By James Cook
Special for Second Half
HARBOR SPRINGS — The goal sat there.
Dan Menze and his Marquette Redmen just didn't know if they'd quite reached it.
Marquette came into Monday's Division 1 Skiing Finals at Boyne Highlands with a chance to become only the third program in state history to win eight straight championships.
Monday didn't make that easy.
With high temperatures in the 40s making runs tricky and several teams putting up a big fight, it came down to the wire.
"It was a nerve-wracking day, but it was definitely a goal," Menze said. "Coming into the season, we knew we had a chance to go out and go for eight in a row.
"We didn't know until the last second when we finally got results in. Everyone is trying, we're trying to tally it up, and everything but when we finally saw it — I didn't think we had it — and then I saw that. Just joy."
By one point.
One single point.
Marquette survived a spirited chase from Brighton, Rochester Adams and Traverse City West, as the four teams finished within 12 points of one another.
The Redmen won with 81 points to Brighton's 82. Adams took third with 92, one point ahead of Traverse City West.
"That's crazy," said Marquette senior Aaron Grzelak, who won both the slalom and giant slalom titles. "I think that's awesome. That's so cool to be part of that class to be able to win number eight.”
The feat equals that of Traverse City Central’s streak from 1988-95 and Petoskey’s from 2011-18.
"That's eight different teams, but two teams that didn't have any of the same kids on them at all," said Marquette assistant coach Keenan Cooper, who won two individual Finals titles in 2014 with Cadillac. "It's awesome to see that it really speaks about the depth of the skiing in Marquette and all the junior programs and how that culture really brings up the skiers."
Traverse City West sophomore Aiden Lewandowski was Grzelak's closest competitor in slalom, almost two full seconds behind. Grzelak's two-run combined time of 79.23 seconds was 1.9 better than Lewandowski's. Marquette's Truman Durand placed third and Logan Audette eighth.
Rounding out the slalom top 10 were Will Blackmer of Stoney Creek in fourth, Brighton's Andrew Myers fifth, TC West's Luke Wiersema sixth, Rochester Adams' Zeke King seventh, Cru Smith of Brighton ninth and Adams' Jacob Corsi in 10th.
Rochester Adams' duo of Colin Dehart and King placed second and third behind Grzelak in giant slalom, Erik Koseck of Saline-Chelsea fourth, Lewandowski fifth, and then Durand, Blackmer, Brighton's pair of Ian Swanson and Luke Vaden and Traverse City Central's Gus Dutmers 10th.
"With Aaron skiing so well — he's phenomenal today, a couple bobbles here and there but solid," Cooper said. "And Truman Durand, phenomenal day. He put us up there when you take it by a point. Every place matters."
Hayden Kauppila, last year's giant slalom champ, placed 15th is GS and had a DNF in slalom. Audette had to hike during his first GS run.
"It's good to have depth because we had a lot of crashes today, and we had to use our fifth and six skiers' times," Menze said. "Most of the season we didn't, because the top — Aaron, Hayden, Truman and Logan — they're real consistent, they finish all the time, but today they had some troubles and the other guys picked it up. I can't say enough about all the guys in the competition within the team to push each other all year."
Marquette might be hard-pressed to extend that streak to a record-breaking nine next season, but the Redmen are game for going for it. The team loses seniors Grzelak, Durand, Drake Scheidt and Jack Franchino from its top six.
"We're going to be losing a lot for next year,” Grzelak said, “so we'll see how that plays out."
PHOTOS: (Top) Marquette’s Aaron Grzelak won championships in both slalom and giant slalom Monday. (Middle) The Redmen celebrate their eighth-straight Finals championship. (Click for more from Sports in Motion.)