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CEC teams nab 7 all-conference spots

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All season long, Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Nordic ski coach Glen Sorenson has talked about how deep his boys' team is. On Friday, Jan. 26, they proved it on a pretty big stage.

Skiing without junior star Aidan Ripp, the boys team still claimed the Lake Superior Conference championship at Snowflake Ski Center in Duluth.

"Aidan was very sick that morning, but he thought he was ready to go," Sorenson said. "But his dad called and said he just couldn't go. But the boys have a good team and they did it (won the conference championship) anyway."

Obviously, that was fine with Sorenson, but what was even better was that the results gave him a chance to talk about another elder leader on the team.

Esko senior Tyler Northey won the overall boys' race, taking third place in the freestyle race and finishing second to teammate A.J. Maijala in the classic. Freshman Benjamin Bauer was third in the classic race as CEC completed a 1-2-3 sweep.

Overall, Northey claimed the conference championship by four seconds over Maijala with Bauer taking fourth place and Josh Sanders seventh. That gave CEC four of the 10 all-conference spots in the boys' race.

Blaine Bong, Spencer Hoeffling and Nicholas Litke barely missed all-conference status, taking 11th, 12th and 13th places, respectively.

But the day belonged to Northey, and that was fine with Sorenson.

"He is our senior leader, he's our glue," Sorenson said. "And he's a fine skier in his own right. Tyler sometimes has to play second fiddle when Aidan is there, but Tyler leads each and every day. He got to shine a bit on his own on Friday and he is a conference champion."

On the girls' side, a young and building team took second place in the conference standings. CEC claimed three all-conference spots, with Franny Slater taking fourth overall thanks to a much-improved classic race. Exchange student Julia Elias and Cloquet junior Elise Pickar were seventh and eighth, respectively.

The story of the day, though, was Proctor senior Hannah Bettendorf, who won the classic race by an amazing 2:36 — and skied the best time in the race, male or female. Her combined time of 30:01 was also the best in the field, male or female.

"That was amazing," Sorenson said. "In all my years I had never seen that before and since I coached at Proctor that gave me a smile."

But Sorenson also had plenty of praise for his own team, especially for Slater.

"She did a great job," he said. "She's getting better. She didn't lose ground in the classic race. Her strength is still skating, but she is working hard."

With sections coming up Thursday, Feb. 8, at Giants Ridge, Sorenson remains pleased with how well his skiers focus.

"On the bus to Snowflake, I told the kids who were in the pursuit race that they needed to stay on their skis and go skiing again after the skating race to avoid lactic acid buildup," he said. "Every one of them did it and I'm sure it helped them in the second race. I don't have to look for them. I don't have to spy on them. They just do it. Every one of them did it and that's what I'm proud of."