Maijala dominates at section meet, CEC sends two to state
It being the week after the Super Bowl, let’s put the size of Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Nordic skier Anja Maijala’s Section 7 victory last week into football terms.
After the first, 5K skating-style leg of the combined skating-classical race, the Cloquet High School junior led by an amazing 35 seconds.
“For the other skiers, that’s like being behind by two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter,” coach Glen Sorenson said. “That’s disheartening.”
Maijala’s lung-busting time of 16:32.9 gave her a 35-second head start on the field in the second 5K classical pursuit race which followed — and she finished with the second-best time in the field in that event too, cruising to a 40-second overall victory and a spot in Thursday’s state meet at Giants’ Ridge.
“That is the best race I’ve ever seen her ski,” Sorenson said. “I think that’s safe to say.”
Sorenson admired the way in which Maijala, racing alone in front of the pack, held off her competition throughout the second 5K.
“She didn’t give them anything,” Sorenson said. “She actually expanded her lead.”
One of the competitors chasing Maijala was her CEC teammate, fellow all-state skier Erika Fox. The Carlton junior finished third in the skating portion of the race and fifth in the traditional portion, for a strong fourth-place finish overall that earned her a trip to state as well.
“Erika has been very solid all year long,” Sorenson said. “She is very consistent, always in the hunt and always has a strong race.”
Maijala and Fox both qualified for state for the second straight season.
They led a girls team that finished fourth in a very difficult section field. Sophomore Franny Slater finished 26th overall for CEC and junior Sylvie Deters was 29th for the team’s four scoring places. Ely and Duluth East qualified for state with Mesabi East-Virginia-Eveleth-Gilbert taking third.
On the boys side, freshman Aidan Ripp was the team’s top finisher, taking 19th place with a combined time of 32:31.1. Parker Sinkkonen was 26th, Tyler Northey was 28th and Quinn Erkkila was 29th for the team’s four scoring places.
All eight of the team’s scoring skiers in both boys and girls are underclassmen, an encouraging sign for the future.
The boys team finished sixth, with Ely and Duluth East reaching state in boys competition as well.
Now Maijala and Fox move on to the state’s biggest stage, and Sorenson believes they have as good a chance as anyone.
“They are both solid skiers and they have both been there before,” Sorenson said. “They are both all-state performers from a year ago and they have it in them to do well.”
Maijala’s dominating performance in a very difficult section race might give her an advantage, though.
“I’m not sure that Anja feels pain,” Sorenson joked. “It’s hard work to do the skating portion of the event, and you get time to recover, but doing those two 5K races in different disciplines can hurt. The mental toughness she showed while holding off all those skiers who were chasing her in the pursuit race was really great to see.”