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East retains its Nordic high

Kevin Pates Duluth News Tribune - 02/08/2008 BIWABIK -- Raleigh Goessling of Esko was feeling no ill-effects from a two-week trip to Europe as he dominated the Section 7 high school boys Nordic ski meet Thursday at Giants Ridge. At the same time,...

Kevin Pates

Duluth News Tribune - 02/08/2008

BIWABIK -- Raleigh Goessling of Esko was feeling no ill-effects from a two-week trip to Europe as he dominated the Section 7 high school boys Nordic ski meet Thursday at Giants Ridge.

At the same time, Duluth East's boys and girls handled the pressure of a defending champion and took home team trophies, while junior Alena Tofte claimed the girls individual title.

Goessling, a 5-foot-6 sophomore skiing for Cloquet-Esko-Carlton, won the boys 10.7-kilometer pursuit in 28 minutes, 51.1 seconds. It's believed to be the program's first individual victory since Matt Fischer of Esko tied for the 1991 Section 7 championship. Goessling spent Jan. 20 through Sunday with the U.S. team at the World Youth-Junior Biathlon Championships in Ruhpolding, Germany. The airline flight was 11 hours each way.

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"I was tired in school for a couple days this week, but I've been trying to eat right, and drink a lot of water and get more sleep. I was focusing today on feeling as good as I could,'' said Goessling, ranked No. 5 among Minnesota prep skiers. "While I was gone I had the perfect amount of training and racing. You can't get any better racing experience than seeing some of the best skiers of your age in the world. It was a phenomenal experience.''

Junior Gus Downs was second in 30:18.8 and senior teammate Grant Cook third in 30:50.4 to spark East to an 11th straight boys team title on a sunny, 20-degree day. The Greyhounds edged Ely 371-356.

The East girls went 1-2-3 with Tofte in 34:56.5, sophomore Marian Lund in 35:12.9 and senior Bria Kask in 35:44. The defending state champions have won 15 of the last 17 Section 7 team titles. East topped Ely 392-358.

The winning teams and top eight pursuit finishers not on the winning teams qualified for the Minnesota finals Feb. 15 at Giants Ridge.

Girls race

East's Tofte, Lund and Kask have taken turns placing first on the team this season and say they've enjoyed the competition. The Greyhounds have won all but one race and had a simple plan Thursday.

"We talked about how strong we needed to be and that we had an advantage with so many good skiers,'' said Tofte, racing for the first time on new Fischer skis. "We've improved during the season, skiing against each other every day, and we focused on that.''

After the morning classical 5.4K, East's threesome was Lund, Tofte and Kask. Tofte had the best afternoon 5.3K freestyle time to get first place. Placing fourth overall was Mesabi East-Virginia junior Laura Holien.

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East had six finishers in the top nine with senior Hillary Boyce in sixth, sophomore Amelia Black in eighth and junior Sarah Allen in ninth.

"We said that during the race -- 'Don't look back, charge forward. If you look back, you're only wasting energy,' '' Lund said. "We're very close to being as strong as last year's team.''

Coach Bonnie Fuller-Kask agrees with that assessment. Rated ahead of East are Minneapolis Southwest, Stillwater and Little Falls.

"Our top girls are strong in both classical and freestyle and complement each other. I don't see a real weakness,'' Fuller-Kask said.

Boys race

With a streak of consecutive Section 7 team titles, Downs says the Greyhounds don't lack for motivation.

"There are high expectations every year, certain standards that you feel you have to live up to,'' Downs said. "We knew Ely and Mesabi East also had good teams this year, and that pushes you.''

Goessling and Downs placed 1-2 in the classical and freestyle, while Cook was fourth and fifth. Ely ninth-grader Jacob Dalberg was fifth overall.

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Goessling followed in the footsteps of former East star Anders Osthus, who was with the 2001 U.S. Junior Biathlon team in Europe, then returned home to win the Section 7 pursuit title and a second straight state championship.

East is ranked No. 6 in the state.

"For a young team with only one senior [Cook], our boys have been strong and consistent all season,'' Fuller-Kask said.

Addie Byrne wins Section 8

Grand Rapids junior Addie Byrne, who also recently competed with the U.S. Youth-Junior Biathlon team, won the Section 8 girls pursuit race Wednesday in 36:53 at Fort Ripley near Brainerd, Minn. She's ranked No. 6.

The Bemidji boys and Little Falls girls took team titles. The Grand Rapids girls placed second and the Grand Rapids boys third.

Joining Byrne among state qualifiers were Grand Rapids boys -- juniors Kirk Gilbertson (eighth in 33:56) and Ethan Karppinen (ninth in 34:15) and sophomore Bob Carter (10th in 34:51.) Senior home-schooled skier Lars Ellefson won the boys individual title in 31:53.

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