BY DENNIS CHASE firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — BOYNE FALLS — After two miscues on the first slalom run Monday morning, Division 1 state ski favorite Traverse City Central was in trouble.
“Big trouble,” coach Jerry Stanek said.
The Trojans needed their other four girls to ski clean, solid second runs to get them out of their predicament.
They did, sending Central on its way to its first state championship since 2005. The Trojans were runner-ups the last five years.
“We’ve been skiing so well,” senior Paige Pfannenstiel said. “We were determined that this would be our year, that we would finally take it all after a five-year streak of being the runner-up. Nobody on this team has ever won states before, so we’re pretty excited.”
Central finished with 81 points. Walled Lake Central took second with 92. Traverse City West, the defending state champion, placed fifth with 128.
The Trojans went into the finals last year as favorites, but lost to West.
“The girls were all disappointed last year,” Stanek said. “This time they realized, after finishing second five times, that they had to sacrifice individual achievement for the team. That’s what they did.”
That was especially true in the morning after Madison Ostergren and Cassidy Klein, two of the team’s best skiers, suffered mishaps on their first runs.
“It was almost a little discouraging, just because that’s what happened the last couple years — we’d lose two really good skiers the first couple runs,” Pfannenstiel said. “But we put it together. We have a deep team. It felt really good when we all (four skiers) got down and had good times. We were there for each other, covering any mistakes. That’s what a team should be.”
West actually led after the first run in slalom, putting three in the top seven.
“We didn’t ski out of our minds,” Titans coach Ed Johnson said. “We just skied solid. But everything fell apart in that second run.”
Morgan Culp, who was third after her first run, and Claire Podges, who was seventh, had slips. The Titans could not recover, trailing Central by 29 points heading into giant slalom.
“That made it difficult because we specialize in slalom,” Johnson said. “That’s where we needed to do well.”
West senior Monica Hessler did do well, edging Central’s Shannon Weaver for the individual slalom title, 1:05.69 to 1:05.77.
“It was exciting to see that come together for her,” Johnson said. “She’s worked incredibly hard. She earned it. It wasn’t a fluke.”
Hessler was unaware she had won the title after finishing her second run.
“I was standing there wondering,” she said. “Then my family, friends and teammates all came running up to me. I got a little bombarded.”
Hessler was sixth in the slalom a year ago.
“I was hoping to do well,” she said. “I’ve been working for it all season. I pushed as hard as I could. Thankfully, it worked out.”
Weaver, who was also second in the giant slalom, didn’t come up empty-handed. After all, she had a state championship to celebrate.
“It’s amazing to win this,” she said. “We’ve been working towards this for years. I was glad to ski it as a team. It paid off. I’m really proud of what we did today.”
Stanek said Weaver’s unselfishness was the highlight of the morning. The Trojans needed her to ski a clean second run, requiring a more cautious approach.
“Shannon Weaver sacrificed a win for her team,” Stanek said. “I thought that was greatest thing that happened in the morning. Shannon took one for the team, but that being said, that’s what we had to do.”
In addition to Weaver’s second-place finish, Ostergren came back to take 10th, Molly Whiting 12th and Devon Dotterrer 14th in the team scoring. Ostergren was 30th after her miscue on the first run.
“It’s tough, especially in slalom to come into that second run and know that you have to get (four) down,” Stanek said. “It puts a whole different perspective on the way you approach the race. Some of the girls weren’t happy with their times or places, but they did what they had to do for the team because we could have very well been out of the race in the morning.”
Even Weaver admitted it was “scary” after that first run.
“All day I kept thinking ‘don’t fall. We’ve got to get through this,’” she said. “But we got four down and stayed solid. I think we were pretty relieved after slalom.”
The Trojans took a 16-point lead into the afternoon’s giant slalom and held on from there. Weaver was second to Walled Lake Central’s Mallory Slicker, 1:02.81 to 1:03.31, in giant slalom. Klein finished 10th, Pfannenstiel 12th and Whiting 19th in the team scoring.
For West, Culp finished third and Hessler eighth in team scoring in the giant slalom. Kitt Hornbogen took 11th in slalom.