TC Central Finishes Final Runs Fastest to Clinch Title

By James Cook
Special for

February 22, 2021

HARBOR SPRINGS — Sarah Beattie's senior sendoff had style.

The only senior on Traverse City Central’s girls skiing roster helped the Trojans claim their first Division 1 championship in eight years Monday.

"We will miss her a lot," said junior Elle Craven, who earned all-state in both slalom and giant slalom, much like Beattie. "She's a lot of fun to be around, and she's a good skier."

Beattie placed fifth in each discipline, while Craven took runner-up honors in slalom and third in GS to help guide the Trojans to the girls program's 12th MHSAA Finals title, and fifth since Central and West split in 1997.

The title also brought things full circle for Trojans head coach Amy Kudary, who now has state crowns as both a skier and coach. Kudary won a Finals title as an athlete at Traverse City Central in 1989 under coaches Donald Dunsmore and Jerry Stanek.

"This is fan-tas-tic," Kudary said, drawing the word out as long as possible. "I have to say I think it's even more exciting winning as a coach than as an athlete, being able to share it with all these girls."

Central edged Marquette by four points, 56 to 60. Clarkston (117) took third, with Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern fourth (151).

Marquette certainly didn't make matters easy. The Trojans and Redettes were tied after the morning slalom. With Craven (second), Beattie (fifth) and Maddy Cox (11th) in the top dozen, Marquette countered with Anna Grzelak (third), Ada Bernard (sixth) and Ella Jones (10th).

"After the first round (of) the GS, we had a good feeling," Beattie said. "That was super cool, because we were ahead at that point, but we still had one more and all of our times were so close on the first run that the second one really did matter a lot, so that was super cool that we pulled it off."

Division 1 Girls Skiing Finals 2TC Central hadn't won a Finals title since 2013, edging out Walled Lake Central that year. Marquette's girls had claimed the last five crowns and 13 since 1992.

The Finals featured many differences from previous years to combat spreading COVID-19, with team tents set up far away from the finish lines, teams not allowed to go into the lodge for more than using the restroom and ordering food from the cafeteria. No leader boards, which typically gather large crowds in close proximity, were present. The award ceremonies were held outside.

"It felt weird all day, didn't feel like states, but it was a fun day," Beattie said. "The weather was good, so that always makes it better. We knew that we were capable of it, so I'm glad to see it finally paid off. I think just the fact of not being able to be together as a team like the night before – that’s always super fun because we go to dinner and do a bunch of fun stuff. We didn't get to do that this year."

Lily Kuberski was Central's fourth skier in both events, taking 17th in slalom and 20th in GS.

"I knew that we were a strong team (in) GS and I knew that if anything, we'd be able to make up points there," Beattie said. "So, I think I mean, I just thought of it as good competition, honestly. And it pushed me harder for sure."

Sarra Guggemos of Okemos won the girls slalom by 19 hundredths of a second over Craven, whose second run was 0.20 faster.

"It's been such an achievement," Craven said. "We've been working forward for this for so long, it's been such a great time getting to achieve it with everyone. We knew we were capable of it. It's just a matter of executing it and Marquette's a great team, so we knew it was going to be tough. We just wanted to go out and show how we knew we can ski and support everyone."

Holly Grzelak of Forest Hills Northern/Eastern won the GS title by almost two seconds over Rochester Adams' Katie Fodale, with Craven third, followed by Birmingham United's Marie Morris, Beattie, TC West's Lila Warren, Cox, Guggemos and the Marquette pair of Anna Grzelak and Ella Jones to round out the top 10. Lexi Hammerstrom and Maddy Stern added 11th- and 12th-place finishes for the Redettes.

Anna Grzelak took third in slalom behind Guggemos and Craven, with Warren fourth, Beattie fifth and Bernard, Forest Hills' Jayce O'Neill, Milford's Maddie Melody, Clarkston's Courtney Bailey and Jones rounding out the top 10.

"These girls skied fantastic today," Kudary said of her team. "They deserve this, for sure. … Not to take anything away from Marquette. They put up a great fight and made us really work hard until the very end. It really made all six girls really count today.

"This year these girls really have worked hard as a team. They've cheered for each other as a team, they've trained as a team, they've competed as a team. In a sport where you perform individually, they really delivered as a team today. And that's why we're holding the trophy. That makes me so proud."

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PHOTOS: (Top) Traverse City Central celebrates its first Finals championship since 2013 on Monday at Nub’s Nob. (Middle) Forest Hills Northern/Eastern’s Holly Grzelak won the giant slalom at the Division 1 Finals. (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.)