By Chris Dobrowolski
Special for Second Half
BELLAIRE — Marquette and Traverse City Central’s girls ski teams have stood toe to toe in the biggest meets of the season.
Central may have edged Marquette by just three points in the Regional two weeks ago, but Marquette got payback at Monday’s MHSAA Division 1 Finals at Schuss Mountain, slipping past the Trojans 51-55 to win their fourth straight championship.
“Honestly, it came down to that very last run,” said Marquette girls ski coach Dan Menze. “I told the girls that they had to lay it all out. There was nothing else to do than go for it and they did, and they ended up moving up from where they were after the first run of GS and were able to squeak by. So it was awesome.”
Three of Marquette’s four counters improved their standing in the second run of the giant slalom, including Jacey Johnson, who had the fastest time in the second run to jump from sixth to second with a 49.49. The Redettes ended up with 27 points to Traverse City Central’s 29 in the giant slalom.
“We were kind of down in the dumps on our first run on GS,” said Johnson, who was also second in the slalom (1:03.94). “We were thinking maybe TC Central would take it, but then we really turned it on in the second run. I’m really happy we got to take it.”
Marquette held a 24-26 lead over the Trojans after the slalom, helped by the top two finishers in Ainsley Kirk and Johnson, both juniors. Kirk repeated as the girls slalom champion, finishing in 1:03.69.
“It was really an honor,” said Kirk, who added a fourth-place finish in giant slalom (49.82). “There’s so many great people out here. I’m thankful for Dan for coaching us all this year. It was a great time. I thought we did pretty well. We had some scares in there after the first GS run. We definitely picked it up for the second run.”
Natalie Robinia, the only senior among the four counters for Marquette, placed ninth in the slalom (1:07.89) and was 11th in the giant slalom (51.74). Ava Bernard chipped in with a 16th-place finish in the slalom (1:09.33) and an 18th in the giant slalom (53.44).
“We knew it was going to be really close,” said Menze. “I don’t know if I thought it was going to be as close as it was, but they skied phenomenal. (Traverse City Central) stacked pretty much all six of their skiers in the top 10 or 15 skiers. That’s incredible. We were lucky to come away with the victory today. I won’t lie. I think we skied really well. The girls did what they needed to do. Definitely some nerves early in the day, but I think that they skied well enough. Lot of hard work this year. It’s been a tough season this year with the weather. A lot of cancellations. They put in the time. They deserve it.”
Traverse City West’s Hannah Schramski finished as the giant slalom champion with a time of 49.27. Schramski, who was also fifth in the slalom (1:07.43), led West’s third-place finish overall with 87 points.
Traverse City Central had brilliant performances in both disciplines to put itself in position to steal the team championship from the Redettes. Emma Dutmers led four Trojans finishers in the top 11 of the slalom with a fourth-place time of 1:06.91. Sarah Beattie was sixth (1:07.61), Elle Craven took eighth (1:07.88) and Maddy Craven finished 11th (1:08.52).
Brynn Rowell had the best giant slalom finish for the Trojans, coming in sixth in 50.73. Maddy Cox added a seventh (50.92), Elle Craven was ninth (51.41) and Dutmers was 13th (51.92), but it just wasn’t enough to hold off the two-time reigning Division 1 champions, who had an inkling they would be holding the first-place trophy again after their strong finish to the second half of the day.
“I won the second run for GS and I was like, ‘OK, I think we’re OK now,’” said Johnson. “We’re really happy we won.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Marquette junior Ainsley Kirk races to the title in the slalom during the Division 1 Finals at Schuss Mountain. (Middle) Traverse City Central's Sarah Beattie races the slalom. (Photos by Jake Atnip. 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.)