Team of the Month: Cadillac Girls Skiing

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 21, 2022

The Big North Conference, top to bottom, is the strongest skiing conference in Michigan.

On the girls side alone, Traverse City Central won its second-straight Division 1 championship this season, with Traverse City West the runner-up, and those two along with Division 2 power Petoskey have four Finals championships and seven runner-up finishes over the last decade.

It’s time to make way for Cadillac as well.

The Vikings – the MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month” for February, capped it off Feb. 28 by winning the Division 2 team championship at Schuss Mountain in Bellaire. The title was the school’s first in any sport since 1990 and first top-two Finals finish in girls skiing since 2001.

Cadillac had finished third in the Big North Conference behind the Traverse City schools and ahead of Petoskey this season, and then runner-up at its Regional to East Grand Rapids minus a top contributor out with an injury. But she returned at nearly full strength for the Final as the Vikings outpaced runner-up EGR by six points and third-place Harbor Springs by eight.

“Every week we’re facing the best teams in the state, and it’s hard to know how we’d do against teams outside of our league,” Cadillac coach James Netzley said. “Until Regionals, it’s hard to know how good we are, and even talking to the Traverse City coaches they were caught by surprise by how well we did at the state finals.

“We got third last year, and that opened up some eyes. We had several freshmen, and we skied well. Our goal was to improve one place – we were eying the big trophies, runner-up, or first place would be fantastic. Within reason, runner-up was right there, but again, we had to ski well.”

Here’s where it gets even more intriguing: Only one of the team’s top six was a senior.

Sophomores Onalee Wallis and Avery Meyer set the pace at Schuss. Wallis finished fourth in the slalom and 11th in the giant slalom, and Meyer was fifth in the slalom and 10th in GS.

The next placer’s performance will be recalled just as quickly. Junior Georgette Sake was the skier who had missed the Regional, and Netzley said she was about 80 percent for the Final. But that 80 percent was good enough to place 15th in the slalom and 24th in the GS.

Another sophomore, Mairyn Kinnie, rounded out the team’s scoring, placing 33rd in both events.

Netzley said his girls teams have always had the standouts to match up with the rest of the Big North Conference, but would end up in the middle of the standings with less depth – which makes sense as Central has twice as many students, West nearly the same and Petoskey an enrollment of roughly 130 more than Cadillac High.

But five of this season’s Vikings varsity should be back next year – junior Kinsey Cornwell and senior Emily Mason rounded out lineup.

Of course, Central, West and Petoskey will bring talented skiers back next season too, as will the other usual Division 2 Finals contenders. But the Vikings should enter next winter with an expectation of competing for the BNC title – which would be another first in a long time – and making another Finals championship run.

Past Teams of the Month, 2021-22 

January: Hartland hockey - Read
Midland Dow girls basketball - Read
Reese girls volleyball - Read
Birmingham Groves boys tennis - Read

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.)