Notre Dame Prep Finishes Title Climb

February 25, 2019

By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half

BOYNE FALLS – Christmas shopping wasn’t the motivation for Pontiac Notre Dame Prep ski coach Craig McLeod to go on Amazon back when the ski season got going in December. 

Instead, he visited the popular internet shopping site to order some motivation for his team, in the form of plastic rings that glow different colors when you turn the top.

“Our cheerleading team has won the state championship five years in a row,” McLeod said. “They have these really cool Super Bowl type of rings. I said, ‘We’ve got to get a ring. The ring is the thing.’ That’s been our motto all season.”

Pretty soon, the Notre Dame Prep girls ski team will have to be fitted for much more expensive rings after what it accomplished at Boyne Mountain on Monday

For the first time since winning the 2006 Class B-C-D title, the Notre Dame Prep girls captured an MHSAA Finals ski title, topping the Division 2 field with a meet-best 64 points, well ahead of the 102 accumulated by runner-up Petoskey. 

The favorite going in, Notre Dame Prep’s supreme depth was on display, with three girls finishing among the top 15 in both the slalom and giant slalom.

KC Kennedy led the way for Notre Dame Prep with a pair of top-five finishes, taking third in the slalom with a time of 1:07.70 and fifth in the giant slalom in 1:16.10.

Meghan Kozole was sixth in the slalom (1:09.52) and seventh in the giant slalom (1:16.46), Delaney Flavin was 15th in the slalom and Natalie Uhazie 15th in the giant slalom.

It was a vindicating day for the Fighting Irish, who finished as runners-up to Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central in 2017 and Houghton/Hancock in 2018.

This time, it was the championship trophy they took home.

“The harder you work, the luckier you get,” McLeod said. “I would say we worked pretty hard, and some luck fell in our favor. Everything came together.”

The individual star of the meet was Bloomfield Hills Marian senior Olivia Weymouth, who won both the giant slalom and slalom titles. 

Weymouth started her day by overcoming what’s been a personal nemesis, the slalom, winning that event in a time of 1:04.88.

Crossing the finish line itself represented a major mental barrier that was overcome, given Weymouth fell at the last two Finals in the slalom, doing so last year on the same Boyne course when Marian competed at the 2018 Division 1 Finals. 

“The slalom, I’ve been working on it because it’s been my weakest event in the past,” Weymouth said. “I had a lot of nerves coming into it. But I finished, and it was exciting. But I had to keep my nerves level even because I knew there was GS to come. I didn’t want to bring too much excitement there.”

Weymouth stayed steady and calm in the giant slalom, winning that event in a time of 1:13.84, barely ahead of Kaylee Richardson of Rochester Adams, who was second at 1:13.92. 

Richardson also was fourth in the slalom with a time of 1:07.98. 

Megan Pasche of Grand Rapids Northview finished second in the slalom with a time of 1:07.35.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) The Pontiac Notre Dame Prep girls ski team celebrates its first Finals title in the sport since 2006. (Middle) Marian's Olivia Weymouth races toward the championship in the giant slalom. (Top photo courtesy of Notre Dame Prep's athletic department; middle photo by James Cook. For more from Monday's Finals, see Sports in Motion.)

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.)