CEC skiers prepare for late-season push
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
For high school skiers, the next couple weeks are arguably the most vital on their schedules. During that time, both the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Nordic and alpine ski teams will finish their regular seasons and fine-tune their techniques, aiming to ski their best by the sections in early February.
“These next few meets are what it’s all about,” said CEC Nordic coach Les Martin. “It’s getting down to it. The kids are getting ready. And I think they’re excited.”
Martin’s Nordic bunch most recently took the paths Monday in Duluth at the annual Marshall Sprints. Eight teams – roughly 150 skiers – participated in the uniquely-formatted event which featured a junior high sprint, a preliminary varsity race and both an upper and consolation bracket-like competition to close the afternoon.
Martin was pleased with how things turned out. He said the highlight of the day came when Esko senior Kelsey Mudek and Esko sophomore Korbyn Danielson advanced to the varsity quarterfinals of the sprints.
“I was pretty happy with both Kelsey and Korbyn,” he said. “Those girls skied very well. Last year at the sprints, they weren’t even close to advancing. They have really improved.”
Carlton sophomore Duncan Fox also advanced to the quarterfinals for the boys.
Heading the consolation round of the sprints Monday was Cloquet eighth-grader Nolan Ripp, who placed 12th for the boys, while Esko freshman Hannah Erickson claimed 13th in the girls division.
Esko freshmen Reid Borchardt and Josh Carlson guided the Lumberjacks’ attack in the junior high run, as Borchardt finished second and Carlson right behind, in third place.
“That junior high race was pretty competitive, and we did quite well” Martin said. “We had last week off and it was a bit nippy outside at practice, but all the kids are coming along. They’re improving and getting better.”
But Martin knows it doesn’t get any easier. Friday, his crew will head to the Duluth East Invitational and Monday, they’ll take part in the Lake Superior Conference Meet at Snowflake in Duluth. That following week, sections will be at Giants Ridge, Feb. 10. State will be Feb. 17.
“We’ve got some big meets coming up,” said Martin. “We’ll see where we’re at.”
Ryan Zimny can also relate to Martin with his CEC alpine bunch.
The Lumberjacks downhillers have just a pair of races left on their schedule until the postseason hits. Right now, according to Zimny, his skiers are looking fairly solid.
“There are still some issues with consistency, but they are all improving,” Zimny said. “I can really see it at practice. They’ve really been coming around.”
As a team, CEC turned in its best performance yet in the last two competitions. At the Duluth Invitational at Spirit Mountain last week, both Esko freshmen Alex DeRocher and Paige Tranah headed the pack, finishing in the top 10.
“Those two skied very well,” said Zimny. “Paige has been improving all season, while Alex is just fast. It was a poorly organized meet, so they each only got one run, but they did well. They’re starting to put it together.”
The week preceding the Duluth Invite saw the Lumberjacks fare well at the LSC Meet at Mont du Lac in Superior. CEC took home runner-up spots in both the boys and girls divisions, and were the top overall team in attendance of four competing schools.
DeRocher finished in second individually, while junior Kelsey Anderson and freshman Tori Anderson sped across the finish line in fifth and sixth. All three were named to the All Conference team.
“The girls should have won that race,” Zimny said. “Our top three skiers went down and we finished in second by just a point. Our girls could have easily won it all.”
Despite some plaguing consistency issues with their combined runs this winter, Zimny expects DeRocher, Tranah and eighth-grade standout Sarah Severson as ones to have a chance for state.
“If they stay on their feet, they’ll have a shot,” he said. “I think everyone’s excited.”
Sections will be held at Giants Ridge on Feb. 8 and state competition is Feb. 16.