Wisconsin High School Nordic Skiing Championship Preview

by Ken Schoville
January 29, 2010
The 2010 Wisconsin High School Nordic Ski Championships (February 13th) have several changes in the works.  After two years of hosting by the Lakeland Nordic Ski Team at Minocqua Winter Park, the event has moved to a different venue, Nine Mile County Forest, south of Wausau.  The energetic and reliable Wausau Nordic Ski Club will again provide support and logistics for another premier ski event.  Already this year they have sponsored the advent of a new Junior Olympic Qualifier, with December Sprints at Greenwood Hills, the running of the second oldest ski race in Wisconsin, the Snekkevik Classic, and the Nordic portion of the Badger State Games.  Instead of resting on their laurels, the club agreed to take on the high school championships on behalf of the Wausau West/East combined team, not a small undertaking.  With approximately 300 individual skiers and over 20 teams contesting in a single day pursuit format; classic then freestyle, there will be plenty of work for the volunteers.

In years past there was only one place to start when discussing the results and the expected outcome of the championships; Hayward.  With new energy under Coaches Janet Wisdom and Dianne Tremblay Hayward athletes can be expected to be skiing toward the podium pathway with individuals and team prowess, and true to form, we must begin any state Nordic evaluation with past history.

The boy’s side will be lead by junior Dylan McGarthwaite, a formidable force in both Wisconsin and on the Midwest JOQ scene.  His strength, endurance, and quickness have improved through summer training under Kevin Brochman with the Minneapolis Ski Club.  He recently destroyed the field in a mass start classic event at Theodore Wirth with a 47 second gap over second place and the rest of the field.  That kind of power has to make him a favorite among the boys and a team leader with a strong cast of characters backing him up.  Senior Walker VanDixhorn and Sophomore Jon Parr add to the mix and also have Alex Larson and Andy Kreyer to assist.

The girls will also continue with a strong group, some of them new and untested talent.  Senior Elizabeth Simac has been skiing well and is currently holding down number five spot on the JOQ points list among J1 girls in both MN and WI.  She’s lining up with Chelsea Tremblay, Jenny Parr, Meghan Wisdom, and Mariah Cooper.  While some of the teammates are new to the high school scene, none are inexperienced and all come from a tradition of success and excellence which seems to peak at championship time.

Lots of other teams look loaded this year, most noticeably hosting Wausau.  The West/East Combined boy’s team in particular has a great group of talented hungry types.  The Nicols brothers, Matt and Chris along with Adam Martin will be skiing hard on the 5.4 kilometer home course and be well assisted by Mark Hugus and Scott Geolden.  For overall depth, this team has it and will make life difficult for the other competitive teams.

The Wausau girls have enough of a population to field separate West and East Teams, both of whom will represent the center of the state well.  Ashley Marshall of West fame has won several titles this year and has fine support from Hailey Feltz, Allison McDonald, and Stefanie Sippl.  The East side of town is also strong with Junior Krista Maguire leading the way.  She’s joined by Maggie Priebe with the enviable lung credentials of sixth at state in cross country Division 1 running.  Add in Melissa Heeren, Kailee Homolka, a home course/crowd, and they could be in the mix for a podium spot.

Of course, being a hotbed, we’re not done with Wausau prospects.  The Newman/Marawood team has shown some power skiing at various events and with experienced coaches Bill Bowler and Scott Bromann at the helm have some rising stars to work with.  Senior Steve Wenzel is skiing big this year and has able support from Nic Bromann, Paul Dau, and Ben Bromann.  While perhaps not a podium contending squad, they have the potential to place some skiers in the top 10-20 and upset the apple cart for some of the contending teams; spoilers for sure and possibly more.

Ashwaubenon High School is the phoenix rising from the ashes.  The boys have an improved look for the year by keeping Phil Anshutz healthy and adding newcomer Paul Schommer to the team, a nice combination to start with since Schommer won the 10 km skate at the recent JOQ in Minneapolis.  They have the pick of Sam Egelhoff, Matt Medich and Joel Egelhoff to work into the number three scoring spot and that means they’re contenders.  How far up the podium they climb rests on improvements to the classic side of life, a worthy task for coaches Phil Nelson and Gary Kosloski.

The Ashwaubenon girl’s team is also not to be outdone by the boys with strong skiing Deedra Irwin leading the way.  She’s joined by junior Mary Kosloski, along with Maggie Jones, Lydia Fermaich, and Kesia Legois.  As a number four team at a couple of early races, they also have to be factored in for podium consideration.

The farthest north team in the state, the combined team known as CANSKI (Ashland, Washburn, and points in between), have been making good use of the snowfall this season.  At the Northern Conference Meet, hosted by Hayward at the “OO” Trailhead, they took second in team points.  Senior Scott Johanik leads the boys and has had an exceptional season, with wins at the JOQ in Itasca, MN and lots of seconds and thirds to add to his credibility.  With bothers Jon and James Gilberson backing him up, plus Corey Larson and Nick Oppendahl lurking in the wings, they have a strong hand to deal with.  Coach Doug Liphart has an expansive program and crossed fingers as they travel south with one of the strongest teams in memory.

Peak Nordic, a combined team from Waukesha, Oconomowoc, and the Kettle Moraine area is one of the largest teams in the state; last year’s boy’s champions, second in the girls, and snow or not, are always whipped into state championship frenzy by veteran coaches Mary Eloranta and Donna Hoelz.  The boy’s team is lead by David Joda, Thomas Sawicki, Kevin Lindlau, Adam Geissler, and Ross Kumlien, in no particular order, depending on technique.  They’re out to defend the throne.

The girls also have a strong group with Felecia Gesior leading the way.  She has veterans Krista White, Jocelyn Perry, Virginia Wightman and Nicole Martens to support.  Overall, a very close skiing group in the top half of any field and contenders for the title.

Let’s see, who’d we leave out?  Oh, ya, how about that Lakeland Team?  Always in the hunt, the boy’s team is lead by Junior Kevin Bolger.  After a summer training in “Scandiland” (AKA MN) with the Deno Johnson led Nordicwerks training program, Bolger looks to be on target for a top three place;  if the cards fall right and the heavens are in alignment.  Balanced in both techniques, he could be a factor.  His number two “Wingman”,  Erik Blow is a fine classic skier who’s putting his skate house in order.  With Brian Iltis, Kyle Hunter, Randy Holcombe, and up-and-coming Doug Malicki, they might have enough firepower to make a team impact.

The Lakeland girls have Senior Dana Roach leading.  An experienced and technical skier, she could have a top three finishing day and leads Hannah and Bella Weiss, and Delaney Fitzpatrick in the quest for gold; although silver or bronze are also hoped for options.

Other teams should have strong individuals and could again have an impact on team titles as they take away top spots.  Spooner’s Brooke Adams is hoping to repeat as state champion and has competition, but is currently the odds on favorite.  Over in the Northwest part of the state reside the Amber girls, coached by CXC’s Bill Pierce.  Last year as a freshman, Nicolette took third overall and this year her sister, Olivia joins her.  Both are fast and without a team, could suck away points from the leaders.  On the boys side, Iola’s Joey Cal has top ten potential, as well as Chris Rhude of Madison.

Other teams to watch are the emerging Chippewa Valley, Lodi, Rhinelander, Iola Winter Sports Club, Madison, and the newly formed Central Nordic.  All have developing individuals and programs that could play a key role in deciding state champions, as well as developing team results.

With pursuit championships to be decided in Wausau, the sprint championships will be held the following weekend, February 20-21 in Madison.  As part of the Madison Winter Festival/SuperTour expect the same teams named above to be looking for a different aspect of the sport and perhaps a little revenge based on the pursuit results.  Creative Race Director, Yuiry Gusev has thrown another race into the mix with a criterium Saturday morning, in addition to the team relay sprints at night.  Sunday will allow for individual sprint champions as the weekend draws to a close.  The skiers should sleep well on the way home.

Wisconsin has been blessed with a good winter, even with El Nino conditions.  The skiers have trained hard, coaches have put in their road warrior hours, parents have waxed and angst aplenty and now the races are about to begin.  To all the competitors, fast skis and good times!