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Ski Preview: CEC skis into winter season

CLOQUET - With less-than-average hand-eye coordination, Molly Meysembourg admittedly said basketball wasn't up her alley. Skis, a pair of poles and a winter hat were a better fit.

Meysembourg fits into skiing perfectly along with her entire family, and the Esko senior will play a big role on the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls Nordic skiing team this winter for her sixth varsity season.

The 5-foot-7 Meysembourg began skiing seriously in seventh grade, learning from her father, Paul, who competed at Stillwater High School before racing at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Her eighth-grade brother, Eric, is also on the CEC team. Mom Carolyn, and second-grade brother, Ben, also enjoy skiing.

"I love skiing so much - it's pretty much my life," Meysembourg said during practice Monday afternoon at Pine Valley in Cloquet. "Most people think you ski around in a loop and you're done. It's way more than that. It takes more practice and concentration than most people give it credit for. It's not that easy."

Meysembourg makes it look easy. Explaining she would go on family ski adventures when she was growing up, Meysembourg has gotten better over time. She narrowly missed qualifying for the state meet - just places away - as a sophomore, while she and classmate Korbyn Danielson have helped guide the Lumberjack girls to back-to-back Lake Superior Conference titles.

"Molly has really taken off, skiing is her thing," Danielson said.

Danielson, like Meysembourg, started skiing with her family on the trails behind their rural Esko home. She said she began in fourth grade. Her mother, father and brother, Halen, all ski as well.

"I love being outside," said Danielson, standing beside the Pine Valley ski chalet. "I could do this forever - as long as I have my skis."

Meysembourg and Danielson are just two of CEC's 49 skiers out for both the girls and boys teams, said fourth-year Lumberjacks Coach Les Martin Monday.

Martin, 70, spoke highly of Meysembourg and Danielson.

"They're the foundation of the team," Martin said of his senior captains. "They've been here a while and know how to ski."

Martin said they are similar in technique, while each has leadership skills and is willing to help others learn.

Meysembourg, who wants to be a teacher, said she sometimes will stop and help younger skiers how to ski.

Duncan Fox also knows how to ski. The Carlton senior is the top returnee on the CEC boys roster and will be supported by varsity teammates Matt Rengo of Esko and Nolan Ripp of Cloquet.

Esko graduate Raleigh Goessling was the last CEC skier to win state in 2010; however, Martin likes the team he has this year, too.

"We definitely will have much stronger teams than we had last year for the boys," said Martin, noting their season begins Saturday at the always-familiar Mount Itasca in Coleraine, Minn., followed by a meet Dec. 15 in Ely. "And the girls team should be as good, too."

Alpine skiers return experience

Ryan Zimny will again coordinate the Lumberjacks' alpine skiing program this winter, entering his 11th season at the helm.

Zimny said Tuesday that less than 20 skiers are out for both teams, including Esko junior standout Alex DeRocher for the boys.

DeRocher, a state meet participant in 2010 and 2012, cruised down his first run last season, only to fall during his second.

"That's part of racing," Zimny said. "Alex is so committed; he's got all the talent to get back - not just get back, but do well."

In addition to his high school racing, DeRocher also skis for the Duluth Alpine Club. This fall he made two trips to Colorado for training. The fifth-year varsity skier said he's been in the weight room, strengthening daily.

"I have a lot of confidence coming into this season," said DeRocher. "I remember that day at State. My ski just slid out. It was disappointing, but I've learned from it.

"Skiing is almost second nature to me," he continued. "I've made so many runs. I'm excited, just amped for the season."

DeRocher said his teammates are ready, too, including varsity returnees Sam Sinnott of Esko and Cloquet's Isaac MacMillan and Jack Fossen. Zimny noted the CEC girls will return state skiers Paige Tranah and Sarah Severson of Esko, as well as Cloquet's Carly Boder and Kaitlyn Knutson and Carlton's Tori Anderson.

The Lumberjacks will open their season Dec. 14 at Lutsen.

"We didn't lose anybody; everybody is older, stronger and another year experienced," Zimny said. "They're really good kids. Skiing's not done in a gym. And when it's cold, they don't whine. They just put on some more layers and go out there again."