Cloquet-Esko-Carlton juniors Anja Maijala and Erika Fox repeated as all-state performers Wednesday, Feb. 10, with Maijala earning third place in the Minnesota State Nordic Ski Meet and Fox taking eighth.
Maijala finished fourth in the freestyle portion of the two-race meet and third in the classical race, for a two-leg combined time of 33:19, 35 seconds behind champion Margie Freed of Eastview.
Fox was eighth overall in 34:07.2, as Section 7 skiers claimed four of the top 13 places in the state’s biggest race.
“I’m very pleased with it,” Maijala said. “It was a season of hard work and team building and bettering my technique and strength as a skier. I think my performance reflects my season, improving myself.”
Both Maijala and coach Glen Sorenson said there was one key factor in Maijala’s success — Erika Fox.
The junior, who attends Carlton High School, has been a major influence on her teammate.
“Anja really looks up to Erika,” Sorenson said. “Erika is a very quiet leader who leads by example and it shows.”
“When Anja entered the program in seventh grade, Erika was the accomplished skier and that made an impression on Anja,” Sorenson added. “They ski together and it’s great to watch.”
“It’s been fun with Erika,” Maijala said. “We have both taken our skiing up a notch and in the Junior Olympics too. I feel like she has taught me the most about technique, and coming from another athlete of my age, details matter. I’ll watch her and ask questions. She has definitely helped me with the level we’re at now. It’s just super fun to learn with her. Erika deserved her finish at state and I’m very happy for her.”
Maijala credits Fox for a small change in her skiing form that led to a dominant Section 7 performance and a great finish at state.
“We went to Giants Ridge to ski the course together before sections and I asked her a question about my skiing and it made all the difference,” Maijala said. “Glen (Sorenson) is a great coach who makes it fun and teaches me something every day, but Erika always finds ways to comment on things that matter to my skiing. She’s super cool.”
The other thing that was “super” to Maijala was her finish.
“At the starting line it was nervous but I knew it would be super cool if I got top three and thinking of how it would reflect on my team,” she added. “Having friends and fans out there motivated me to push harder.”
That push continued after the state meet, with both Maijala and Fox making the Junior Olympic Midwest team after a season-long series ended last weekend at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis.
Maijala finished sixth and Fox seventh in the season-long standings and both will represent the Midwest at the Junior Olympic national meet in Cable, Wis., later this month.
As if that wasn’t enough, Maijala earned the inaugural Patrice Jankowski Award from the DXC cross country skiing group in Duluth last weekend. That stands for “Duluth Cross Country” and is a 600-member group dedicated to raising awareness about the sport in the Twin Ports.
Jankowski won the first two Minnesota girls’ state Nordic ski championships and later represented the United States in the Olympics. Her name is posted on the Olympic Park sign outside the Pine Valley ski area.
“That was a case of Duluth reaching out to Cloquet,” Sorenson said. “I thought that was great.”