Skiing Finals: Downhill Champions Rise

February 29, 2012

The MHSAA Skiing Finals frequently are dominated by teams that have built stacks of championships over the years.

But occasionally, a new contender enters the mix -- and dominates like the Clarkston boys did Monday at the Division 1 Final at Nub's Nob.

The Wolves moved up one spot from their 2011 runner-up finish to claim their first MHSAA team skiing championship with 81 points, 38 ahead of runner-up Marquette.

Clarkston placed three among the top 13 in the slalom and four among the top 17 in the giant slalom. Derek Vanitallie finished fourth in both the slalom (1:14.91) and giant slalom (49.47), while teammate Grant Huber was 13th in the slalom (1:18.79) and fifth in the giant (49.54).

The Wolves were the only first-time team champion at the four boys and girls Finals this season. But all four meets had their share of storylines:

  • The Harbor Springs girls also moved up from a 2011 runner-up finish to claim the Division 2 team championship at Boyne Highlands, their first MHSAA title since 2004. The Rams finished 20 points ahead of reigning champion Petoskey, led by Rose Pellegrom's sixth place in the giant slalom and 10th in the slalom.
  • Manistee/Traverse City St. Francis' Nathalie Kenny, Maple City Glen Lake's Christina Rennie and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood's Mandy Haferkorn made their ways to the top of both Division 2 race results. Kenny became the ninth girl to win multiple MHSAA giant slalom championships by finishing first with a two-run 59.79, while Rennie became the fifth girl to win multiple MHSAA slalom titles by taking first in that race with a 1:12.16. Kenny was second in the slalom, Rennie was fourth in the giant, and Haferkorn was second in the giant and third in the slalom.
  • The Traverse City West girls edged Big North Conference rival Traverse City Central by three points to win the Division 1 Final with 70 total. The win was West's first since 2007, while Central finished Division 1 runner-up for the fifth straight season. Lili Lockwood led West with a fifth place in the giant slalom (53.46) and a fourth in the slalom (1:15.59).
  • Five others joined Lockwood among contenders in both Division 1 races, including a trio of individual qualifiers. Lake Orion individual qualifier Marie Dohm took first in the giant slalom (52.75) and seventh in the slalom. Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills/Lowell/Comstock Park's Abi Ellis was second in the slalom and seventh in the giant, while Marquette's Whitney Stilwell was second in the giant and fifth in the slalom -- Ellis and Stilwell also were individual Finals qualifiers. White Lake Lakeland's Kelsey Griffin was the individual champion in the slalom (1:12.95) and was eighth in the giant. Bloomfield Hills Marian's Kelly Lunghamer finished her stellar high school career by taking third in the slalom and sixth in the giant as her team finished third overall.
  • Saginaw Heritage's Bobby Leddy had qualified for the Finals all four years of high school, with a high finish of seventh. But this time, the Hawks' individual qualifier swept the Division 1 individual races, finishing in 1:11.67 to win the slalom and 48.72 to win the giant. Traverse City West's Ryan Ness took second in the slalom and third in the giant.
  • The Petoskey boys repeated as Division 2 team champions with 66 points, 20 fewer than Cranbrook-Kingswood. Gunner Lundteigen took fourth in the slalom and teammate Noah Honaker was fifth in the giant for the Northmen.
  • Four individuals dominated the individual standings in Division 2. Maple City Glen Lake's Thomas Waning won the giant slalom (58.86) and finished second in the slalom, while Manistee/St. Francis' Stephen Siddall was first in the slalom (1:13.09) and fourth in the giant. Manistee/St. Francis' Cole McCardel finished third in both races, and Cranbrook-Kingswood's John Briggs was runner-up in the giant and eighth in the slalom. 

Click for full Division 1 boys and girls results, Division 2 boys and Division 2 girls.

PHOTOS: (Top) Clarkston's Grant Huber and (middle) Traverse City West's Lili Lockwood. See more photos at High School Sports Scene.

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.)