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Nordic skiers find snow, race into season

A warm November and a snowless start to December put the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Nordic boys and girls ski teams in a wait-and-see mode for the season. On Friday, however, the teams finally had a chance to ski in an actual meet at the Ely Invitational (classic ski race) with CEC taking third in the boys race and fourth in the girls race on a day where temperatures hovered near zero. Four days later, on a substantially warmer Tuesday in Coleraine both teams finished in fourth place in the skate race, after tackling what is known as a monster 5K race course.

“The lack of snow makes you be creative in trying to find places to ski,” said CEC coach Glen Sorenson. “We search for snow and a large number of our skiers went out to Yellowstone over Thanksgiving to get some skiing in. Yellowstone is the mecca of Nordic skiing over the Thanksgiving holiday.”

The ’Jacks got a couple of exceptional performances in the boys race Friday with Aidan Ripp taking second and Parker Sinkkonen finishing third. Nathan Bich of Proctor-Hermantown won the boys race in a time of 16:35 while Ripp finished in 16:51 and Sinkkonen in 16:55.

“Ely was a course that was really well suited to the styles of both Aidan and Parker,” said Sorenson. “Both of them skied very well for us.”

Duluth East won the boys race on Friday with a total of 371 points, Grand Rapids was second with 358 points and Cloquet was third with 357 points. Rounding out the rest of the field were Proctor-Hermantown in fourth, Mesabi East Area in fifth, Ely in sixth and Two Harbors finished seventh.

Tyler Northey also had a strong performance for CEC by finishing in 20th and right behind Northey were Quinn Erkkila and Isaac Boedigheimer in 23rd and 24th place, respectively.

Duluth East also had a strong showing in the girls race on Friday, taking first with 379 points. Ely came in second with 365, Proctor-Hermantown was third with 345, Cloquet finished fourth at 335 points, Mesabi East Area took fifth, Grand Rapids finished sixth and Two Harbors seventh.

Hannah Bettendorf of Proctor-Hermantown was the girls champion with a time of 18:06 and she was followed by Nora Vos of Duluth East who finished in 19:09. Carlton senior Erika Fox was third with a time of 19:20, the top finisher for the CEC girls. Other finishers for CEC were Silvie Deters in 19th with a time of 22;05, Franny Slater in 23rd in 22:53, Emma Waugh was 29th in 23:26. CEC’s Erin Turner, Hannah Zuck and Andrea Hille finished 37th, 38th and 39th, respectively, for the ’Jacks.

“Anja Maijala was in Houghton, Mich., on Friday skiing with the USSA program in a Junior Olympic qualifier,” Sorenson said. “Fox skied very well on Friday and handled the race very well.”

On Tuesday the ’Jacks raced in Coleraine at Mt. Itasca and both the CEC boys and girls finished in fourth place in their divisions. Ely beat Mesabi East by two points to win team honors with Duluth East third and CEC fourth. Grand Rapids, Proctor-Hermantown, Hibbing, Little Falls and Two Harbors rounded out the top nine teams.

“The course on Tuesday was a monster,” explained Sorenson. “It is a brutal course and a tough one for a lot of skiers.”

Mesabi East senior Anna Johnson took top honors in a time of 15:17 followed by Emma Sterts of Grand Rapids, Hannah Bettendorf of Proctor-Hermantown and Erin Bianco of Ely to round out the top four finishers. Anja Maijala raced to a fifth-place finish in the girls race to pace CEC, with Fox finishing 10th and Slater 19th.

Grand Rapids was the top team finisher in the boys event by one point over Duluth East Tuesday. Finishing third was Brainerd and CEC took fourth. Mesabi East finished fifth followed by Proctor-Hermantown, Hibbing, Ely and Two Harbors.

Garrett Beckrich of Grand Rapids took first place in the boys race with a time of 13:57 which was just three seconds ahead of CEC’s Aiden Ripp, who finished second. Sinkkonen finished 23rd for CEC, Erkkila was 25th, Northey took 29th and Boedigheimer was 33rd for CEC.

“Every year both are boys and girls teams are knocking at the door in sections trying to qualify for state,” Sorenson said, noting that CEC competes in a very tough section. “We need to get more depth from our team and our third and fourth skiers will need to continue to move up and improve in each race.”

While the ’Jacks finally have gotten into the meat of their season that won’t last long as sectionals arrive in mid-February.

“The sectionals will arrive quicker than we think and we need to keep working to improve every day,” Sorenson said. “We have a team with a lot of numbers, we have great kids, a great program and great coaches and that will mean good things for us as long as we keep working hard every day.”