By John Raffel
Special for Second Half
BOYNE FALLS – Traverse City Central coach Jerry Stanek just smiled when he was congratulated after his girls ski team won the MHSAA Division 1 championship Monday at Boyne Mountain.
“I didn't do anything,” he grinned. “I just watched.”
After five straight second-place finishes at Finals, the Trojans hoisted the championship trophy for the first time since 2005.
“I think the girls got the monkey off their backs for a while, and hopefully we can keep it going,” Stanek said.
“The key was belief from the girls that they could do what they did. After you finish second for so many years, and that happened to us in the 1990s, it takes a while. But when you win, it takes the monkey off your back and makes it easier. We try to prepare them the best we can, and hopefully they perform the way they should.”
Senior Monica Hessler of Traverse City West, last winter's team champ, won the girls slalom race while Mallory Slicker of Walled Lake Central prevailed in the giant slalom.
TC Central had scores of 38 in the slalom and 43 in the giant slalom for an 81 total. Walled Lake Central was second at 56 and 36 for 92 while Marquette was third at 69 and 44 for 113, Birmingham Marian fourth at 54 and 62 for 116 and Traverse City West fifth at 67 and 61 for 128.
Rochester Adams finished sixth at 170, Fenton/Linden seventh at 203, Walled Lake Northern eighth at 273 and Brighton ninth at 283.
“I would think that we were probably favored coming in,” Stanek said “We had some problems in the slalom, and it wasn't our best performance of the year. But I think the state championship reflects that when teams get together and have to compete. I was proud of our girls, the way they came back and stayed with it even though after our first run in slalom, we could have been out of the race for the day.”
Hessler competed on last year's team champion for TC West. Her previous best individual finish was a sixth in the slalom.
“I knew I had a shot at it,” Hessler said. “There's probably eight girls who also had the same chance. We've all been back and forth all season.”
Shannon Weaver led the TCC effort with seconds in both the slalom and giant slalom.
In the girls GS, Cassidy Klein of TCC was 11th, Paige Phannenstiel was 14th, Molly Whiting 21st, and Devon Dotterrer 26th.
In the girls slalom, TCC' netted an 11th place from Madison Ostergren, while Molly Whiting was 13th, Dotterrer 15th, Phannenstiel 18th and Cassidy Klein 38th.
Hessler knew what was at stake, but said she still simply wanted to have fun. She also saved her best for last.
“I knew it was my last race, so I wanted to give everything possible,” she said. “I knew it was going to be a close race, which it was.
“We're a young team this year,” Hessler added. “Our other girls are young, and they're great skiers, but they're young and definitely are going to be a team to watch for the next couple years.”
Shannon Weaver of TC Central was second in the slalom at 1:05.77 followed by defending champ Kelsey Griffin of White Lake Lakeland at 1:06.84, Slicker fourth at 1:09.03, Hanna Johnson of Marquette at 1:09.89, Haley Goeckel of Marian at 1:10.57, Hannah Brassell at 1:10.65, Kathryn Streng of Marina at 1:12.59, Lauren Rhoads of Fenton at 1:13.43 and Lauren Henry of Adams at 1:13.56 to round out the top 10.
Hessler will look back at the 2012-13 as having exceeded her expectations. “This is unreal,” she smiled.
Those sentiments were shared by GS champ Slicker, a senior. She was third last year in giant slalom.
Slicker was coming off a torn meniscus in her right knee. It was her first time on skis in a few weeks
“I really didn't think I was going to be able to,” she said. “I had been on crutches.”
Weaver also was runner-up in the giant slalom at 1:03.31, followed by Abigail Ellis of Kenowa Hills/Lowell/Comstock Park at 1:03.88, Whitney Stilwell of Marquette at 1:04.4, Morgan Culp of TC West in 1:04.51, Hanna Johnson of Marquette in 1:04.60, Haley Goeckel and Kathryn Streng of Birmingham Marian in 1:04.65 and 1:04.67, Hessler in 1:04.75 and Taylor Krumm of Walled Lake Central in 1:05.01.
PHOTOS: (Top) Traverse City Central celebrates its first MHSAA team championship since 2005. (Middle) Marquette's Sam Zeigler races during Monday's Finals. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.)