Practice Pays in Another Marian Title

February 24, 2014

By Andy Sneddon
Special to Second Half

HARBOR SPRINGS – Familiarity breeds contempt.

And championships. 

Rob Rhoades and his Bloomfield Hills Marian ski team made several trips north this season to familiarize themselves with the steep and tricky terrain at Nub’s Nob.

Those journeys paid off, again, on Monday as the Mustangs won the MHSAA Division 2 Girls Skiing Final, edging runner-up Houghton-Hancock, 74-81. 

“This year we really committed a lot of extra training on the weekends,” Rhoades said. “We came up here and trained often – hard, long weekends, cold weekends. This was probably the busiest season I’ve had coming Up North.”

It was the third title in five years for Marian, which began its regimen of regular yearly training visits north during the mid 2000s. The Mustangs won their first MHSAA ski title in 2010 and repeated in 2011. 

Coincidence? Not at all.

“The extra training and coming up on the weekends, that’s the big thing,” said Rhoades, who completed his 25th year as Marian’s coach. “It makes a big difference. The mechanics of skiing on a hill like this versus downstate at Alpine Valley (near Milford) is totally different. There’s a lot of G forces on the back and a lot more pressure on the ski (at Nub’s). You have to be a stronger skier too." 

Petoskey senior Mia Ciccoretti was the individual slalom champion, while sophomore Carlee McCardel of Traverse City St. Francis-Elk Rapids repeated as the giant slalom winner.

Marian was led by Kat Streng and Breann Lunghamer. Streng finished eighth in the GS and 14th in the slalom; Lunghamer was third in slalom, 12th in GS. Teammate Paige Weymouth was 11th in GS.

McCardel edged Mallory Eliopolous of Grand Rapids West Catholic to earn a repeat as the GS champion.

McCardel, a student at St. Francis, said one of the biggest challenges she faced came earlier in the season, when the weight of carrying an MHSAA championship began to mount.

“I (felt the pressure) at the beginning of the season, but then my coach kind of sat me down and was like, ‘You’re not defending a state championship, you’re pursuing another one,’” she said. “It helped me just kinda calm down.”

She also drew on something she picked up from Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio.

“Mark Dantonio (said) pressure is good, stress is not,” she said. “So I had to look at it more as that pressure is good and not get stressed out. I looked at it that way, and it made me work harder.”

Ciccoretti closed a standout career on top after finishing second a year ago to Mandy Haferkorn of Kingsley in the slalom final. Haferkorn placed fourth on Monday.

“I watched video from last year, and I was like, ‘Why did she beat me?’” said Ciccoretti, who finished fourth in the GS on Monday. “I figured out how to go faster, and it worked. I just trained a lot.”

Much of that training came at Nub’s, site of Petoskey practices and most home meets. Still, it’s a hill on which Ciccoretti said she isn’t all that comfortable.

“We do train here every day,” she said. “But I’ve had some bad experiences on this hill. I’ve fallen a couple times. It was good to get back from all of those.

“The key was really to just stay calm, don’t really let the nerves get to me. Just go out there and know my capabilities and just go from there, just have fun with it rather than think about what could go wrong or what could happen. Just do it, like I do every day.”

Sydney Reynolds of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central finished second to Ciccoretti in the slalom.

Eliopolous, Reynolds, Tia Esposito of Harbor Springs and Nora Reed of Spring Lake joined Ciccoretti as double medalists.

Click for partial results. 

PHOTO: Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood's Julia Briggs puts the brakes on one of her runs during Monday's MHSAA Final. 

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.)