh. Kirchner was fourth in the giant slalom, and Schulte was seventh as the Irish placed four among the top 13.
“We had a great bunch of girls that skied well,” Norte Dame coach Craig McLeod said. “These girls show up to training every day and pay attention to what we’ve asked them, and they do it.”
Schindler has racked up tons of medals during her time at NDP, having helped the Irish win Division 2 championships during her freshmen and sophomore years before they finished sixth a year ago.
“It’s nice to have new faces, and it’s cool to see all of our hard work come into culmination of this,” Schindler said.
McLeod couldn’t be more pleased with the way his team performed at its Regional and the Finals. As he talked about his team, he was emotional knowing what this win meant to the Irish.
“The girls have won everything they touched,” McLeod said. “I have an amazing group of senior girls, and I’m proud of all the things they have done.”
Petoskey senior Marley Spence swept the giant slalom (1:14.91) and slalom (1:06.78). Spence also won giant slalom and was second in slalom as a junior, and she became the 12th skier in Finals history to win girls giant slalom at least twice.
"I cried," Spence said when she found out she won. "I ran to my parents and shed a lot of tears.
"All the emotions come in here, and it's been building out for weeks, so I'm shocked but happy," she added.
Spence was one of the four skiers who helped her team to a podium finish. Before they found out they were runners-up, Spence didn't think they'd get a team win with just four skiers – but Petoskey defeated the odds.
Cadillac senior Georgette Sake finished seconds behind Spence in the giant slalom with a combined time of 1:15.65. Cadillac as a team finished third with multiple top-10 placers in giant slalom.
"I enjoyed my four years at Cadillac," Sake said. "I don't think of skiing as a sport. I think of it as a family. The ski community is so great and cool."
PHOTOS (Top) Petoskey’s Marley Spence speeds through one of her runs on the way to winning both individual championships Monday. (Middle) Notre Dame Prep’s Sydney Schulte caps her career with two more top-10 Finals finishes. (Click for more later this week from Sports in Motion – Division 2.)