Wisconsin State Meet Prognostications by Ken Schoville
February 4, 2019
I want to be clear from the start that this article was almost not happening. A major shutdown in the Department of Prediction was averted at the last minute by hard bargaining with the Department of the Interior that allowed coffee to be surrendered in exchange for garbage removal to be negotiated at a future date, and the crisis was averted. Luckily the War Department was not involved, nor the Department of Harsh Relationships and Hurt Feelings, so we are blessed with harmony and a clear outlook for the future. If only it were that easy.
Of course a reasonable prediction article could quickly devolve into a Tweet Storm as key players have come and gone rapidly since last season and the ups and downs of some of the current skiers are resembling the Roller Coaster at the Birkie Start on a mass start day. But let's pretend all is calm and the task at hand is as unfettered and defined as a wall.
Let's start with the boys, as they lead out the schedule on Saturday, February 9, with an individual Freestyle start every 30 seconds on the two loop 6.4 kilometer course at the Birkie Start area.
Unless the Conference Meet goes poorly, Jackson Adler, Ashwaubenon will be among the “A seed” to start the parade, as well he should be. Missing last year's gold ring by just a little over a second to Kieran Mullen, Lakeland, now graduated and departed college bound. Jackson's season has had solid results, both among limited high school races and the JNQ circuit.
A case in point would be the weekend of January 5-6 when the Hodag Challenge was held in Rhinelander under this season's typically low snow conditions. Most of the state's teams assembled to test themselves under what would have been state like racing: an individual skate start followed by a classic pursuit, which was turned into a skate pursuit with lots of club shoveling to keep the course fine tuned. The boys' results had Adler's ski prints all over them giving an indication of things to come. As of this writing he's number two on the CXC/USSA MW points list after mixing it up with the big boys from neighboring Minnesota, further cementing my rosy outlook for the boy at the state meet.
Contenders? Well, fellow teammates Ryan Thieme and Daniel Huhtula come to mind as they get to train with Jackson and are not too far behind at competitions. Peak has a couple of seniors in Drake Hacker and Cole Roeker who like to go fast and looked tight chasing each other at the Gitchi Gami Games. Eli Gore, Madison Ski Club always goes hard and could be up there. Cody Schneider and Jake VanHefty, Lakeland could pop into a podium spot. And while there is no head to head comparisons from the GGG weekend, a youngster who really impressed me from Iola is Owen Williams. Only a freshman, who sometimes get overly excited and blow up, none the less, this kid skis older and bigger than age dictates Lots of “whoosh” on the side of the trail when he goes by. Could be a factor. Two other freshmen boys that come to mind are Lakeland's Jacob Craig and Peak's Noah Straka. Both have had some good results and show promise. Stranger things have happened.
The girls individual places are a bit harder to call. Last year's champion, Olivia Dreger, Wausau Nordic United, is back for her senior year and skiing well. Runner up, Mia Case, Lakeland, has another year of training under her belt and returns a sophomore trying to put together wins. Both have had some inconsistencies that could make for another final drag race to the finish line like last year. A flip of the coin at this point. However, Black Hawk Nordic Ski Team has a steadily improving Alice House, now a junior and with things to prove. She had a pretty strong winning first day at Rhinelander and then took an extended trip into the woods during the Sunday pursuit day to confuse predictors. On the other hand at the 10k CL at GGG she was fifth behind a trio of MN U18 girls and the top UWGB skier. Hmmm! There might be some concern about peakiness and pending falls, but overall, she's in there and could grab the gold.
Also doing well at the GGG distance day was Lakeland's Johanna Craig. Solid all year, she keeps improving and looking stronger every race with focus and aggressive moves. While taking the classic title last year, she ended up sixth in the pursuit. This year Craig seems more balanced, she could be a top three with steadily improving skate results. Wausau United's Lauren Lackman was third last year and is always a gutsy competitor. She'll be in the hunt. Peak has the experienced and solid Isabel Seay. Fifth last year at state, she was second to Dreger at Rhinelander and not too far off at GGG. She'd might like to close off her senior year with a definitive statement.
The Boys' Team Title I'm giving to Ashwaubenon. With Jackson and cohorts, they'll be tough to beat. Lakeland gets the nod for second but only by a chin whisker to Peak as the points total at Rhinelander was only a couple off. Like always, it may come down to that third guy stepping up and skiing big and both have solids with Forrest Dorsey for Lakeland and Noah Straka for Peak who also can “ski up” and displace some upperclassmen. Of course the disclaimers arise as all could change at state depending on team chemistry, nutrition/hydration/rest factors, a bit of an unexpected wax outcome, and who had their proper serving of Wheaties, minus excessive screen time. But nobody else is in the running, so it's just a matter of which team of skiers has the drive to get the loftier view from the podium.
The Girls' Team Champions will be just as tight. Last year's champs, Wausau United, got beat at Rhinelander by Lakeland, by two points, with Peak only three back from them. Tight, tight, tight. This should be close, but with three seniors holding the reins, I'm betting on Wausau for a repeat in the horse race, then Lakeland, then Peak. And that should upset almost all coaches and athletes involved to completely wipe out my logical analysis and provide for Drama, with a capital D for emphasis.
This should be fun. State's supposed to be fun. But for all the hard working coaches; heads, assistants, who have labored long and hard in a not very snowy and friendly environment to keep motivation and fun in the team mix, this must be the reward, the fruits of your labors, when you bring kids to state. You all deserve warm hugs and accolades aplenty for your commitment to the teams, skiers, and love of sport under trying circumstances. Cheer yourselves silly at state. I know I will.