HARBOR SPRINGS — It’s all about adapting and overcoming.
Such was the case for the Harbor Springs High School girls ski team as it entered Monday’s Division II state final at Boyne Highlands without their top athlete, Abigail Hackman, who suffered a knee injury early last week.
Proving depth, determination and confidence could offset that loss, the Rams earned their first state championship since 2004 as they held off rival Petoskey, 91-111.
“This team has accomplished every goal they’ve set for themselves,” Harbor coach Jane Ramer said. “They’ve won the Lake Michigan Conference championship, the regional, and now the state championship. They’ve accomplished every single goal and I’m just really proud of them. The entire coaching staff is proud of them.”
So too was Petoskey coach Travis Hill, whose team was looking to defend its state title, but could not overcome an unfortunate disqualification in the morning slalom session.
“I’m happy the title stays in our neighborhood,” Hill said. “They overcame a loss in losing Hackman, but they’ve worked really hard all season and they deserved it.”
The Rams — who didn’t know of Hackman’s status until last Wednesday — placed just two girls in the top 10 in giant slalom and just one in slalom, but stacked the upper-middle portion of the leader board en route to earning the title.
Maple City Glen Lake’s Christina Rennie won the girls slalom title for a second straight season, finishing in 1 minute, 12.16 seconds. Natalie Kenny of Manistee-Traverse City St. Francis repeated as the GS champion, winning in 59.79 seconds.
The girls title was for first for Harbor coach Ramer (who guided the boys to a state crown in 2010). It was a return to the winner’s circle for the Harbor girls, who won five straight state crowns from 2000-04. They were runners-up to Petoskey last season.
“I told them they could do it,” Ramer said. “We have some depth on this team and it would’ve been nice to have had Hackman there, but I knew we had some experience to overcome that.”
Harbor’s Rose Pellegrom finished a team-best sixth in GS, 1:02.06; and was 10th in slalom, 1:19.50. Freshman Tia Esposito placed eighth in GS, 1:02.31.
“Rose and Tia really showed a lot of character,” Ramer said. “Rose Pellegrom really stepped it up and she was our only double medal winner. That’s the best she’s ever done in slalom and she and Tia really had great times in GS.
“We had just those two girls on the podium in one event and Rose in the other. But then we stacked them in a clump right behind them.”
The Rams won the morning slalom by a slim 52-54 margin over Bloomfield Hills Andover. Esposito was 17th, followed by Morgan Mooradian, 18th; Alexa Wespiser, 21st; Meg Shepherd, 22nd; and Claire Cunningham, 24th.
Harbor and Petoskey tied for first in GS with 39 points. For Harbor, Claire Cunningham was 14th, followed by Shepherd, 17th; Hadley Cunningham, 22nd; and Mooradian, 28th.
“When we found out at practice Wednesday we were going to be without Hackman, we were a little shell-shocked,” Ramer said. “We got to practice and we had to do timing to put someone in her spot. Those first runs, they were still a little shell-shocked because she wasn’t there, but then they realized where they stood and they had to pick it up in the second run.
“Going into the afternoon, they knew that they were two points ahead of Andover and they just got the job done.”
Pellegrom said she was proud of the way the Rams bonded and pulled together in light of Hackman’s injury. Hackman won the GS at the regional and was second slalom.
“It’s really great,” Pellegrom said. “I think we really deserved it after Abby hurt herself and it’s great to see how the team stepped up. We really had to all step it up and we were a little scared thinking of what might happen, but I had confidence in my team and we have depth going down to our last seed.”