On Thursday, Feb. 11, four area schools traveled more than six hours, along with five other Michigan teams to compete at Marquette Mountain in the Division I regional finals for downhill ski racing. With fresh snow and relatively mild conditions, the weather was perfect for the race. The steeper, longer slopes at Marquette also provided a new level of challenge for area teams.
Rockford boys entered the competition with a first-place Grand Rapids conference title, having taken first place in 4/5 meets during the regular season and had their sights on a possible berth in the state finals. Unfortunately, one of Rockford’s top racers, Taylor Noakes, was injured in practice and was pulled from the regional competition. Team alternates Jake Lewis and Michael Kommer were called upon to fill the gap and turned in exceptional performances, but the team remained just short of qualifying for the state competition.
In the end, the northern powerhouses of Traverse City and Marquette took the top three positions—Traverse City Central 50, Traverse City West 83, Marquette 121—but Rockford had an impressive fourth-place finish, just 37 points away from qualifying as a team for the state finals. Grand Haven boys finished in fifth place with 205 total points.
The day started with giant slalom competition for the men. Rockford’s team leader in this event was Ben Avink with a 17th-place finish, followed by Michael Dix with 19th place, John Milewski 25th, and Tyler Manikowski in 29th. Kommer finished in 30th and Travis Fleming in 45th.
In the afternoon, the team competed in the slalom event. In slalom, Dix had an impressive seventh-place finish, which earned him a spot on the podium and the chance to move onto the state competition as an individual. Milewski placed 14th in slalom, Fleming 18th, and Avink 27th. Lewis finished 28th and Casey Hefferan was disqualified after a fall.
Rockford’s girls team also competed at regionals, finishing in seventh place. In slalom, individual results included Emily Macauley in 28th, Bethany Hicks 30th, Ashley Rister 30th, and Kaiti Bartholomy 35th.
In giant slalom, Julie Daukss qualified for the state competition with a 16th-place finish. Bartholomy finished 33rd, Macauley 38th, and Hicks 39th. Emily Kommer and Carly Funk also competed.
In addition to Daukss and Dix, other area skiers qualifying for state competition include Connor Davis, Brittney Olds, and Claire Reierson from Grand Haven, Lauren Wilberding from Forest Hills Northern, and Abigail Ellis from Kenowa Hills. These individuals will all head to Boyne Highlands to compete on Monday, Feb. 22.