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Ripp heads to Norway for next competition

Woody Waugh (left) and Aidan Ripp get ready for the ski jumping competition at Junior Nationals in Illinois last week. Contributed Photo1 / 2
Aidan Ripp skies at the Nordic ski sections in February. Jana Peterson/jpeterson@pinejournal.com2 / 2

SKI JUMPING AND NORDIC COMBINED

***

You might say Cloquet High sophomore Aidan Ripp occasionally "flies blind."

As an enthusiastic participant in Nordic Combined events, which combine cross country skiing and ski jumping, Ripp has found what he'd like to do with his competitive life.

His problem is that he doesn't have an official ski jumping coach.

That didn't stop Ripp from taking part in the recent Junior National event in Chicago and it won't stop him from traveling to Trondheim, Norway, later this week for an International Ski Association junior Nordic combined event. The Chicago competition also involved Cloquet's Woody Waugh (see accompanying story).

Ripp also received a special honor Feb. 11, earning the Mark Herman Award from the Duluth Cross Country Ski Club, which goes to the area's top junior skier.

"That was my first time winning that award and since I skied at Snowflake a lot before moving to Cloquet it really meant something to me," Ripp said. "I know a lot of those people and it was great to be recognized."

Yet Ripp has bigger fish to fry, starting this weekend in Norway. He is the only Minnesotan to compete in the FIS event, which allows him to indulge his love for ski jumping.

"I love cross country skiing, any day, anywhere," he said, "but ski jumping is a rush."

Ripp learned the basics of ski jumping from Cloquet's Pat Marciniak and Cloquet Ski Club parents, but has been looking for a licensed coach ever since. That's a frustrating thing for a talented skier who might need a little extra boost to reach the next level.

"We've never had a certified coach since I've been here," Ripp said. "Pat taught me the basics but we don't have the certification in the modern style. There are lots of coaches from the "Central Division" (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and the Chicago area) but none that work with me regularly."

On a recent trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado for an event, Ripp met with Carl Denney — son of John Denney and a member of the famous Denney family of Duluth-area ski jumpers.

"I found out pretty quickly he was from the same club I belonged to, and he knows how frustrating it is not to have a regular coach in this area," Ripp said. "Duluth used to be the ski jumping capital of America but not anymore. Carl helps me a lot."

But heading into competitions without regular guidance places Ripp at a disadvantage. "It's frustrating because people will come from a club where they have a coach and I'm flying by the seat of my pants, not knowing if I'm going to get coached," he said. "I get lots of advice, but it's a gut feeling as to what to do and what not to do."

"You can take one jump and try to do what one coach is telling you to do, but when you do it a few times you learn what you prefer," he added.

One area where Ripp hasn't lacked for coaching is at the high school level, where he spoke glowingly about Glen Sorenson and his staff with the Lumberjacks Nordic ski program.

"In my competitions, I try to catch people in cross country skiing where I might fall behind them in ski-jumping," he said. "But the coaches in Cloquet have been incredible. Ben Cross helps, Arne Maijala helps and they have really been a blessing. The program challenges me because there are good skiers there who can push me to my limit."

But Ripp feels his future lies with Nordic Combined.

"It's something I want to do," he said. "I can still continue to ski and I just really enjoy it. There's something to be said for doing something you like."

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