Another successful year for the Birmingham ski team as the boys took sixth and the girls fifth at the MHSAA Division 1 State Championship Feb. 26 at Boyne Highlands.

Another successful year for the Birmingham ski team as the boys took sixth and the girls fifth at the MHSAA Division 1 State Championship Feb. 26 at Boyne Highlands.

Photo provided by Caroline Appleford

Birmingham ski concludes adversity-filled season at state finals

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 5, 2024

 Junior captain Caroline Appleford races in giant slalom.

Junior captain Caroline Appleford races in giant slalom.

Photo provided by Caroline Appleford


BIRMINGHAM — There’s a reason the Birmingham ski team is consistently a part of the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 State Finals each year.

Prior to missing states last year, the girls side had made six-consecutive appearances while the boys are currently riding a four-year streak.

Concluding their season Feb. 26 at the MHSAA Division 1 State Finals meet at Boyne Highlands, Birmingham finished sixth on the boys side and fifth on the girls, closing the chapter on another impressive season forefronted by a family-like atmosphere.

Birmingham, a co-op of Birmingham Seaholm and Birmingham Groves High School, may feature two separate schools, but it’s their ability to come together as one that continues to lay the groundwork for success.

Head coach Larry Morris knows a thing or two about having a family atmosphere as his twin son and daughter, Mark and Marie Morris, both competed for Birmingham before graduating in 2022, and his younger daughter, junior Isabelle Morris, keeps the family tradition alive.

You could go on forever about the siblings that have graced the Birmingham uniform together, such as Dylan and Rachel Reck this year, but there’s something to be said for the bonds a group of racers create based on a love for skiing.

“We were tight because our first year was the COVID year in 2020, so the coaching that year wasn’t the best because of COVID and everything,” senior captain Sam Shady said. “We really had to group together, so we’ve had a pretty strong bond the last four years.”

While the season may have come to a close, Birmingham and its tightly-knit group showed a strong team chemistry can achieve just about anything.


Snapping a six-year state finals streak can be a tough pill to swallow, but the Birmingham girls ski team featured a young core last year still trying to find their footing.

With returning second team all-State slalom and giant slalom skier junior Blanca Srock, Birmingham was already ahead of the game with a talented group of skiers looking to take the next step.

“She’s (Srock) grown more into an understanding of her skiing with what she can and can’t do,” Morris said. “From last year, she was more inconsistent. Now, she’s a little more consistent and she understands what’s required with her role as a leader both on and off. She’s getting it and she’s welcoming it, and she’s blossomed.”

Just before regionals, Birmingham competed in the Mount Brighton league meet Feb. 9 at Mount Brighton. It’s a meet that can either have a team standing tall a week before the biggest meet of the year rolls around, or it can deflate a team’s confidence.

For Birmingham, a first-place finish was everything Morris could’ve asked for before regionals.

“It all came together,” Morris said. “We pretty much filled all our slots and all the girls did as expected if you looked at our divisional results. That was a big confidence boost going into regionals.”

Srock dominated regionals Feb. 14 at Pine Knob, finishing fourth in giant slalom and sixth in slalom to lead Birmingham to a regional runner-up finish, punching their state finals ticket.

Junior Rachel Reck (21st), junior Meredith McCarthy (22nd), junior Campbell Lyons (24th), and junior Sophie Piotrowicz (26th) all finished within close proximity of each other on slalom, but it was Morris and McCarthy who would flex their muscles on giant slalom.

Morris, who earned all-league this year, redeemed her showing on slalom with a 15th-place finish on giant slalom, while McCarthy posted the second-highest giant slalom score on the team, finishing 11th.

McCarthy, an all-league skier, would be unable to race at the state finals after tearing her ACL while training for the meet, which was a crushing blow for a Birmingham team that lost all-league  junior skier Lillie Seel a week before regional due to injury.

But as Birmingham had done all season, the team rallied around their teammates.

“Our girls team is really strong,” junior captain Caroline Appleford said. “When Lillie (Seel) and one of our other top racers (Meredith) got hurt, all the girls really had their backs and were able to recover from them.”

Losing McCarthy, who really came into her own this season, and Seel was a brutal ending to a remarkable season for Birmingham, but the hope is that both will return at full strength next year as Birmingham returns the majority of their starting lineup.

With a primarily veteran-heavy group returning, Birmingham will look to make some noise in Division 1 skiing next year.

“There’s a lot of other seniors, so we definitely got our eye on states again,” Appleford said. “That’s our common goal, so we’re all going to work towards that together next year.”


The Birmingham boys ski team kept the state finals streak alive, and it was courtesy of a core group of young skiers taking the next step in their progression.

Juniors Alexander Lustig, Wills McAlear and Carson Wright broke out last year as sophomore sensations, but Birmingham’s season would depend on how the trio would elevate their skillset with another season under their belt and as the focal points of the team.

“It really was a blossoming,” Morris said. “Those kids are starting to understand, and I always called them the three amigos when they were sophomores, but they’re starting to understand that going to states is not easy.”

Finishing second at the league meet, Wright earned all-league honors while Lustig made his money at regionals, finishing sixth in slalom and ninth in giant slalom as Birmingham took second as a team. Wright posted the top finishes at the state finals in slalom (25th) and giant slalom (34th) for Birmingham.

McAlear added an 11th-place finish in slalom, while senior Andrew Fedor tallied 16th. Wright, who took 41st in slalom, picked it up when Birmingham needed him most, finishing 13th in giant slalom while seniors Sam Shady (14th), Fedor (16th), and Liam Wise (26th) all turned in strong performances.

Guys who have both had to wait their turn in the lineup, Shady and Wise came into their own this season as both skiers and veteran leaders for Birmingham.

“I’m super proud of those boys because they never had a chance to really crack into varsity the way they did this year, and they’ve owned their spots,” Morris said. “They kept it the whole way.”

While being a mentor for his younger teammates, Shady was able to be an impact racer for Birmingham this season and take part in the state finals.

For Shady, 2024 was about being a clear-minded racer and enjoying the little moments each meet brought, and he credits his mindset for his success this year.

“I think I stopped caring as much,” Shady said. “I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed, but when I took that pressure off it allowed me to race and ski more freely. I think that was definitely a key part with just being able to ski loose and being able to flow on the snow.”

While Birmingham is set to graduate a healthy number of skiers on the boys side, coach Morris will have a trio of star-studded juniors to step into the senior leadership role alongside some underclassmen and juniors looking to make a name for themselves and earn a shot at Birmingham’s fifth-straight state finals appearance.