By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Since 1975, three schools south of “up north” had combined for five MHSAA girls skiing titles – and this was not the season for a fourth school to join that group.
Warm weather limited Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central – the fifth-place finisher in Division 2 in 2016 – to only half of its normal slate of practices this winter, and the Rangers didn’t race as a varsity team until the end of January.
But a month later, they stood together at Boyne Highlands with their first MHSAA Finals championship trophy, capping an undefeated season that had also included the program’s first Regional title two weeks before.
In what actually turned into a battle between downstate teams, Forest Hills Central – the Applebee’s Team of the Month for February – edged Pontiac Notre Dame Prep by 3.5 points in the Final.
“We had the team last year, but injuries took us out of it,” said longtime Rangers coach Alan Moore, who finished up his 26th season. “We had basically the same team as last year, a lot of firepower. We knew we had strong skiers, but ski racing is such a fickle sport because a whole bunch of things have to line up for (success) to happen.”
As Moore noted, a popular mantra for teams south of the traditional ski belt is that just making the MHSAA Finals signifies a successful season.
And that’s certainly true. In addition to this season and last, during this decade Forest Hills Central also made the Finals in 2014.
But there were expectations for more this winter. Senior Sydney Reynolds was back after winning the individual MHSAA slalom championship in 2015. She won the giant slalom at this year’s Finals and finished second in slalom. Her sophomore sister Kayley Reynolds returned to competition after tearing a knee ligament and missing all but the first few meets of 2015-16; she took fourth in the slalom and 10th in the giant slalom at these Finals. Senior Courtney McAlindon was third in the giant slalom to also play a major part in the final score.
While the Rangers’ time together during the week was limited by conditions they couldn’t control, those three skiers filled their weekends with up north racing as part of MHSAA-sanctioned Central United States Ski Association events, and teammate Katie Knister also traveled to the snow to put in extra training and stay sharp.
Forest Hills Central was in third place after the two slalom runs at Boyne Highlands. The Rangers didn’t finish first in the giant slalom, but their second place in those runs was enough to push the team into first in the final overall standings.
In addition to the Reynolds sisters, McAlindon and Knister, junior Anna Tomsheck and sophomore Grace Kline also skied the slalom and Tomsheck and sophomore Myah Leavenworth skied the giant slalom.
“Courtney’s first run in slalom was 30 points and her second run was top 10; after the first run we were in fifth place, down 25 points, but after the second run we were up to third place,” Moore said. “We went in at halftime down 20 points, and that was doable.
“We won by three points. We’re talking inches after eight runs of skiers, to win by (a combined) half a second.”
PHOTO: Forest Hills Central’s Katie Knister cuts past a gate during the Division 2 Finals at Boyne Highlands. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
Past Teams of the Month, 2016-17
January: Powers North Central boys basketbal - Report
December: Dundee boys basketball - Report
November: Rockford girls swimming & diving - Report
October: Rochester girls golf - Report
September: Breckenridge football - Report