By James Cook
Special for Second Half
BELLAIRE — Pontiac Notre Dame Prep thought it had won the program's first MHSAA skiing championship since 2006.
Instead, Houghton-Hancock roared back to take its second crown in program history and first since 2010.
The Fighting Irish led by four after the morning's slalom event. Even after the afternoon session ended, Notre Dame skiers thought they had won the title.
But when the final results were announced, Houghton-Hancock let out a yell that may have carried all the way to the Upper Peninsula's Keweenaw Peninsula.
"The girls performed awesome," Houghton coach Brian Henderson said. "Everyone stood. Everybody did their job."
Henderson has coached the team for 17 years, leading Houghton-Hancock to the 2010 title and a half dozen runner-up finishes.
Houghton trailed after the morning session, and had the weaker of its two disciplines coming up in the afternoon.
Allyson Fenton and Katherine Jarvis responded by placing fifth and sixth in giant slalom as only Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central had more than one top-10 placer.
The Rangers had GS champ Courtney McAlindon and seventh-place Kayley Reynolds.
Houghton's Miren Unciti and Lydia Salmi placed 24th and 30th to give Houghton-Hancock enough points to make up the ground on Notre Dame.
"Sometimes you have to know when to take your foot off the gas, and that's what we did today," Henderson said. "I'm very proud of this bunch. It's been a long, great day."
Meghan Kozole played a big role in Notre Dame Prep going into the afternoon with that lead. She placed second in slalom from the fourth flight, with her sister Katelyn taking third.
"My first run I thought was really, really bad," Meghan Kozole said. "So I came down and was kind of shocked. I came down the pitch and had my eyes closed."
The Fighting Irish will have to wait to again target the elusive team title.
Houghton-Hancock (84) and Notre Dame Prep (88) were followed by Harbor Springs (107), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (124), Petoskey (144), Forest Hills Central (190), East Grand Rapids (204), Cadillac (210) and Mount Pleasant (251).
"We had a good mentality coming in," Kozole said. "We won the Regional by a pretty decent amount, so we came in pretty confident."
Gaylord sophomore Reagan Olli was the meet’s star. Skiing as an individual qualifier and out of the third flight, she led the GS after the first run but finished second overall as she was overtaken by one of her frequent training partners, McAlindon, who posted the fastest girls run of the day.
Olli posted the day's third-fastest girls slalom run (31.67 seconds) to start her pursuit in that event. Times were much slower the second time around, and her second-best time of 34.85 seconds was enough to hold off Kozole by 0.2 seconds.
"I tried to ski them clean and like I did in training," said Olli, who was sixth in both disciplines last year as a freshman. "As technically sound as possible, and then the speed will come."
The rest of the giant slalom top 10 included Caledonia's Emily Petrosky (third), Grand Rapids Northview's Megan Paasche (eighth), Harbor Springs' Frannie Kelbel (ninth) and Katelyn Kozole for Notre Dame.
Harbor Springs' Maddy Fuhrman took fourth in slalom, followed by Petoskey's Loren Kircher, Kelbel in eighth, Cranbrook Kingswood's Annabel Geissbuhle ninth and Paasche 10th.
Houghton-Hancock had finished second twice since its last title, so breaking through this time was sweet for Henderson and his squad.
"I can't say enough about our seniors and their leadership," Henderson said. "The rest of the gals have just followed their lead.
"It's so nice to see this come together. It's been a great group. They've had the desire all season. They knew what it took."
PHOTOS: (Top) Gaylord’s Reagan Olli surges by a gate during one of her runs Monday. (Middle) Petoskey’s Loren Kircher speeds through a turn. (Photos by James Cook.)
The addition of two games to basketball regular-season schedules and a new series of wrestling weight classes are likely the most noticeable Winter 2022-23 changes as an estimated 65,000 athletes statewide take part in 13 sports for which the Michigan High School Athletic Association sponsors postseason tournaments.
Girls gymnastics and boys ice hockey teams were able to begin practice Oct. 31, with the rest of those sports beginning in November – including also girls and boys basketball, girls and boys bowling, girls competitive cheer, girls and boys skiing, Upper Peninsula girls and boys and Lower Peninsula boys swimming & diving, and girls and boys wrestling.
A variety of changes are in effect for winter sports this season, including a several that will be noteworthy and noticeable to teams and spectators alike.
Basketball remains the most-participated winter sport for MHSAA member schools with 33,000 athletes taking part last season, and for the first time, basketball teams may play up to 22 regular-season games. This increase from the previous 20-game schedule allows more games for teams at every high school level – varsity, junior varsity and freshman.
Another significant change has been made in wrestling, as the majority of boys wrestling weight classes have been adjusted for this season in anticipation of a national change coming in 2023-24. The updated boys weight classes are 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 144, 150, 157, 165, 175, 190, 215 and 285 pounds. Only 215 and 285 remain from the previous lineup. There is also one change to girls weight classes, with the 255 class replaced by 235 to also align with national high school standards.
A series of notable changes will affect how competition takes place at the MHSAA Tournament levels. In hockey, in addition to a new classification process that spread cooperative and single-school programs evenly throughout the three playoff divisions, the MHSAA Tournament will employ two changes. The Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) will be used to seed the entire Regional round, not just the top two teams, and prior to the start of Semifinals, a seeding committee will reseed the remaining four teams in each division with the top seed in each then facing the No. 4 seed, and the No. 2 seed facing No. 3.
Bowling also will see an MHSAA Tournament change, as the Team Regional format will mirror the long-standing Team Final with teams playing eight Baker games and two regular games at both levels. And as also applied during the fall girls season, there is a new qualification process for divers seeking to advance to Lower Peninsula Boys Swimming & Diving Finals. In each of the three divisions, each Regional will be guaranteed 10 qualifiers for the Finals, with six more “floating” qualifier entries to be distributed to the Regionals that have one of the previous year’s top six returning Finals divers in their fields. If a team changes division from the previous season, any floating top-six spots are added to the six already allowed in the school’s new division.
A gymnastics rules change provides an opportunity for additional scoring during the floor exercise. A dance passage requirement was added in place of the former dance series requirement to encourage creativity and a more artistic use of dance. The dance passage requires gymnasts to include two Group 1 elements – one a leap with legs in cross or side split position, the other a superior element.
In competitive cheer, the penalty for going over the time limit in each round was adjusted to one penalty point for every second over the time limit, not to exceed 15 points. The new time limit rule is more lenient than the past penalty, which subtracted points based on ranges of time over the limit.
The 2022-23 Winter campaign culminates with postseason tournaments, as the championship schedule begins with the Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Swimming & Diving Finals on Feb. 18 and wraps up with the Boys Basketball Finals on March 25. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:
Districts – March 6, 8, 10
Regionals – March 13, 15
Quarterfinals – March 21
Semifinals – March 23-24
Finals – March 25
Districts – Feb. 27, March 1, 3
Regionals – March 7, 9
Quarterfinals – March 14
Semifinals – March 16-17
Finals – March 18
Regionals – Feb. 24-25
Finals – March 3-4
District – Feb. 17-18
Regionals – Feb. 25
Finals – March 2-3
Regionals – March 4
Finals – March 10-11
Regionals – Feb. 20-March 1
Quarterfinals – March 4
Semifinals – March 9-10
Finals – March 11
Regionals – Feb. 13-17
Finals – Feb. 27
Swimming & Diving
Upper Peninsula Girls/Boys Finals – Feb. 18
Lower Peninsula Boys Diving Regionals – March 2
Lower Peninsula Boys Finals – March 10-11
Wrestling – Team
Districts – Feb. 8-9
Regionals – Feb. 15
Finals – Feb. 24-25
Wrestling – Individual
Districts – Feb. 11
Regionals – Feb. 18
Finals – March 3-4
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.