Nordic skiing: Wolfpack, Raptors, Royals compete in nation’s largest cross country ski raceNordic skiers from East Ridge, Park and Woodbury hit the hills last week for a pair of races in less-than-ideal cross country skiing conditions.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
Nordic skiers from East Ridge, Park and Woodbury hit the hills last week for a pair of races in less-than-ideal cross country skiing conditions.
Skiers from East Ridge, Park and Woodbury competed in the prestigious Mesabi East Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 7, in Biwabik after the three teams took part in a classic-style Suburban East Conference race on Tuesday, Jan. 3, at Green Acres in Lake Elmo.
The East Ridge, Park and Woodbury teams practice together, compete in identical races and are administrated by the same staff, but race as individual high schools, under the tutelage of first-year head coach Joe Wacker.
In the Mesabi East Invitational – the largest high school Nordic ski race in the country – over 1,000 athletes competed overall.
Due to the lack of snow the skiers competed on a new course that consisted of two laps on a 2.5 kilometer course. According to Wacker, the course included an extremely difficult hill climb that had snow that closely resembled mashed potatoes or as one of our skiers called it “marshmallows” and an icy downhill descent that had included patches of grass which the skiers had to elude.
“As a coaching staff we were very pleased with how everyone did, this race has the ability to psyche some skiers out and throw them out of their comfort zone because of its size, difficulty, and competition, but to our joy none of our skiers experienced this problem,” Wacker said.
In the boys freestyle race, Woodbury senior Lars Espe crossed the finish line first out of District 833 skiers, taking 93rd with a time of 16 minutes, 58.2 seconds. Espe was followed closely by East Ridge senior Erik Jorgensen, who placed 101st with a time of 17:07.9. In addition, East Ridge senior Michael Pakkala took 124th place (17:57.7) and East Ridge sophomore Sam Boardman earned 131st place (18:12.8).
East Ridge senior Melanie Rabino set the bar for the District 833 teams in the girls freestyle race taking 56th place with a time of 18:44.9. East Ridge senior Hannah Strom was right on Rabino’s heels, however, taking 60th place with a time of 18:46.9.
“Melanie Rabino had a very strong race and continues to show growth in her racing abilities this year and Hannah Strom was on fire today and hammered out a great race as well. Lars Espe and Michael Pakkala also had strong races as well.”
Additionally, East Ridge junior Elizabeth Matta placed 97th with a time of 20:11.6 and Woodbury senior Erica Storvick earned 130th with a time of 21:14.8.
“We feel all of our skiers did very well today and that it was also a great learning day for our athletes as well due to the fact that some had odd start times, or did not race as well as they would have liked,” Wacker said.
Overall, Sam Elfstrom of Roseville and Nora Gilbertson of Stillwater earned classic race victories, while Bloomington’s Jan Ketterson and Alayna Sonnesyn won the freestyle races. Overall team titles went to the Roseville boys and Wayzata girls.
At the 9-team conference classic race on Tuesday, the East Ridge boys took eighth place with 194 points and Woodbury placed ninth with 64 points. On the girls side, East Ridge placed sixth with 295 points, Woodbury was seventh with 171 points and Park took eighth with 99 points.
Roseville won both races.
Jorgensen paced the way for the field from District 833 with a time of 16 minutes, 24 seconds to take 32nd overall. Espe was right behind him with a time of 16:49 to take 37th. Boardman and Pakkala followed with times of 19:07 and 19:26 to take 54th and 57th, respectively, and East Ridge’s Hieu Nguyen placed 67th with a time of 21:48.
Roseville’s Elfstrom won the boys race in a time of 12:15.
In the girls race, Rabino led the way with a time of 18:20 to take 19th place overall. In addition, Strom was 37th with a time of 19:58, East Ridge’s Liz Maata took 42nd in a time of 21:00, Storvick placed 48th in a time of 21:32, Park’s Sarah Manship was 50th in a time of 22:01, Park’s Annie Lisson (22:36) and East Ridge’s Therese Besser (22:38) took 53rd and 54th, respectively. Rounding out the skiers from the district: Emily Mueller of East Ridge took 58th (23:07), Woodbury’s Misa Adams was 59th (23:08), East Ridge’s Crystal Kleven (23:57) and Nicole Either (24:02) took 60th and 61st, respectively and Woodbury’s Anna McKeown (24:12) and Danielle Belisle (26.13) placed 62nd and 64th, respectively.
Rocci Wohlk of Forest Lake won the girls race in 14:36.
“It was the first classic race of the year, and for many of our new skiers it was their first time ever doing a classic race,” Wacker said. “The snow conditions were tough, and the kick was less than ideal but everyone did a great job toughing it out and putting forth a great effort.”