TRAVERSE CITY — Carlee McCardel wanted to end her freshman year on a high note.
The St. Francis skier had already had a standout season by winning a regional title and leading the Gladiators to a state finals berth.
Monday became the icing on the cake. McCardel won the Division 2 state championship in the giant slalom, and became the first St. Francis freshman to win an individual state title — regardless of sport.
"It means all my hard work has paid off," McCardel said. "That's what my parents have been telling me ever since I was a little kid. To win that state title, makes it seem like it's actually true."
McCardel finished in 1:02.24 and was more than a second ahead of Harbor Springs' Abigail Hackman (1:03.67).
"The one girl that would have been close, Rose Pellegram (from Harbor Springs) had one of the funkiest crashes I've ever seen in my life," Elk Rapids/St. Francis coach Ben Ferris said. "She would have been the one to get close, I think."
"I wasn't expecting to win by that much, so it was a surprise," McCardel said. "But it's really exciting."
While McCardel has had a good year in both disciplines, GS has certainly been her strength. She's been skiing since she was 2 years old and racing since second grade.
"I've always like GS the best," McCardel said. "It really started clicking for me this year, with the technique and everything. I just love skiing. Like my coach says, you roll it up on edge and let it turn. You can really do that well in GS."
After a bad second run in the morning slalom on Monday, McCardel had some added nerves for the afternoon GS race.
"After the first run, when I finished that, I was really excited," she said. "I just wanted the same for the second run."
Ferris said the conditions in Marquette suited McCardel.
"Being up at Marquette, it's really nice up there," Ferris said. "They have varying fall-lines, they have terrain things, there's some little bumps they can go off of. There's a lot of things they have to deal with. Carlee is very, very systematic at how she approaches ski races. She memorizes things, figures out what she's heading for. The courses were super challenging, but she did a very good job prior to the race of educating herself of where she needed to be."
McCardel was honored during the St. Francis boys basketball game against Glen Lake on Tuesday. With the skiing season over, she'll now focus on tryouts for tennis in the spring.
And, she'll certainly be getting some extra attention next winter when skiing starts up again.
"She's got a target on her back for the next three years in every single race she competes in," Ferris said. "Everyone wants to beat a state champion. It puts a lot of pressure on here, so we'll see what she does with it. There's a lot of really fast, young skiers and she's a great example of that."
While Petoskey won both team titles on Monday, several other skiers had standout individual performances. Joining McCardel as medalists in the GS were Hackman (second), as well as Petoskey's Mia Cicorretti (sixth) and Reilly Philliben (10th). Slalom state medalists were Petoskey's Cicorretti (second), Philliben (seventh) and Jill Antonishen (10th), as well as Hackman (third) and Pellegram (sixth) from Harbor Springs.
In the boys meet, Petoskey's Gunner Lundteigen was the GS champ while teammates Brian Erhart (second), Noah Honaker (fourth) and Gerret Lundteigen (sixth) also medaled. Cadillac's Nate Houk was fifth, Glen Lake's Thomas Waning was ninth and Benzie Central's David Cunningham was 10th.
In the slalom, Gunner Lundteigen won while Honaker was sixth and Gerret Lundteigen was ninth. Waning was second, Cadillac's Cooper was fourth and Houk was eighth while Cunningham was seventh.