West Claims D1 in Battle of TC Powers

February 23, 2015

By James Cook
Special for Second Half 

HARBOR SPRINGS — Traverse City West didn't have a long walk to accept the MHSAA Division 1 girls skiing championship trophy.

The Titans occupied four tables near the podium that had all four trophies — for the boys and girls team champions and runners-up — on it all day. 

And it also didn't take long for the Titans to get in contention for the top prize.

West had a 14-point cushion after the morning's slalom runs and ended up also winning the giant slalom — but just barely. The Titans edged Traverse City Central 45-46.5 in the GS, and the final standings had West with 80 points to Central's 95.5, with Bloomfield Hills a distant third at 131. 

"We started out strong with slalom," West coach Ed Johnson said. "They were a little nervous. They didn't ski to their ability in slalom, but they did what they had to do.

"We knew we were ahead enough of Central that if we held our own in GS, we'd be fine," Johnson added. "Central tends to be a stronger GS team than we are, so we knew it wasn't going to be easy." 

Last year's MHSAA Finals saw downstate teams win girls titles in both Division 1 and 2. This time around, the two Traverse City teams easily outdistanced the rest of the competition in Division 1, and the top three squads in Division 2 were from the northern Lower Peninsula.

Titans senior Morgan Culp got to start and end her career with an MHSAA Finals title. The last time the Titans won a championship was her freshman season. 

"This was the perfect ending to my senior year," Culp said. "We won Regionals, were Big North champs and won states. That's the best team I've ever been on."

It was West's fourth girls team title, joining those won in 2006, 2007 and 2012. 

Briana Holden and Courtney Shank are the team's only other seniors. Culp was consistent for the Titans, placing fourth in giant slalom and eighth in slalom.

Freshman Stella Sterling was a big help in winning the GS, stepping up to place 15th as West's third counter behind Culp and junior Claire Podges, who rebounded from a slalom fall to take 13th in GS. 

"We all knew about the lead," Podges said. "But we tried to keep it on the down low, so we didn't get too cocky. We held strong."

Podges was eighth in slalom after the first run, but fell on her second and still managed to take 33rd.

"I bobbled a little bit in slalom," Podges said. "But thanks to my team, they upped my spirits and I was able to hold strong in GS." 

In slalom, Kitt Hornbogen stepped up in a major way, placing fourth overall with a combined time of 1:11.83.

Many racers had slalom times that were significantly slower on the second run, whereas Hornbogen's was only 1.43 seconds slower on the clock. 

"I knew we couldn't get too cocky," said Hornbogen, who added that she prefers steeper hills such as Boyne's Challenger course. "My first run wasn't amazing, but it was OK. My second run felt a lot better."

West's Maya Breneman was 16th in slalom. 

Central's second-place finish was led by sophomore Maggie Dutmers, who took third in GS and 10th in slalom.

"Maggie Dutmers skied well in both events. It was outstanding," Trojans coach Jerry Stanek said. "We were very inexperienced to start with, and for us to compete the way we did — not just against West, but the other teams that qualified for states — that's huge for the girls. The Traverse City girls are set for the next couple of years." 

The Trojans lost their third skier, sophomore Bailey Versluis, to an injury Saturday morning during training at Schuss Mountain. Freshman Katarina Fenton stopped in for Versluis and finished 35th in GS and 33rd in slalom in her first varsity meet.

Brittney Collins was 11th in GS and 19th in slalom. 

"West is an outstanding team," Stanek said. "They're an experienced team. They don't have the younger skiers that we do. Hats off to them."

Central, which placed second for the seventh time in eight years, is hoping to move up a spot next year with more experience. Allie Friar was Central's only senior. 

"We're basically ready to come back and win it next year, I think," Collins said. "We're all going to come back and work really hard."

"Our girls came through really strong," added Central junior Haley Klein, who was 24th in slalom. "We didn't come into the season with really high expectations, but I think we really raised the bar. I think next year is going to be the year we get it."

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PHOTOS: (Top) A competitor races downhill during Monday's MHSAA Division 1 Finals. (Middle) Traverse City West poses with its championship trophy. (Click for more photos from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

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.)