HARBOR SPRINGS — Recent history in Michigan high school skiing is dotted with dynasties.
Maybe it’s time to welcome the newest one.
Traverse City West’s boys ski team made history Monday, winning the program’s first state championship at Nub’s Nob in Harbor Springs. The Titans can return the same lineup intact next season for a title defense.
“We had the talent,” Titans sophomore Luke Wiersema said. “We just had to put it all together, and then we could be a state champions. It’s really exciting. I feel like we could do this for the next two, three years.”
West won with 63.5 points, surviving a Rochester Adams comeback attempt in the afternoon to win by 5.5. Bloomfield Hills placed fourth at 85.5 and Traverse City Central fourth with 140.
Wiersema placed eighth in slalom and seventh in giant slalom to earn first-team all-state in both disciplines. Junior Andy Hill did the same all-state double dip, placing eighth in GS and taking runner-up honors in the afternoon’s slalom.
“I think everyone thought at the beginning of the season that we could,” Wiersema said. “We could destroy this season. We could win it all.”
West junior Aiden Lewandowski won the giant slalom state crown by 0.1 second over Nathan Dehart of Rochester Adams, posting the only sub-24-second GS time of the day in his second run. He trailed Dehart by 0.03 after the first.
The Titans’ history-making championship is the first since the school split off from Traverse City Central in 1997. Ed Johnson, who coached West its first season in 1997, said finally getting that championship trophy was a huge relief, especially after three runner-up finishes, the most recent in 2019 behind Marquette.
“It means a lot. It means a lot for me,” Johnson said. “I’ve been coaching at that school since the school was opened. So it’s incredible just to see it finally happen. We’ve had a number of runner ups over the years, so we were close and we had other teams that could have done it as well, but just didn’t quite pull it together on that day, so it’s it’s just so nice to see it happen finally.”
Marquette’s run of eight straight D1 state championships ended at regionals, when the team didn’t qualify in the top three to move on to Monday’s finals. Since 1997 when TC West opened, the only schools to win a D1 state title are Marquette (15 times), TC Central (four), Petoskey (two), Clarkston (one) and Birmingham Brother Rice (one).
Hill was eighth after the first slalom run, then made up for that with the best time of all second runs at 34.53 seconds, 0.99 second better than eventual champ Hunter Halstead of Bloomfield Hills.
“The first one I felt really iffy,” Hill said. “I just wasn’t really mentally prepared. We were waiting at the top for a long time, so I kind of lost my focus. But the second run, I knew that I had to make up some time. So I just got in the zone and gave it all I had.”
Lewandowski finished 45th in slalom after hiking on both runs, but his state championship helped give the Titans a nice cushion over Rochester Adams going into slalom.
“We were definitely concerned to have that happen on that first run of the afternoon, so that put that put the rest of our guys into a tough spot,” Johnson said. “But they all work together and without Aiden’s win in the morning, it wouldn’t have happened either, so everybody did their thing today did what they had to do so.”
While Lewandowski didn’t place in slalom, the family still did. His younger brother Caleb took seventh as a freshman.
“It’s just amazing how much we can do when we put everything together,” Hill said. “We’re all super strong individuals, but when we put ourselves together we make something that’s like unbreakable. We will be back in full force next year.”
TC Central’s Max Werner captured sixth in slalom for the Trojans’ lone top-10 of the day. Will Russell and Michael Booher took 11th and 12th.
West was the only team with more than two competitors in the GS top 10, boasting four. Wiersema claimed seventh, Hill tied with Bloomfield Hills’ Bode Iuppenlatz for eighth and Ben Lober placed 10th.
“First run of first run of GS, we all scored within the top 10,” Hill said. “And we’re like, ‘If we do this, we can really do it,’ and then GS ends and we had four in the top 10. We knew from there that as long as we make it down with relatively good times, we will win. But then slalom was a bit of a scare some of our top athletes fell. So then we all had to ski a little bit more conservatively and just make sure not to fall.”
Maybe Nub’s Nob itself served as a lift for the Titans, who had been strong all season. The green and gold lifts match the Titan colors and suited them well as a youthful West team reached new heights.
“It’s so much fun to see these guys do this,” Johnson said. “We knew we could do it at the beginning of the year. We just had to pull them together as a team and not just a bunch of individuals that were really good. That was our main focus all season was to ski as a team, perform as a team, and they stepped up to it. They stepped up in the middle of the season, and just kept carrying it all the way through.”