TRAVERSE CITY — Several area ski teams are looking to end long championship runs by opposing rival schools, while one local squad is trying to extend its own dominance.
The longest streak actually involves three teams, technically.
The Petoskey boys have won eight consecutive Division 2 state championships, and the Northmen will be looking to fend off Great North Alpine, the cooperative team made up of skiers from Elk Rapids, Traverse City St. Francis and Grand Traverse Academy. GNA earned a regional championship victory over Petoskey on Feb. 11 — the first time it has ever defeated the Northmen.
That's a big confidence boost for a GNA team that has finished state runner up each of the last three seasons to Petoskey.
Petoskey's bid at continuing its incredible streak will receive a casual glance from the Division 1 meet and Traverse City Central, too. The Trojans' boys program compiled its own streak of eight consecutive championships from 1988-1995. If the Northmen were to capture a ninth straight title, it would break the tie in the state record books for the longest such streak.
Ben Ferris, who coaches GNA, competed for the Trojans during Traverse City's run as Michigan's top ski program, and he hopes his current team can keep his former team cemented in the record books — even if it's a tie.
"It's would be especially sweet to me (to beat Petoskey)," Ferris said. "Petoskey tied our record at TC Central last year. It'd be nice for them not to beat it."
Great North Alpine certainly has a shot. Not only did it prove it could beat Petoskey with it's regional championship, but GNA is led by a defending individual state champion, Finn Husband, who showcases GNA's top-tier talent.
Husband, an Elk Rapids student, won the slalom title in 2018 with a combined run time of 59.82 seconds. The senior, who is scheduled to appear on the next episode of the Record Eagle's podcast, The Get Around, has done everything expected of him coming into the season.
He swept the individual regional titles.
"Finn is our team captain for the second year. He takes the boys under his wing," Ferris said. " As soon as he makes his run, he gets on the radio, giving information about the course. Anything to watch for and gives words of encouragement."
Husband is backed up by good depth, including Cooper Kerkhoff, Sully Husband, Andrew Bliss and others.
Ferris said once the finals begin, everybody will be expected to race 110 percent, until strategy dictates otherwise.
"For the state meet it will be one by one," he said. "As soon as something happens we reign them in a little bit. If we can stack all our guys into the top 10 or top 15, we just add points to the other teams' scores."
Petoskey won't go quietly, nor the other teams for that matter.
The Northmen's Tripp Thomas, Jimmy Flom and Anders McCarthy have learned what it takes to be champions.
"(GNA has) got a good team," Petoskey coach Erik Lundteigen said. "They have some really experienced skiers. They are a good team. It's close enough between us, that whoever has the best day will win.
"One of the reasons we've been really successful is we have a really deep team. You don't have to rely on any one person."
Lundteigen admitted the Northmen aren't as talented as they've been in recent years, but he said they're still pretty good.
"The thing with coaching is you want kids to buy what you're selling," he said. "When kids see others be successful, it's easier to buy in. In that regard, it's really beneficial they go there and know if they do it right, they have a good chance."
Area individual qualifiers include Benzie Central's Quincy Thayer, Glen Lake's Andrew Pershinske and Onekama's Joe Buswinka.
Cadillac's Alex Netzley, the two-time defending giant slalom champ, also qualified.
The Division 2 state finals will take place at Boyne Mountain in Boyne Falls on Feb. 25.
DIVISION 1 GIRLS
Traverse City Central girls are attempting to dethrone a giant of their own at the Division 1 championships.
The Trojans, who won a regional championship, will attempt to knock off three-time defending state champion Marquette.
During Marquette's run, Traverse City West finished runner up in 2018 and Traverse City Central runner up in 2017. Both will take their shot at the Redettes.
"(We) have the potential to win states," Central coach Amy Kudary said. "There are a lot of good teams in the state, but because of our depth and talent, I think they truly have the potential to pull it out.
"We have a great No. 1 skier, but also a great No. 6 skier ... Marquette has a great team, but we're Traverse City skiing and we have a great team too."
Like in the GNA-Petoskey boys scenario, TC Central topped Marquette at the regional, but did so by just three points. Marquette held the edge in the slalom, while the Trojans staked an advantage in the giant slalom.
Maddy Cox and Lily Kuberski led the Trojans at the regional, but Kudary insists anyone on the team can lead on any given day.
Traverse City West's Hannah Schramski actually won the individual regional title in giant slalom, getting by Central's and Marquette's top skier.
West finished third in the same regional, some 30 points back of the Trojans and Redettes. Titan teammate Ava Warren also posted a strong performance at the regional.
The Division 1 state finals will take place at Schuss Mountain in Bellaire on Feb. 25.
DIVISION 1 BOYS
Yet another streak is on the line at the Division 1 boys finals.
Marquette has dominated both sides of the state finals for years, and enters this season as the six-time defending state champions.
The Redmen (61) won the regional title, with TC West (81) coming in second and TC Central (115.5) third.
TC Central has finished state runner up to Marqette five years running and was the last Division 1 TC school to win a state skiing title back in 2011. The Trojans won three of four from 2008-11. West's last top-two finish was 2006 when they finished second to Marqette.
Few expected Central's male skiers to be making a push quite so soon.
"We have a lot of freshmen. We're a very young team," Kudary said. "Everybody told me we'd have a great boys team in a few years. This is a talented team right now. Don't sleep on them."
Central has been buoyed by freshman Gus Dutmers, who placed fourth in the slalom and 11th in the GS at regionals.
The Titans won the giant slalom portion of the regional, led by Aiden Lewandowski's third-place finish in that discipline.
West is young, too.
"We have four freshman on a squad of six," West coach Ed Johnson said. "They have racing experience, but not high school racing experience. That did a great job at regionals, and I'm super proud of them. Beating Marquette would be tough, but it's potentially doable. Everything would have to go our way.
"All of the schools are skiing 100 percent and are pushing it. Nobody is holding back or playing a whole lot of strategy (at state)."
DIVISION 2 GIRLS
The only division not sporting a perennial powerhouse champion is Division 2 girls.
Six different teams have won each of the last six years, including titles by Petoskey (2013) and Great North Alpine (2016).
Houghton/Hancock is the defending state champion.
Petoskey qualified as a team after winning its regional.
"The girls are really excited," Lundteigen said. "They won the regional last year and ended up fifth at state. It gives them momentum moving toward finals.
"I like the girls chances. We'll show up and do our best. Hopefully it will go our way."
Emma Makela led the Northmen to the finals and posted a runner-up finish in the slalom regional. Lauren Rothman was fourth in the GS.
GNA placed top three in the regional and sends its full complement of skiers.
Liesl Stellin was the top finisher for GNA in the giant slalom, finishing second in 55.34 — she also took fourth in the slalom.
Defending state champion of the GS, Gaylord's Reagan Olli, won the regional crown and will head back to defend her state title.
Other individual qualifiers included Charlevoix's Kate Klinger and Jenna Good.