TC Central Takes Back Top Spot

February 26, 2013

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.

Click for full results. 

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

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.)