Performance: Gaylord's Reagan Olli

February 23, 2019

Reagan Olli
Gaylord junior – Skiing

Despite a broken left wrist, and cast covering it, Olli won the giant slalom at the Division 2 Regional at Nub’s Nob in a two-run 54.94, and also qualified for Monday’s MHSAA Finals in the slalom in earning the Michigan Army National Guard Performance of the Week.

Olli suffered the wrist injury while racing in Duluth , Minn., a few weeks earlier and she anticipates wearing a cast into early March. But that won’t stop her from attempting to repeat as the Division 2 champion in the slalom, although the wrist has given her a little more pain in that race because competitors cross-block – or make contact with the gates – which they do not in the GS. She finished seventh in the slalom at last week’s Regional in 127.10 and expects to contend in both races Monday at Boyne Mountain. She finished second in the giant slalom at the 2018 Finals.

Olli also is the goalkeeper for Gaylord’s varsity girls soccer team and anticipates being ready to block plenty of shots once that season gets rolling in the spring. She’s considering the possibility of competing in either sport in college after she finishes up high school next year and also carries a GPA above 4.0 that ranked her among the top five students in her graduating class academically heading into this school year. Of course, she has plenty of time to decide, but is interested in the medical field and considering studying to become a physician’s assistant.

Coach Bill Snow said: “I’ve had the privilege of coaching Reagan for three years. Reagan is a dedicated, committed, talented, humble, accomplished, skier. Not only is she a superb skier on the hill, she is an exceptional young adult off the hill. She is also a major asset to the Gaylord High School ski team because she motivates and inspires her peers. During dryland training, when Reagan was a sophomore with a hand injury from soccer, she looked at me and said, ‘I want to be the state champion, and champions need to work hard.’ She accomplished this goal last year at the 2018 state meet when she won the slalom title and placed second in GS. This year she will go into the 2019 state meet with another battle scar, a broken hand, but that won’t stop her one bit! I look forward to watching her effortlessly fly down the hill to another victory.”

Performance Point: “I had broken (the wrist) the Sunday the week before,” Olli said. “So I had tried to get a little bit used to it during the week once I got casted. I just tried to practice, and mostly my goal going into Regionals was just to try to ski clean. I wasn’t really aiming for a win that day. At that point it was still awkward-feeling because normally you’re used to having a lot of wrist motion for pole touching and getting out of the start gate, but that day I just had to go with what I had.”

Big Monday ahead: “I’m a little bit nervous just because I wish I was at full strength. There’s nothing I can do about it now, so I’m going to go forward and try to put my best skiing out there and work with what I have. I don’t know the amount of time it’s been affecting me right now, but as far as skiing itself now, I think I’m still in contention with all of those girls. It’s just a matter of getting my good skiing out. The starts at Boyne Mountain are a bit flatter, which will be tougher, so I’ll have to make up some time.”

I love it all: “I’ve always been a skier. I started skiing at the little hill in Gaylord when I was probably 2. My mom’s family is big on skiing, so I was always out there. I did a bunch of other sports when I was a kid; skiing has just always been what I wanted to be doing. I worked my way up in different programs, and I got here. … There are so many things I love about it. I love the way it feels going down the hill. It’s so different all the time – there’s not one course ever the same as the other. We’re always on different hills, and you have to adapt and learn to ski different places and in different ways. I love the atmosphere around it as well. You can make so many new friends. It’s a great feeling to be out there skiing … (and) I like the cold.”

Overseas slopes:  “I went to Austria this fall with a group from Traverse City, so I know a lot of girls from TC West and TC Central. It was great. The views out there were incredible, and the hills were a lot steeper, so that was a cool experience. And we were on a T-bar the whole time, so we just got lap after lap and we skied for so many hours.”

Setting up senior year: “I’m more of a go-with-the-flow kinda person. I want to try to do some bigger races in the FIS (International Ski Federation) part of the sport. As far as state and Regionals go, I would like to be back on top and in contention for titles. My goal for senior year, I guess, would be to be healthy, because it definitely helps.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2018-19 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard recognizes a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Past 2018-19 honorees

February 14: Jake Stevenson, Traverse City Bay Reps hockey - Read
February 7: Molly Davis, Midland Dow basketball - Read
January 31:
Chris DeRocher, Alpena basketball - Read
January 24:
Imari Blond, Flint Kearsley bowling - Read
January 17: William Dunn, Quincy basketball - Read
November 29:
Dequan Finn, Detroit Martin Luther King football - Read
November 22: Paige Briggs, Lake Orion volleyball - Read
November 15:
Hunter Nowak, Morrice football - Read
November 8:
Jon Dougherty, Detroit Country Day soccer - Read
November 1:
Jordan Stump, Camden-Frontier volleyball - Read
October 25:
Danielle Staskowski, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep golf - Read
October 18:
Adam Bruce, Gladstone cross country - Read
October 11: Ericka VanderLende, Rockford cross country - Read
October 4:
Kobe Clark, Schoolcraft football - Read
September 27: Jonathan Kliewer, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern soccer - Read
September 20: Kiera Lasky, Bronson volleyball - Read
September 13: Judy Rector, Hanover-Horton cross country - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Gaylord's Reagan Olli skies during her team's Division 2 Regional last week at Nub's Nob. (Middle) Olli won the giant slalom and also qualified for the Finals in the slalom. (Photos by RD Sports Photo.)

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.)