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Two CEC freshmen advance to State

Anja Maijala (left) and Erika Fox stand together after finishing in seventh and fifth place, respectively, at last Thursday’s Section 7 Nordic ski meet. The pair of freshmen will compete at the state meet today (Thursday, Feb. 13) at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. Contributed Photo1 / 7
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Freshmen girls Erika Fox of Carlton (left) and Anja Maijala of Cloquet (second from right) placed 27th and 39th, respectively, overall out of the best in the state! Photo contributed by Yvette Maijala7 / 7

CLOQUET—Glen Sorenson packed in every detail before he exited for home from the Pine Valley chalet Tuesday. The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton cross country ski coach was surrounded by a few members of the supporting horde he was going to lead to Thursday’s Nordic ski racing state meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.

“I’ll bring the veggie tray,” Sorenson said. Spaghetti with gluten-free options was on the menu, too. Hannah Erickson of Esko was right in the mix with him, planning and leading in a manner befitting the senior’s team captain title.

The team had been to Giants Ridge just the week before. Freshmen girls Erika Fox of Carlton and Anja Maijala of Cloquet punched their tickets to state with fifth- and seventh-place finishes at the Section 7 meet Feb. 6. Cloquet-Esko-Carlton finished fourth in the 10-team section for their efforts. The state-bound teammates were both within 1 minute, 10 seconds of race winner, Anna Johnson of Mesabi East-Virginia-Eveleth-Gilbert, with Fox finishing the 5.2-kilometer freestyle and 5.3K classic races in a combined 36:31.7. Maijala clocked a 36:54.1.

That Fox earned the state bid is not a surprise. She’s hunted state all season, from one ski outpost to the next, racking up miles in practice and top finishes everywhere she’s raced. With the state moment at hand, she’s serious about competing. “I’m going to try to do my best and whatever happens, happens,” she said.

Specifically for the calculated Fox, she wants to see where all her hard work puts her on the leaderboard. How much did it, in fact, pay off is the question on her mind.

For sheer emotion, you have to talk to Fox about Maijala.

“I’m so proud of her,” Fox said. “It’s awesome.”

As a ninth-grader, Maijala is already a veteran of the cross country running state meet. But this was more unexpected. This was the product of hard work and being an observant and quick study. She’s still climbing, too, chewing up more and more competitors with every race. She started the season with a 22nd-place finish. It was all up and downhill from there, going faster nearly every time. Now she’s tapering to her peak like she was following a script on how to unfold athletic performance over the course of a season.

“Glen’s way of coaching just kind of worked with me,” she said. “We did a lot of early miles and put in a lot of hours. It’s all paid off.”

She said she felt a swell of pride when she finished the classic race at the section meet, knowing she had earned the right to participate in another, better race to end her season. She may not have gotten there had she not been such a good student of the craft and taken notes from those around her.

“Erika was logging lots of miles and I figured I’d do it, too,” Maijala said. “I’d watch her and if she’d stand straighter up on her double pole, I’d try standing straighter up on my double pole.”

Assistant Coach Dusty Olson helped her smooth out her V2 skate skiing so that she became more efficient on hills. Also, she’d previously kept her hands too far from her body while double poling, but now it’s just her elbows out and hands in tighter, just like Olson taught her.

“I didn’t have the best technique,” Maijala said, “so I’d do it over and over because I wanted to get it perfect.”

Despite her efforts, Maijala remains surprised by her success.

“I’m still kind of puzzled by it,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting it.”

Yet here it is, time for the state meet. The planning of the post-race party already a reality. Fox and Maijala, the reasons to celebrate.

Editor’s note: Look in next week’s Pine Journal and online for local results of the state Nordic ski meet.


Boys Team Results

(winner advances to State)

1. Duluth East 381

2. Mesabi East-Virginia Area-

Eveleth-Gilbert 363

3. Proctor-Hermantown 346

4. Grand Rapids 339

5. Ely 313

6. Duluth Denfeld 291

7. Hibbing 279

8. Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 270

9. Duluth Marshall 177

10. Cook County 166

11. Two Harbors 165

12. Deer River 35

Girls Team Results

(winner advances to State)

1. Duluth East 375

2. Mesabi East-Virginia Area-

Eveleth-Gilbert 372

3. Ely 342

4. Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 341

5. Grand Rapids 332

6. Proctor-Hermantown 284

7. Two Harbors 247

8. Duluth Denfeld 235

9. Hibbing 234

10. Deer River 50