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Nordic team sends relay teams to State

Over a week's time, the Lumberjacks Nordic ski team had its share of triumphs and losses, with temperature highs and lows to match.

Fighting minus-5-degree temperatures at the Lake Superior Conference championship in Duluth on Thursday, Feb. 2, the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys team won the LSC conference championship. On the girls side, Charlotte Ripp and Jazlyn Gunderson made all-conference Thursday, placing fourth and 10th, respectively.

CEC head coach Tim Stark said last week's conference results weren't a surprise.

"The team we had matched up well against the other conference teams," he said. "And our top boys skied good races, it was probably the best race of the season for Miles (Fischer), who took second in conference. Char (Ripp) was the top performer for our girls, about like she's been all season."

On Wednesday, Feb. 8, temperatures swung to the other extreme, hitting a high of 44 degrees, also making the Section 7 meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik challenging.

Coach Stark strategized for the optimal results at the section meet, putting some of his stronger skiers in the sprint races, but also keeping some of his best in the more traditional and longer pursuit race.

It paid off in the sprint races, with both CEC teams qualifying for State.

The girls team of Megan Chopskie and Charlotte Ripp finished in second place, with a time of 17 minutes, 11 seconds, guaranteeing them a place at State as one of the top two teams. Both girls are seniors and have been on the high school ski team since seventh grade.

It was just the second year for the relay race, which begins with a mass start. Both team members complete two 1.2-kilometer laps during the race.

It was Ripp's first section meet in two years, after missing the meet her sophomore year because she was competing in Nordic combined at a national level, then missing her junior year due to injury. She was savoring the idea of going to State as a senior after Wednesday's meet.

"I'm excited," she said. "My freshman year I missed State by one spot and got passed on the final hill, so this is nice."

She also said the sprint races were a little more fun than the pursuit races.

"It keeps you on the edge of your toes," she said. "You don't really know where you are until your partner comes around. It's way more dramatic."

The boys team of William Bauer and Hunter Williams took third place in 15:54. They snagged a trip to State after Mora qualified as a team, which meant their sprint team automatically joined them and opened up an extra spot on the boys side.

"We were all cheering on the Mora racers," said Charlotte's dad, Ken Ripp.

No individuals made it to the state meet for CEC in the traditional pursuit race, which consists of a 5K classic ski race and a 5K skate ski race. Stark explained that with the addition of the sprint races, the section meet now takes only the top two teams and the next four individuals not on the teams, instead of the next six individuals it took previously.

On the boys side, senior Miles Fischer had a good race, finishing in 16th place, three places out of contention as an individual.

Jazlyn Gunderson was the top pursuit skier on the girls side, finishing in 14th place, one spot out of a trip to State.

The state meet is Wednesday, Feb. 15 at Giants Ridge again.


Ski jumping expo

The Junior Varsity Championships are being held at Cloquet's Pine Valley for the first time this year, with exhibition ski jumping during the races, which run from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Spectators are welcome, although parking could be a challenge. Concessions inside.

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