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NORDIC: Ripp takes 15th at State

t0021518 --- Clint Austin -- 021618.DNT.S.NORDIC.C14 ---Aidan Ripp of Cloquet-Esko-Carlton classic skis during the state Nordic skiing meet Thursday, Feb. 15, at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. --- Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com1 / 2
t0021518 --- Clint Austin -- 021618.DNT.S.NORDIC.C16 --- Tyler Northey of Cloquet-Esko-Carlton skis to the finish line during the state Nordic skiing meet. --- Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com2 / 2

Great snow conditions greeted skiers at the Minnesota State High School Nordic ski meet Thursday, Feb. 15, at Giants Ridge. Two Cloquet-Esko-Carlton skiers, Aidan Ripp and Tyler Northey, participated, with Ripp finishing in 15th place and being named All-State in the process.

"The conditions were great and fair for all the skiers," said retiring CEC coach Glen Sorenson. "The course was set up beautifully and it was equal for everyone."

Nordic skiing features a 5-kilometer freestyle race in the morning, followed by a 5K classic race in the afternoon. Grand Rapids junior Garrett Beckrich was the overall winner in the race for the boys, with Mara McCollor of Wayzata taking the girls title.

"Aidan has been going non-stop in his skiing between high school skiing and then skiing in the U.S. junior Nordic combine events, so he has been a bit worn down," Sorenson said. "He was feeling a little better at the state meet, but he gutted it out and did his best and did a great job."

Ripp's schedule has been a bit of whirlwind and last week was no different.

"After the race he drove back home to Cloquet with us and then jumped in a car and drove to the airport in Minneapolis to get on a flight on Friday to participate in a combine event in Vermont," Sorenson said. "After the event, he flew up to Alaska, where he is participating in an event."

Due to being ranked in the top 5 in the country in Nordic combine, Ripp has been literally torn between trying to establish himself at an event that features ski jumping combined with cross-country skiing and then also racing for his hometown high school team, according to Sorenson.

"That's a tough situation to be in," he said. "Do you practice to peak for state or do you try and peak for the junior team? Either way, Aidan skied very well and he is one of the top junior Nordic skiers in the country."

Northey completed his high school career by finishing 103rd overall after having a slow start in the skating portion of the event in the morning.

"I am sure Tyler wished he would have skated better in the freestyle in the morning," Sorenson said. "In the classic race,Tyler just pounded it and he ended up passing over 20 other skiers, so to see him come in and finish so strong with a smile on his face in his last high school race was just a great thing to see."

While Ripp and Northey made the state meet and Ripp was named All-State, Franny Slater also was named Academic All-State. To be named to the All-State Academic Team, a skier must have a grade-point average of 3.9 or higher.

After more than 30 years of coaching, Sorenson has announced that this would be his last season. He leaves a huge legacy with big shoes to fill. In 1979, Sorenson started a girls program at Proctor and then did the same in 1982 for the then-Duluth Cathedral Hilltoppers. In 1989, Sorenson headed back to Proctor, where he started a boys program and eventually matriculated to Cloquet, where numbers were sagging.

"I think that our numbers were under 20 total kids when I started in 2013," Sorenson said. "We now have 70 kids from grades 7-12 who skied and participated in high school events during the season. Most of the time, we were taking about 60 kids per race when you add up the junior high races, the junior varsity races and the varsity races."

With the program on solid ground, Sorenson was reflective on his five years at the helm for CEC.

"It is just the ideal situation with Pine Valley being all about skiing and a great facility," he said. "The parents have been unbelievable and so supportive and helpful. The kids have all be just incredible. It's been an absolute pleasure coaching such great kids."