Harbor Springs Girls Retake D2 Title

February 23, 2015

By Chris Dobrowolski
Special for Second Half

HARBOR SPRINGS — For the past three years, Harbor Springs has been trying to get back to the top of the mountain.

On Monday, the Rams reached the pinnacle.

Harbor Springs captured its first girls MHSAA skiing title since 2012, edging Petoskey by just 3.5 points (81.5-85) in a dramatic battle for the Division 2 crown at Nub's Nob. Elk Rapids/Traverse City St. Francis was third with 94 points.

The Rams outscored Petoskey by 14 points in the slalom and used that to carry them to the win, even after they finished third overall in the giant slalom to the Northmen and Elk Rapids/Traverse City St. Francis.

"I'm really excited for the girls," said Harbor Springs coach Jane Ramer. "They've worked so hard all season. We have a lot of seniors, and they needed to get a state championship. They fell short the last few years, so it's a real positive thing."

Harbor fell short of repeating in 2013 as Petoskey took top honors, then watched as Bloomfield Hills Marian won the championship last year and Houghton/Hancock took second.

This year was the Rams' shot at redemption.

"Yes, (it was redemption) because we're meeting the teams we have in the past that we've lost to," said Harbor Springs senior Tia Esposito. "Our team really came together. 

"We won it freshman year, and to come back and have this experience again is really incredible. I think we all walked out here feeling good about the day because of how we've been training on these hills for four years."

Maddy Fuhrman led the Rams with a pair of 10th-place finishes. She had a time of 56.7 in giant slalom and 1:08.72 in slalom. Esposito took 13th in GS (56.85) and 12th in slalom (1:09.27). Marin Hoffman (17th, 56.7) and Sadie Cwikiel (19th, 57.81) rounded out Harbor Spring's GS counters, while Demi Trabucchi (13th, 1:09.37) and Alexa Wespiser (14th, 1:09.78) were third and fourth in slalom.

Ramer felt her team had a chance to capture the title, but she wasn't going into the day overconfident. 

"It's ski racing so you never know what's going to happen," she said. "We knew we wanted to come in and get ahead in the slalom, so when we went into the afternoon we had a little comfort zone. That's what happened. As you can see, Petoskey beat us in the GS, but we beat them in the slalom. It was a good formula and it worked."

Houghton's Jenna Stein was the individual winner of the giant slalom, recording a time of 53.04. She edged Carlee McCardel of Elk Rapids/St. Francis, the two-time reigning champion in the event, who skied a time of 53.31. McCardel had the top time after the first run of GS, but Stein overtook her in the second run and ended up with the title. 

In the girls slalom, Sydney Reynolds of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central was the champion in a time of 1:05.52.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Members of Harbor Springs' girls ski team hold up their championship trophy Monday. (Middle) Houghton's Jenna Stein was the individual champion in the giant slalom. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

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

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)