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.
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.)
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.