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Pine Valley ski races, jumping draw crowd

Cloquet's Pine Valley was a winter sports oasis Saturday, with hundreds of athletes and parents here for the junior varsity Nordic ski championships, joined by ski jumpers and a handful of hockey players on the outdoor ice.

With sunshine and temperatures in the 30s, the snow wasn't fast, but it was a glorious day with skiers and spectators gathered in clumps or lined up along the start and finish of the 2.5K and 5.5K course. Skiers in grades 5-12 from nine teams in the region joined host Cloquet-Esko-Carlton in the end-of-season competition.

As the races ticked over, young jumpers from the Cloquet Ski Club provided a fairly unique spectacle for northern Minnesota, speeding off the 10-, 20- and 40-meter jumps behind the chalet.

Emily Kinnunen didn't mind the extra observers. The Cloquet sixth-grader jumped off the 20-meter repeatedly Saturday.

"I love the feeling of flying, and making new goals for yourself," she said. "It's not something you can be good at right away."

Kinnunen is headed to a ski jumping competition in Coleraine next, provided the tracks down the ski jumps survived Tuesday's heavy rains. Her goal is to jump the 40-meter there.

CEC Nordic coach Tim Stark was happy with Saturday's event, noting that the volunteers - past coaches, skiers and parents - kept things running smoothly.

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