Today's Finals: Remember these names and races

February 24, 2012

This season's MHSAA Skiing Finals will be raced Monday at Nub's Nob and Boyne Highlands just outside of Harbor Springs.

These are some of the short stories behind the team contenders in both divisions for both boys and girls, plus a few individuals whose names should appear near the top of the results.

Click for girls results and boys results as they come in, plus Regional results for both.

No more Marian?: Not so fast – Marian is still a major contender after winning the last two Division 1 girls championships. But Traverse City Central is hoping to break through after four straight runner-up finishes, and comes in as a Big North Conference and Regional champion. And Walled Lake Central beat Marian at their Regional at Alpine Valley.

More of the same: For the past four seasons, some combination of Petoskey, Harbor Springs and Manistee has finished first and second at the Division 2 girls final. It’s possible they could make it five straight – but with a different champion after Harbor Springs was first, Houghton second and reigning Finals champion Petoskey third at the Regional at Nub’s Nob.

Battle of Traverse City: Traverse City Central’s boys have won the last two Division 1 championships. But Traverse City West edged the Trojans to claim the Regional title at Schuss Mountain.

Petoskey repeat: The Northmen are the reigning Division 2 boys champions and shared the Big North Conference title with Cadillac this season, ahead of both Traverse City West and Central. Petoskey won its regional -- but so did reigning Division 2 Finals runner-up Manistee.

Detroit Catholic Central’s Damon Rottermond: He might’ve gotten a look at his top competition at the Regional at Alpine Valley. The reigning Division 1 giant slalom champion, he finished second in both that race and the slalom at the Regional. White Lake Lakeland’s Taylor Janssen won the giant slalom and finished third in the slalom at that Regional, while Walled Lake Northern’s John Merchant won the slalom and was third in the giant.

Petoskey’s Gunner Lundteigen: He finished 32nd in the Division 2 slalom and fourth in the giant slalom last season, but won both races at his Regional at Nub’s Nob.

Walled Lake Central’s Mallory Slicker: She won both races at the Alpine Valley Regional; White Lake Lakeland’s Kelsey Griffin finished second in both. Slicker was sixth in the giant slalom and fifth in the slalom at last season’s Final. Also watch for Marian’s Kelly Lunghamer, who posted top-four finishes in both races at that same Regional after finishing eighth in the slalom and fourth in the giant at the 2011 Final.

Houghton’s Abby Fenton: She won the girls Division 2 slalom Regional title at Nub’s Nob after finishing ninth in that race and 10th in the giant slalom at last season’s Division 2 Final. Houghton’s Abigail Hackman was the giant winner at that Regional this month and finished 10th in the slalom and 12th in the giant at the 2011 Final. 

PHOTO, from last season's Division 1 Final, courtesy of Mid-Michigan Sports Scene.  

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.)