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.)
HARBOR SPRINGS — The Cadillac girls ski team knew it couldn’t sneak up on anyone at Monday’s Division 2 Final, and rose to the challenge.
Cadillac walked away from Nub's Nob Ski Area and Resort in Harbor Springs with its second championship in three years and fourth-straight top-three finish. The Vikings finished with a combined team score of 72. Harbor Springs finished runner-up with a combined team score of 91.
Mattawan and Paw Paw placed third (107), Bloomfield Hills Marian finished fourth (168) and Norway finished fifth (171).
"A couple of years ago, we snuck up and got a ski title, but this year, we had more of a target on our backs knowing we had a pretty good team to do something special," Cadillac head coach James Netzley said. "It was a little nervous feeling today because of the start."
Netzley said his skiers made it a goal to repeat what they did in 2022 after finishing third last year.
"We said last night that it was going to take a complete team effort if we wanted to do something special today," Netzley said. "That came true, and we relied on every kid on the team."
The Vikings started shaky at the slalom with a couple of falls, but in the end, several skiers pulled through. Senior Onalee Wallis led the Vikings with second-place finishes in the slalom and giant slalom. Wallis finished the slalom with a combined time of 1:12.63 and the giant slalom with a combined time of 51.67.
Wallis's teammate, senior Avery Meyer, finished third in the slalom with a combined time of 1:16.76. Great North Alpine's Grace Rowe finished fourth with a combined time of 1:17.46.
Rochester Adams' Katie Fodale finished third in the giant slalom (52.43), Meyer placed fourth (53.39), and Emma Borgula placed fifth in the giant slalom with a combined time of 53.97.
"They are pretty special kids," Netzley said about Meyer and Wallis. "Both have been first-team all-state for four years in a row, and gotten a top-10 finish since their freshmen year. Not many kids can do that by the time they come in as freshmen and cap off their senior year with outstanding performances."
Petoskey didn't have the outing it had hoped for, but senior Marley Spence stamped herself as one of the best high school athletes in the state after walking away with her fifth-straight D2 individual Finals medal after placing first in both the slalom and giant slalom. Spence finished the slalom with a combined time of 1:12.19 and giant slalom with a combined time of 51.17.
Northmen boys coach Ben Crockett, who leads the program alongside his sister and girls coach Jennifer Crockett, found no disagreement in naming Spence as one of the best individual athletes to come out of Petoskey, let alone the state.
"We've been trying to dig into the history books in Michigan, and she is definitely at the top of her group historically of anybody who has competed in a sport," Ben Crockett said. "She is the best in Michigan, and there is no question about it."
PHOTOS (Top) Petoskey’s Marley Spence races past a gate during the Division 2 giant slalom Monday. (Middle) Cadillac celebrates its second Finals team championship over the last three seasons. (Photos by Sarah Shepherd. Click for all photos; more will be added throughout this week.)