Marquette Ski Teams Lead Chase Again

March 16, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

There are communities all over Michigan known for nurturing their athletes from the youngest levels through high school – football towns, basketball towns, volleyball towns, etc.

Marquette is a skiing town, with a decades-old infrastructure that would seem to guarantee no slowing down for the Marquette High boys team that has won six straight Division 1 championships and the girls team that last month clinched its third consecutive title.

Marquette’s boys and girls ski teams are the MHSAA/Applebee’s Teams of the Month for February after continuing those impressive streaks.

In Marquette, skiers who fill the high school teams came up on the local Marquette Mountain Race Team and Great Lakes Ski Academy. And every once in a while there’s an athlete with especially high aspirations who chooses to continue competing solely outside the high school. 

But second-year coach Dan Menze – who has coached in both non-school programs and skied for the Redmen through graduation in 2009 – said over the last two seasons every student who ski races has raced with his high school teams.

“The amount of skiing that’s available to these kids to make them better athletes and come to high school as already accomplished skiers – this wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have the programs that do bring those kids up,” Menze said.

“They teach skiing the right way. When they come to the high school, (athletes) already have a good foundation and good base. It’s just taking them to the next level for me, which I don’t usually have a ton of kids that I have to bring up to that level.”

The boys team won its title Feb. 26 at Boyne Mountain with 56 points, as Traverse City Central came in second for the fifth straight season this time with 80.5. The Redettes scored 48 points to finish ahead of Traverse City West’s 76.

Sophomore Ainsley Kirk and senior Sadah Scheidt took first and second in the girls slalom, and junior teammate Natalie Robinia was sixth. Kirk was then third in the giant slalom, and sophomore Jacey Johnson was seventh.

On the boys side, sophomore Aaron Grzelak, senior Andrew Thomas and freshman Haydn Kauppila took the first three places, respectively, in the slalom. They then finished second, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the giant slalom.

If the feeder programs are the key, Marquette Mountain’s participation is nearly as important. Menze said the hill “bends over backwards” to make it easier for the Redmen and Redettes to get in their training runs – and with the ability to set up courses comparable to any of the terrain the teams might see elsewhere.

Marquette High, the largest school in the Upper Peninsula, dominates in a number of sports throughout the school year. But also making the ski teams’ accomplishments impressive is the competition – skiing and hockey are two sports where Marquette regularly sees and succeeds against teams from both the Upper Peninsula and downstate.

The boys team has won 13 MHSAA Finals titles, dating to its first in 1997. The girls have won 11 going back to 1999.

“There’s not really a lot of other teams at the high school that get to compete with a lot of these teams from downstate,” Menze said. “It is nice to go down there; we’re in our element.

“The last 30 years we’ve been fairly consistent and competitive, and it’s awesome to bring that back to the school.”

Past Teams of the Month, 2017-18
January: Sterling Heights Stevenson competitive cheer - Report
Cadillac boys bowling - Report
November: Ottawa Lake Whiteford football - Report
Beaverton volleyball - Report
Shepherd girls golf - Report

PHOTO: Marquette’s girls and boys ski teams hold up their latest MHSAA championship trophies last month at Boyne Mountain. (Photo by Keith Dunlap.)

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.)