Winning their way back to state Nordic

Three local teams return to Nordic skiing meet

Eastview graduated its top four skiers – including the state girls pursuit champion – from its 2016 girls Nordic team, so the last place some might have expected to find the Lightning this week is back at the state meet.

“We have a group of girls who all started skiing as seventh- and eighth-graders at Falcon Ridge (Middle School),” said Brian Abery, head coach of the ISD 196 Nordic program that includes the Eastview girls team. “I don’t think I’d say I’m surprised they qualified for state. They’re a good group of girls who want to take the Eastview team forward.”

Eastview’s girls, Eagan’s boys and Burnsville’s girls will return to the state team competition Thursday at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. The Eagan boys and Burnsville girls finished first at the Section 1 meet last week in Bloomington; Eastview was second in the girls team competition.

Burnsville junior Kelly Koch goes into the state meet at first in the girls individual rankings; she was 11th at the 2016 state meet, won by Margie Freed of Eastview. Patrick Acton of Eagan is third in the boys individual rankings.

Senior Ana Brakke and ninth-grader Gabby Kraemer are the only returnees from last year’s Eastview state team, which finished seventh. They finished fourth and sixth in the Section 1 pursuit competition.

Koch, senior Krista Holmstrom, junior Hanna Holmstrom, senior Taylor Horner and ninth-grader Kaitlyn Qualley skied for Burnsville’s fifth-place team at the 2016 state meet. Burnsville goes into this year’s state meet unranked.

Acton and Eagan teammate Ryan Steger finished first and second in the Section 1 boys meet. Dylan Schuller and Ryan Conroy also finished in the top 10. All four return from an Eagan team that finished 12th at state last season. Jack Martin and Max Marshall also skied in the Section 1 meet and are returnees from the 2016 state team.

“Patrick (Acton) had a strong race, as we expected,” Abery said. “He’s been doing a lot of Junior National qualifiers. We were really pleased to see Ryan (Steger) have a strong classic race.” Steger had the fastest classic time at the Section 1 meet.

Abery said the Eagan boys’ goal is to finish among the top three teams; the Wildcats go into state ranked eighth by Acton is looking to contend for the pursuit championship in what could be a close race with, among others, No. 1-ranked Xavier Mansfield of Spring Lake Park/St. Anthony.

Individual qualifiers for the state girls meet include Brianne Brewster of Lakeville South, Harmony Weber-Langer of Lakeville South and Emma Drangstveit of Lakeville North. Boys individual qualifiers include Nathaniel Blichfeldt of Burnsville, Tyler Haroldson of Lakeville South, Bryant Ruff of Eastview and Duncan Ince of Lakeville North.

The boys 5-kilometer freestyle race is 10 a.m. Thursday, followed by the girls freestyle at 11:15. Classic races will be in the afternoon with the boys at 2 p.m. and the girls at 3.

Alpine meet

Jack Lindsay of Burnsville and Bailey Servais of Lakeville North are among the skiers going after championships at the state Alpine meet Wednesday at Giants Ridge. Both were individual medalists at the Section 6 meet last week at Buck Hill. Servais also helped lead Lakeville North’s team to second place in the section and a state meet berth.

Lindsay finished second to Eagan’s Tommy Anderson at the 2016 state meet. Servais was 13th at the state girls meet last year.

Other individual state qualifiers from Section 6 were Jake Abbott of Lakeville South, Brandon Wentworth of Lakeville South and Mark Biechler of Rosemount on the boys side, and Lauren Geary of Lakeville South, Renee Boldus of Rosemount and Kate Young of Eastview.

Eagan’s Izak Hofstad finished second in the Section 4 boys meet Feb. 7 at Wild Mountain. Camden Palmquist finished 11th to qualify for state.

First run of the state Alpine meet will be 10 a.m. Wednesday, with the second run at 1 p.m.

Contact Mike Shaughnessy at [email protected]