Alpine team struggles at section meet, Nordic girls team win conference, enter postseason
Alpine Ski Team
In preparation for a bitterly cold and windy Section 7 Alpine Ski Meet Tuesday, Ryan Zimny told his Cloquet-Esko-Carlton downhill crew to dress extra warmly.
But nothing could prepare them for the grueling Giants Ridge course they faced.
Welcoming roughly 200 skiers and 34 teams from around the area, the state-hosting course gobbled up skiers with its tight-knit course structure and steep slope. CEC's six-skier squads finished eighth for the girls with 229 points and 14th for the boys at 163.5.
"We had a rough day," Zimny said simply. "That was one tough course. A lot of guys fell. I'd say it took out 40 skiers and everyone lost a lot of time."
Beneath the sunshine of a brisk afternoon in Biwabik, Zimny watched his Lumberjacks challenge the intimidating course to no avail. Zimny explained that it wasn't so much the hills, but the way the course gates were positioned.
"They set that place up pretty tough," he said of the strategically-placed gates down the slope. "We were ready for the cold, but the course was difficult. That second run ate up a bunch of skiers and there were a lot of crashes."
CEC has struggled with consistency throughout the winter and again their Achilles heel showed Tuesday.
Advancing to state are the top pair of finishing teams, along with the next top-10 individuals not on those squads. Centennial and Duluth East were the top two boys teams, while Hermantown and East landed one and two for the girls.
Alex DeRocher was the top skier for the boys. Following a solid opening run, the freshman spun out late in his second attempt. For the girls, freshman Paige Tranah and eighth-grader Sarah Severson had the same problem. All three skiers were, according to Zimny, three to four slots short of qualifying for state.
Zimny knows DeRocher, who placed 46th at state last year, had a golden opportunity slide underneath him when he lost control and spun out.
"Alex would have finished in the top five," he said. "I know he would have. But consistency has been our biggest problem all season long. Skiing is a real technical sport and takes time. I saw a lot of good things at practice, but that doesn't always carry over into a race."
Putting aside season-long struggles, Zimny remained positive as the season closed.
"We don't have any seniors on the boys or girls teams, so we expect everyone to return for us next year," he explained. "This is a bunch of young skiers who worked hard. I especially noticed a couple skiers really improve and that was nice to see. There were glimmers of hope this year."
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Nordic Ski Team
Meanwhile, the CEC Nordic crew will head to the Section 7 Meet Thursday, as they'll try their luck at daring Giants Ridge.
Last Monday, the Lumberjack girls won the Lake Superior Conference, edging Proctor-Hermantown by six points. Earning All-Conference honors were senior Kelsey Mudek, sophomore Molly Meysembourg and sophomore Korbyn Danielson for the girls, as well as sophomore Duncan Fox and freshman Reid Borchardt for the boys.
"I looked, but couldn't find a record of the last time we won the conference. I know it has been a long time," said Lumberjacks coach Les Martin. "Everyone skied well and it was a total team effort. It was a lot of fun to watch."
On Friday, things were different at Pincushion in Grand Marais.
"Our bus broke down on the way up," said Martin with a chuckle. "We got there late and they had already started the races. Our kids didn't get a chance to warm up and things were just a bloody disaster. We got to go swimming and eat pizza though."
CEC will hopefully get to warm up Thursday. Even with practice, however, Martin knows Giants Ridge is as rigorous a path as his skiers will ever take. So is the competition.
"East and Ely will be up there having a dog fight and we'll be watching it," laughed Martin about a pair of state's most elite teams. "Whoever wins the section between those two will win the state title, in my mind. We're hoping for a decent performance up there, but that terrain is so difficult. We're getting ready for it though."
Featured on the CEC girls section team are Meysembourg, Mudek, Danielson, Alyssa Michaelson, Elly Siptroth and Hannah Erickson. The boys will bring up Fox, Borchardt, Matt Rengo, Nolan Ripp, Dain Brademan, Mac Ryks and Josh Carlson.