CEC skiers tackle tough conditions at State
February 17, 2023
Mother Nature was not kind to Minnesota state ski meet participants this week.
Although state alpine skiers started the day with beautiful weather Tuesday morning, the rains came in the afternoon. Then it rained for hours before turning to snow, just in time for the start of the two-day state Nordic ski meet.
A total of six Cloquet-Esko-Carlton skiers headed to Giants Ridge in Biwabik for the state meets: two for alpine and four for the Nordic relay races.
They all skied their hearts out, according to their coaches.
Alpine teammates Emily Regas and Teagen Tessier finished 10th and 11th at the Section 7 meet to qualify. At the state meet, Regas was disqualified and Tessier finished 34th with a combined time of 1 minute, 24.45 seconds.
Head coach Ryan Zimny said Regas had a rough day, "but that's normal at State."
"Many skiers go down because they are going all out and not playing it safe," he said.
Conditions didn't help the daredevil skiers.
"The rain made visibility tough with the rain hitting their goggles," Zimny said. "The snow held up well though, considering the weather."
Head Nordic ski coach Tim Stark said his kids skied well, although there was "definitely a little adversity" with the conditions.
"It was cold and really windy," he said, describing 30 mph winds and temperatures around 15 degrees after temperatures had been well above freezing for several days. "But our skiers stepped up and skied good races."
Both the girls and boys relay teams didn't get past the qualifying heats Wednesday, with the boys team of William Bauer and Hunter Williams taking fourth in their heat in a time of 15:52.72, a little over 1 second faster than their section qualifying time.
On the girls side, Megan Chopskie and Charlotte Ripp placed fifth in their heat in a total time of 18:08.17 for the four 1.2-kilometer laps, totaling nearly 5K. It was a slower race than sections for the two seniors, who were both a little under the weather going into the race.
"Each of them in the end were pleased with how they were able to finish up," Stark said of his four state skiers.
It was just the second year the state Nordic meet included relay races on top of the traditional 5K classic and skate pursuit races used to score the meet.
Stark has mixed feelings about the new format, which includes the traditional 5K classic and skate ski pursuit races plus the relays.
"I like the relays for the excitement," he said. "The races lend themselves to a lot more close finishes. It gives an opportunity to some of our skiers to really be successful where they might not shine in a traditional pursuit race."
However, he also feels the changed format favors bigger teams and bigger schools.
"It takes more kids at a higher level to be able to qualify," he said, referring to the type of athlete that trains in and out of season for success. "Before, you really just needed four really good skiers to be able to qualify. Now you need five: three pursuit and two relay."
Once he had selected the four relay racers, Stark said they changed up their training, backing off some of the longer skis in favor of short, fast, intense practices.
"We also tried to make sure to practice on more technical areas, so they would be used to handling turns at higher speeds than a normal 5K pace, so they could be more confident," he said.
Three of the four state racers were seniors. Bauer is the only state skier returning next year.
Stark said next year will likely be a rebuilding year for the girls team, as three strong skiers - Ripp, Chopskie and Jazlyn Gunderson - are all graduating. He's hoping to get some more girls to come out for the team next year.
The boys team should be in a pretty good spot over the next few years, the first-year Lumberjacks head coach predicted.
"We have a number of kids from eighth grade through sophomores who could achieve at a high level over the coming years," he said. "We will be looking to develop a lot of our younger skiers."