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.)
BOYNE FALLS — Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s girl ski team has dominated the slopes since 2016 and continued the trend Monday at Boyne Mountain.
The Irish placed first at the Division 2 Finals with a team combined score of 61. Petoskey finished runner-up with just four skiers to collect a team score of 87, and Great North Alpine finished third.
Senior Syndey Schulte was Notre Dame Prep’s top placer, finishing runner-up in slalom (1:09.19), and she was followed in that event by senior Peyton Schindler in fourth and senior Claire Kirchner in seventh. Kirchner was fourth in the giant slalom, and Schulte was seventh as the Irish placed four among the top 13.
“We had a great bunch of girls that skied well,” Norte Dame coach Craig McLeod said. “These girls show up to training every day and pay attention to what we’ve asked them, and they do it.”
Schindler has racked up tons of medals during her time at NDP, having helped the Irish win Division 2 championships during her freshmen and sophomore years before they finished sixth a year ago.
“It’s nice to have new faces, and it’s cool to see all of our hard work come into culmination of this,” Schindler said.
McLeod couldn’t be more pleased with the way his team performed at its Regional and the Finals. As he talked about his team, he was emotional knowing what this win meant to the Irish.
“The girls have won everything they touched,” McLeod said. “I have an amazing group of senior girls, and I’m proud of all the things they have done.”
Petoskey senior Marley Spence swept the giant slalom (1:14.91) and slalom (1:06.78). Spence also won giant slalom and was second in slalom as a junior, and she became the 12th skier in Finals history to win girls giant slalom at least twice.
"I cried," Spence said when she found out she won. "I ran to my parents and shed a lot of tears.
"All the emotions come in here, and it's been building out for weeks, so I'm shocked but happy," she added.
Spence was one of the four skiers who helped her team to a podium finish. Before they found out they were runners-up, Spence didn't think they'd get a team win with just four skiers – but Petoskey defeated the odds.
Cadillac senior Georgette Sake finished seconds behind Spence in the giant slalom with a combined time of 1:15.65. Cadillac as a team finished third with multiple top-10 placers in giant slalom.
"I enjoyed my four years at Cadillac," Sake said. "I don't think of skiing as a sport. I think of it as a family. The ski community is so great and cool."
PHOTOS (Top) Petoskey’s Marley Spence speeds through one of her runs on the way to winning both individual championships Monday. (Middle) Notre Dame Prep’s Sydney Schulte caps her career with two more top-10 Finals finishes. (Click for more later this week from Sports in Motion – Division 2.)