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CEC ski teams aiming for state

Cloquet senior Anja Maijala skis into the finishing loop at Duluth’s Snowflake ski area Tuesday, still placing seventh even after a binding came off her ski partway through the race. Jana Peterson/ 1 / 2
Cloquet senior Parker Sinkkonen gets off to a strong start at Tuesday’s Proctor-Hermantown Invitational meet at Snowflake ski area. Sinkkonen took fifth in the classic ski race. Jana Peterson/ 2 / 2

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Nordic ski coach Glen Sorenson has a goal for his final season as head coach: get both his boys and girls teams to state.

In Section 7, regarded around the state as arguably the toughest section in Minnesota, that’s going to be especially difficult — as Tuesday’s Proctor-Hermantown Invitational meet at Snowflake proved.

CEC finished third in both boys and girls competition, but narrowly missed titles in both classic ski races.

“Mesabi East, Grand Rapids, Duluth East, it’s such a tough section,” Sorenson said. “But these kids can definitely do it (get to state).”

In the girls race, Anja Maijala and Erika Fox finished seventh and eighth, respectively, despite Maijala’s ski coming off the binding in the middle of the race. Senior Sylvie Dieters finished 18th to give CEC three of the top 20 skiers in the field of 64 varsity racers.

On the boys side, ace skier Aidan Ripp missed the meet due to a Junior Nationals Nordic Combined event he was attending in Utah, but Parker Sinkkonen finished fifth in 16:18.7 for CEC, with junior Tyler Northey taking ninth. Senior Quinn Erikkila was 14th and Isaac Boedigheimer was 16th to give the CEC four spots in the top 20.

In the girls team standings, CEC’s score of 348 was good for third place in a tie-breaker with Grand Rapids. Mesabi East-Virginia-Eveleth-Gilbert was the team champion with 382 points, with Duluth East second at 366.

On the boys side, CEC’s total of 360 points was also third, but only 12 behind first place Duluth East and only seven points behind second place Grand Rapids.

“There are other meets for some of our best skiers and, frankly, Anja and Erika weren’t skiing terribly hard quite yet,” Sorenson said. “Anja is getting ready for a senior national event and right now Erika and Aidan are gearing up.”

The race gave some of the program’s vast number of junior high skiers a chance to compete. On the girls side, young CEC skiers took five of the top 25 spots while the boys took four of the top 25 places.

“We’ve had such growth in our program,” Sorenson said. “Probably half of our kids are in grades 7-9 and they need the chance to compete. They did very well.”

Four years ago, Sorenson inherited a program that had 13 skiers. Now it has 60, a growth rate of over 400 percent in just four years.

“The word is out that we like to compete and have fun at the same time,” Sorenson said. “I think that’s popular with a lot of kids.”

Too, Sorenson estimates that about half of the cross country running team is also actively involved in cross country skiing.

“There’s a lot of similarity between the sports and we have some talented kids who are doing both,” he added.

But the end goal, as Sorenson closes out his head coaching career this winter, is to get to state.

“It’s going to be very difficult,” he said. “But we’d like to get both our boys and girls teams there. They can do it.”