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Boys and girls teams take second in conference meet

Cloquet sophomore Franny Slater falls momentarily as she comes around the corner to the finish line in Friday’s Nordic ski pursuit race at Snowflake Nordic Ski Center in Duluth. Slater took sixth in the Lake Superior Conference meet. Yvette Maijala/For the Pine Journal 1 / 4
Esko sophomore Tyler Northey races hard to the finish with two skiers from Duluth East hot on his heels in Friday’s Nordic ski pursuit race at Snowflake Nordic Ski Center in Duluth. Northey came in ninth place in the Lake Superior Conference meet. Jana Peterson/ 2 / 4
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The Lake Superior Conference may not be as big as it used to be in Nordic skiing, but the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton programs got a good test anyway at last Friday’s LSC meet at Snowflake Nordic Ski Center in Duluth.

Both the boys and girls teams finished second in four-team fields and earned numerous all-conference designations.

Proctor-Hermantown won both events which were a little unusual, as the varsity teams competed in a pursuit-race style, which was split into two parts. The skiers did a 5K skate race in the morning, which determined their starting position for the afternoon 5K classic race. Unlike a normal Nordic ski meet, that meant the finish accurately reflected the race results and made for some exciting final moments.

On the boys’ side for the Lumberjacks, Parker Sinkkonen was the top team finisher, taking fifth place overall. Sinkkonen’s total time was 28:12.6, with CEC skiers taking five of the top 10 places. Aidan Ripp was seventh overall in 28:44.6, Quinn Erkkila was eighth in 28:57.3, Tyler Northey was ninth in 28:57.3, and Robbie Sobczak was 10th in 29:22.4.

All skiers except Sobczak figured in the team scoring and all five CEC skiers earned all-conference designation.

“We did well there,” coach Glen Sorenson said. “We had skiers make all-conference who were non-scoring, so we are proud of all of them.”

On the girls’ side, Anja Maijala was second in a combined time of 30:49.7. Franny Slater was sixth in 34:41.5, Sylvie Deters was seventh in 34:46.6, Courtney Gregory was eighth in 36:20.7 and Emma Waugh ninth in 38:00.5. The top 10 skiers earned all-conference designation.

It was the end of a big period of racing for the team, some of whom competed in USSA events before the conference meet.

“Erica Fox and Anja Maijala both were in USSA just prior to the meet,” Sorenson said. “Erica elected to rest and Anja wanted to race. Anja did very well but she almost overdid it. We had her ski easy at this meet.”

Finding the balance between competitions for skiers is tricky at the high school level, and Sorenson said working with the skiers is important.

“USSA races are important,” Sorenson said. “We will adjust training depending  on where skiers are with their other racing. We don’t want to stand in anyone’s way, and the skiers are very responsible about working hard for their team and their teammates.”

Sorenson noted that Aiden Ripp has been invited to ski jump in Norway on the day of the state meet, meaning he would be out of the country if CEC makes it to state after next week’s section meet.

“It’s happened before,” Sorenson said. “When Raleigh Goessling was a high school skier, we hardly ever saw him because he was so excellent in the biathlon. You never stand in the way of the kids.”

The conference itself has changed. The LSC used to include Cook County, Two Harbors, Duluth East and the now-closed Duluth Central.

“It’s smaller but you still want to win it,” Sorenson said. “We’ll have our best team out there for the section meet next week.”

Section 7 is one of the top sections in the state and even with the entire team present and accounted for, success will be hard.

“We do call it the ‘group of death,’” Sorenson said, and laughed. “It’s going to be tough to advance as a team but we are in the mix. We could be one of the top two teams and we do have potential individual qualifiers as well. Skiers like Erica (Fox) and Anja (Maijala) have done it before, and Parker Sinkkonen and Aiden Ripp are knocking on the door.”