Sophomore-Paced Cadillac Arrives, Earns 1st Finals Title Since 1990

By James Cook
Special for

February 28, 2022

BELLAIRE — Thirty-two years. 

Cadillac's girls skiing team made 1990 a distant memory Monday, capturing the school's first MHSAA Finals team championship in any sport since the Vikings girls skiers won in 1990. 

They prevailed by a slim four-point margin, unleashing a storm of screams and hugs when East Grand Rapids was named runner-up at the Division 2 Finals at Schuss Mountain in Bellaire. 

"It's amazing," said Vikings sophomore Onalee Wallis, who placed fourth in slalom and 11th in giant slalom. "It's so exciting to be able to do that. And we had such a young team." 

Cadillac's top six skiers included only one senior, Emily Mason. Wallis and fellow sophomore Avery Meyer helped lead the team, with Meyer placing fifth in slalom and 10th in giant slalom to earn first-team all-state in both disciplines. Junior Georgette Sake took 15th in slalom to earn second-team all-state. Cadillac's other two skiers in the Finals were sophomore Mairyn Kinnie and junior Kinsey Cornwell. 

"We've got a young team," Meyer said. "A lot ahead of us." 

Cadillac won with 104 points, going into the afternoon GS session with a 14-point lead on Houghton. East Grand Rapids (110) and Harbor Springs (112) jumped past the Gremlins (121) in the slalom. Petoskey finished fifth with 128 and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep sixth at 129, with just 25 points separating first from sixth. 

"We knew we had to all put down four solid runs," Meyer said. "We knew we had to ski well, but we thought that we could do it." 

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (233) placed seventh, Bloomfield Hills Marian (239) eighth and Grand Rapids Christian (260) ninth. 

Petoskey skiing"It was on the radar, and we didn't know when it would happen or if it would happen," Cadillac head coach James Netzley said. "But we didn't make any big mistakes, and that's really what made that small separation between us and the other teams. We had almost no errors at all today." 

Being such a young team, the Vikings knew they were talented but weren’t taking their championship potential for granted.

"We were hoping to," Wallis said. "We really tried our best and wanted to win this. We didn't really expect to, though." 

Meyer said they hope to keep this going in future years, with almost all the team returning next season. 

"Our team chemistry is great," Meyer said. "We just all get along so well. And it's so fun." 

Petoskey sophomore Marley Spence won the giant slalom championship, finishing second in slalom behind Notre Dame's Sydney Schulte and posting the top second-run time at 32.68 seconds. 

"Slalom was a little disappointing," Spence said. "I really wanted to come up with a first, but second is good, too." 

Lake Charlevoix's Avery Kita placed 16th in GS and 19th in slalom. Petoskey's Cassidy Whitener added to a strong showing by that team, placing eighth in GS and sixth in slalom to earn first-team all-state in both. 

Cadillac's boys team won state crowns in 1980 and 1978. The girls team also won in 1977, 1978 and 1983, with eight runner-up finishes from 1975-89. 

"I thought Cadillac, all of them really skied really well," Spence said. "So proud of them. I thought Notre Dame Prep would come out on top, but two of them fell today. That's what cost them." 

Petoskey was set back last week when Allison Goelz was injured in the Regional. 

"We had one of our girls get hurt last week, so that kind of made us fall down a bit, but I feel like everyone skied how they needed to," Spence said. "We all came out and had a good positive attitude, and I feel like we all skied our best and that's all we could have really done."

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PHOTOS (Top) Cadillac celebrates its Division 2 championship Monday at Schuss Mountain. (Middle) Petoskey’s Marley Spence passes a gate during a slalom run. (Click for more from Sports in Motion.)

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.)