'Unknown' Brighton Serves Notice

February 24, 2014

By Chris Dobrowolski
Special to Second Half 

BELLAIRE - Brighton may not have the pedigree of some other schools when it comes to Michigan girls high school downhill skiing. 

That perception changed in a hurry on Monday at the MHSAA Division 1 Final at Schuss Mountain.

The Bulldogs finished first in slalom and giant slalom, slipping past Traverse City Central and Traverse City West in a tightly contested top three for their first MHSAA skiing title.

"It's just crazy. It's overwhelming," said Brighton coach Jeff Street. "We worked really hard. We've got a young team - one freshman, three sophomores, a senior and a junior. That's a young team, and we skied really well today. It's a really great group of girls."

Brighton ended the meet with 92 points, with Central scoring 101 and West 103. Marquette's score of 202 put it a distant fourth.

Morgan Myers led Brighton in the giant slalom with a fifth-place finish (50.54), and Veronica Ripper led the Bulldogs in slalom, placing fifth in 1:06.54.

Brighton's win was a bit of a surprise to the teams that were challenging the Bulldogs for the top spot, intra-city rivals that have battled back and forth for supremacy in the Big North Conference and in Regional competition.

"As far as we're concerned, they came out of nowhere because we don't know who they are," said West coach Ed Johnson. "We didn't know they were there, that they were that deep."

"We didn't know about Brighton," said Central coach Jerry Stanek, whose team was the defending champion. "We knew some of their girls from USSA racing, but their top four girls were very good, very consistent." 

Lilia Staszel gave Brighton two top-10 finishers in slalom with an eighth-place finish in 1:06.8. Myers was 14th (1:08.27) and Jenna Sica was 16th (1:08.82). In giant slalom, Ripper was 13th (51.95), Sica took 15th (51.97) and Straszel was 16th (52.44).

"They didn't make any mistakes today," said Johnson. "We made some mistakes, Central had some mistakes. In a state final, when you've got three teams that are that close or that good, the team that doesn't make mistakes is going to come out on top." 

Street was confident his team could hang with the two Traverse City schools, which regularly are in the hunt for the MHSAA title, with one or the other claiming first or second - or both - in each of the last 10 seasons.

"I thought we had a really good chance," he said. "Our motto is focus, balance and integrity. We stayed focused the whole time. As long as the girls know they can win, we're going to be OK. They've got to focus the whole time and not lose it. Don't suddenly turn into Lindsey Vonn and think they're better than they are. Keep the focus." 

Brighton held a three-point lead over Central after the slalom (43-46) with West right behind with 52 points. West made up some of its difference by finishing two points behind the Bulldogs in giant slalom (49-51) with Central scoring 55.

Marquette's Gabrielle Gencheff was the top individual skier of the day, winning the titles in both slalom and giant slalom. Gencheff posted a time of 47.52 in giant slalom and a 1:00.51 in slalom. 

Lili Lockwood led Central with a second-place finish in giant slalom (47.92) and a third-place finish in slalom (1:05.55). Morgan Culp was West's top skier on the day, taking second in the slalom (1:04.51) and third in the giant slalom (49.87).

Central's other counters in slalom were Devon Dotterrer (12th, 1:07.75), Molly Whiting (13th, 1:07.84) and Jenny Baker (18th, 1:09.51). In giant slalom, Maggie Dutmers was 12th (51.94), Whiting took 20th (52.84) and Dotterrer (21st, 52.92).

For West, Claire Podges was 10th in slalom (1:07.28) and 14th in giant slalom (51.96) and Ginevra Gabrielli finished 11th in giant slalom (51.85) and 15th in slalom (1:08.59). Kitt Hornbogen was 23rd in giant slalom (53.76), while Maya Breneman was 25th in slalom (1:11.77). 

Click for full results. 

PHOTO: (Top) Brighton celebrates its MHSAA skiing championship Monday at Schuss Mountain. (Middle) Traverse City Central's Maggie Dutmers works down the hill during one of her runs. (Photos courtesy of Schuss Mountain.)

Petoskey's Spence Caps Ski Career Among State's All-Time Racing Greats

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)