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.
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.
BOYNE FALLS — Petoskey’s dynasty continued to brew at Monday’s Division 2 Ski Finals at Boyne Mountain.
The program added its 12th Division 2 championship over the last 13 years – and fourth straight – finishing first with a combined score of 63.
Pontiac Norte Dame Prep (83) finished runner-up, and Great North Alpine (116) finished third. Harbor Springs placed fourth at 128.
“It's great to see the seniors be able to close that out with four state championships in a row," Petoskey coach Ben Crockett said.
Northmen senior Nolan Walkerdine earned an individual medal finishing first in the slalom with a combined time of 1:10.87. Walkerdine said afterward he couldn't believe his team won again after experiencing an emotional roller coaster season.
"I've been working towards this for my entire life," Walkerdine said.
Senior teammate Wyatt Mattson won giant slalom (1:07.77) and finished seventh in the slalom. He noted he grew up watching Petoskey win 10 straight Division 2 Finals – a level of success he always wanted to take part in.
"When I was in eighth grade, we broke our winning streak," Mattson said. "I felt like we had to avenge that because I was used to us winning, to win four years in a row.
"This feels good," he continued.
Crockett has been coaching Petoskey for three seasons and never experienced anything but a Finals championship. Crockett realizes that won't last forever, but being undefeated on championship day is something he'll cherish.
He couldn't help but smile and laugh when realizing the feat.
"I had a few tastes of defeat, but that's just a testament to how strong the program is and how much it's a part of our community," Crockett said.
"It's a year where the team gelled together, and they enjoyed themselves the most of all the years," Crockett added. "Many of them are upperclassmen, and that sense of the end is coming — as every student (experiences) — as they get towards the end of their high school careers, they just seemed like they enjoy the experience as they're moving through it."
Walkerdine is hopeful that since his time on the team is at an end, newcomers can continue the dynasty they’ve continued building.
“Let’s keep this thing rolling,” he said.
Mattson was followed in the GS by Houghton’s Eli Heathman and Walkerdine, as Petoskey put four placers among the top 11 in that event.
Walkerdine was followed in slalom by Great North Alpine’s Corbin Murphy and Heathman in third.
PHOTOS (Top) Petoskey’s Nolan Walkerdine races past a gate during Monday’s Division 2 Finals at Boyne Mountain. (Middle) Houghton’s Eli Heathman eyes the path ahead during one of his races. (Click for more later this week from Sports in Motion – Division 2.)