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Skiers swish into State slot

The Lumberjacks girls alpine ski team raced its way to State this week, taking second place during Tuesday's Section 7 meet.

Head coach Ryan Zimny wasn't surprised - it's the best girls team he's had in 20 years as a coach, he said, proud that the girls performed "exactly as they should."

"It's always a mental battle at Sections where the nerves are the main competition," Zimny said. "It's such a balancing act walking the line between going too hard and crashing, and playing it too conservatively and not skiing to your skill level."

Zimny believes the girls team is the first Lumberjacks alpine team to make the state meet since the boys went in 1994, when he was a sophomore.

This Cloquet-Esko-Carlton team had three girls place in the top 10: Teagan Tessier in fourth; Nadia Tessier in eighth and Emily Regas in 10th. Madysen Waters was the fourth scorer for CEC in 36th place and Lauren Radovich placed 43rd, returning from an injury that wiped out most of the previous season.

Like much of this strange winter season, the weather was a problem. The iphone weather app showed a high of 42 degrees Tuesday in Biwabik, the closest town to Giant's Ridge. So it was warm. But hey, at least it wasn't raining, like it did during last year's State meet.

"The morning run was before the snow warmed up too much so the surface was still fairly firm," Zimny said. "Afternoon run was definitely softer with the sun coming out, but they treated the snow with salt so it held up OK. Definitely more challenging conditions for the racers near the end of the run order though."

The run times showed the difference. Teagan Tessier skied the Innsbruck run in 41.99 in the morning and the Helsinki run in 43.42 in the afternoon, for a total time of 1:25.41. Nadia Tessier had times of 42.87 on Innsbruck followed by 44.39 on Helsinki. Regas went 43.90 and 43.63, while Waters' times were 47.77 and 48.51. Winner Elisabeth Bergan, of Duluth East, skied 40.50 on the first run, and 42.30 on the second.

Zimny was thrilled to have the whole team qualify for State.

"We have a small squad with only five girls, so consistency through the run order is critical for us more than some teams," he said. "I'm just so incredibly happy for them to qualify as a team, especially for our two seniors, Emily and Madysen."

Regas and Teagan Tessier both bring experience to State. Regas was disqualified for a fall at the state meet last year and Tessier finished 34th.

"Many skiers go down because they are going all out and not playing it safe," Zimny said.

Skiers across Minnesota have faced training challenges this season. The unseasonably warm weather meant training was very limited early in the season. The Lumberjacks were able to race only once before winter break - before rain over Christmas destroyed the snow - although they've had six meets since Jan. 9.

The CEC boys team placed 17th at the Section 7 meet Tuesday. The top boys skier was Quinn Waters, in 55th place, followed by Eli Metcalf (68th), Jackson Lamb (86th), Aiden True (87th) and Carson Kronlund (98th).