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.
PHOTOS: (Top) Clarkston's Grant Huber and (middle) Traverse City West's Lili Lockwood. See more photos at High School Sports Scene.
Instead of “to be or not to be” or channeling The Clash and its hit song, “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” there’s another question that Rochester Adams senior Katie Fodale is pondering at the moment as it relates to her college athletic future.
Should I golf or ski?
Fodale said if it was simply about what sport she wanted to do in college, it would be skiing.
“Skiing is my passion. I love it so much,” she said. “I love playing golf. But I love the adrenaline rush and how fast skiing is. I love the feeling of going fast on the snow. You can feel the wind on your cheeks, and when you get to the end of the run, you think back on your run and it feels like it didn’t happen because it’s so fast. But it’s really fun that way. I like that adrenaline boost.”
A few more factors add to the dilemma.
There are not many college ski programs, and they tend to load up with skiers from European countries.
Fodale also wants to study biology, and finding school with a golf or ski program that can help with that ambition is important also.
“Golf is much more attainable,” said Fodale, adding that Kalamazoo College has given her an offer to play golf.
While uncertain about the future, Fodale can at least focus on the present as the best female skier in the Detroit area, which is following up a recent past that saw her part of a Division 1 championship golf team at Adams in the fall.
Fodale finished the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final tied for eighth individually with a two-day score of 158 (82-76) to help Adams repeat as champion.
On the slopes, Fodale is the two-time reigning Division 1 champion in the slalom, topping even the best skiers from Northern Michigan schools.
Fodale said despite their contrasts, golf and skiing have complemented her as an athlete from a mental standpoint.
“At golf, I have gotten a lot better at perfecting the mindset of one hole at a time,” she said. “For skiing, you can take it on one run and one turn at a time. Not focus on the end result.”
In addition to winning the slalom for a third straight year at this season’s Finals on Feb. 26, Fodale also is motivated to win her first title in the giant slalom after three top-five finishes. Adams will compete in Division 2 this time, at Nubs Nob and is racing in its Regional today at Pine Knob in Clarkston.
“I do want to win the GS this year,” Fodale said. “I really feel like this year my GS has improved too. I think I have what it takes, and hopefully the results work in my favor.”
When she is not at high school practices or meets, Fodale spends her weekends competing in races conducted by the International Ski and Snowboard Federation, otherwise known as FIS.
Adams head coach Jaime Jackson said that during a recent meet in Canada, Fodale held her own against skiers in their mid-20s, ranking as the top U.S. racer at the event.
“It’s hard to improve on what she did last year,” Jackson said. “She has so much experience and so much skill, whenever she’s not having a great run, she still is having a great run.”
Given that, there certainly isn’t much “coaching” Jackson has to do with Fodale, although there still is one important function he performs.
“Somebody has to put her name in the lineup, right,” Jackson quipped.
It’s been a frustrating winter for Fodale and other ski teams that have seen their season impacted by warm weather that has melted snow and created slushy conditions.
Ironically, the weather lately has been warmer than Fodale played in on the second day of Golf Finals weekend in October when it was windy, chilly and rainy at Forest Akers West.
But with a colder forecast for the latter half of February, Fodale should be nicely set up to win a third Finals title in the slalom and her first in the giant slalom.
Once the finals are over, the big question will intensify.
Should she golf or should she ski?
“I’m still figuring that out,” Fodale said.
If her high school athletic career is an indication, it won’t really matter. Whatever Fodale decides to do, she’ll thrive.
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties
PHOTOS (Top) Rochester Adams’ Katie Fodale finishes a run during last season’s Division 1 Ski Finals. (Middle) Fodale, third from left, celebrates her team’s Division 1 golf championship in the fall. (Top photo by Sports in Motion, middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)