Senior Sarra Guggemos earns All-State honors; while juniors Michael Benivegna and Mitchell Forsberg place well in first finals appearances.
OKEMOS, Mich. – In a sports world filled with delays and cancelations dure to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Okemos High ski team was able to experience something unique:
The skiiers were able to compete in their ski season, culminating in the Feb. 22 MHSAA state championship at Nub’s Nob. The Chieftains had three skiers in the championship: senior Sarra Guggemos, and two juniors, Michael Benivegna and Mitchell Forsberg. Guggemos was making her fourth appearance in the state finals, while the juniors were first time qualifiers.
“It was a great day,” Okemos Coach Jeff David said. “I was very proud of them.”
There were two events, slalom and giant slalom. In slalom, the gates set closer together, making it a series of quick and short turns. In giant slalom, the gates are further apart and the turns are wider, allowing the skier move a higher speed. Both events consist of two runs and the cumulative time is taken. This year was the first year that the MHSAA allowed a skier who qualified for one category to take part in both.
Guggemos ended her ski career on a high in both events. She took first place in slalom with a final time of 70.60 seconds, and eighth in giant slalom, finishing at 53.46 seconds, making her All-State in both events.
Okemos senior skiier Sarra Guggemos showing her form in slalom competition.
“I'm feeling good, that was always the goal so it was great to get that done,” Guggemos said. “It was good to end on a high note.
Benivegna and Forsberg posted similar results to each other in both events. In slalom, Forsberg finished the higher of the two, with a 71.24 second run to Benivegna’s 72.02, as they placed No. 14 and 17 respectively. In giant slalom, Benivegna would finish higher. His final result was 50.66 seconds, good for No. 25, finishing just over Forsberg at No. 27, who timed at 50.71 seconds. On the first of the two giant slalom runs, they would post the same exact time of 25.62 seconds.
“They were very excited to be there,” David said. “I think their biggest hurdle was getting there. Next year as seniors, I think they will take a different tack when it comes to their strategy, but they did great.”
Benivegna and Forsberg will have another year and David is hopeful to see them both return to this stage. As for Guggemos, her skiing career is done but she has committed to Hope College to play soccer.
“It’s bittersweet,” Guggemos said. “I am definitely ready to be done but I’ve gotten the chance to look back on all the memories and all the people I have gotten to meet and everyone that got me to where I am now. I’m just thankful.”
States marked the end of a very different season for the ski team. The team was unable to do its normal dryland training in the pre-season, limited to working out alone and meeting on zoom. The first time they were able to meet was around Christmas time when the resorts opened, ahead of the racing season starting the week of Jan. 4.
During the regular season they were under the regulations of the MHSAA and Mt. Brighton, where all of the events were held. While the MHSAA set a 144-person limit for events, allowing for 72 boys and 72 girls, Mt. Brighton’s 100-person limit meant that the boys and girls teams had to ski on different nights to meet the regulations. The girls skied and Tuesdays and the boys on Thursdays. At the events, there were also no indoor opportunities and attendance was limited to the skiers, coaches and parent volunteers.
“We were very grateful to have a chance to do our sport,” David said. “It brought us together, we had to come up with solutions and had to execute on those plans. It was a very cohesive group of kids and there was a heavy reliance in working together.”