Minnesota Sections PreviewJanuary 30, 2015
What a winter... After a number of Minnesota high schools started the season on fresh snowfall in mid-November, things went downhill rapidly. For most schools, just finding a location to hold a meet has been a struggle. Luckily, one way or another, most teams found a way to get in the three race minimum for section competition which begins next week.
Sections this year will carry a new vibe. No longer is it make-or-break for a team to win their section to have a crack at the State title. Starting this year, the new qualifying rules for the State Meet are in place. The top two teams (scoring based on four, but seven will advance) from each section, along with the six fastest skiers not on one of those two teams, will qualify for the State Meet. This means an increase of five skiers, making it 20, that will qualify from each section. Thus, 16 teams will now be fighting for the State Meet title.
With the lousy snow conditions, all six of the Twin Cities section meets have been rescheduled to snowmaking courses. Giant Ridge has been the most fortunate this winter, receiving a number of snowfalls which have most of the trail system open and in good condition for Section 7 (as well as the State Meet). And while some folks may think tilling up a manmade snow loop with a PistenBully is magic, the real deal is happening at Maplelag for Section 8, where Jay Richards has harvested, rolled, teased, and tweaked every snowflake to make an oasis of skiing in a virtual desert this winter.
If you've been reading our weekly rankings, then you already know: Some notable names will be missing from the section competition. Most importantly, Zak Ketterson, Bloomington Jefferson and the returning State champion, will be on the U18 Nations trip overseas, and after that, on to the World Junior Championships and other European competition, thus missing out on sections and the State Meet. Joining Ketterson are Wayzata's Nicole Schneider and Eden Prairie's Abigail Drach. While both those gals will miss sections, if their teams advanced, they can be substituted into the roster for the State Meet.
Here's our spectating guide for sections ...
- Section 1 Tue Feb 3 at Hyland Lake (Bloomington)
Margie Freed, Eastview, rose to stardom last season, has been skiing well again this year and should retain her section crown. Eagan has not one, but two surprises this season for the boys. Patrick Acton, and now his teammate Ryan Steger, have been picking up steam all season. The two should be battling it out for the section title, with Winona's Noah Poling also hoping to have a say. Eastview girls are one of our top ranked teams and should easily win the section. The race for the second girls qualifying team will be tight, with perhaps Hastings or Winona taking it. Eagan boys are our favorites for winning this section, with Winona number 2.
- Section 2 Thu Feb 5 at Theodore Wirth (Minneapolis)
Traditional powerhouses Wayzata and Eden Prairie are expected to rule once again. The Wayzata girls are the top ranked team, but Schneider and Drach out of the equatation, Eden Prairie may make it a little closer score, but we still expect Wayzata to take the section title. The improving Eden Prairie boys should come in first, with Wayzata second. Watch for a good battle between Wayzata's other superstars, Anna French and Michaela Keller-Miller for the individual title. Anders Sonnesyn, Wayzata, may get a challenge from Tyler Kobilarcsik, Chaska-Chanhassen, for the boys top honor.
- Section 3 Tue Feb 3 at Theodore Wirth (Minneapolis)
Bloomington Kennedy's Tamer Mische-Richter will go unchallenged in the boys race as he pursues the dream of a State Meet title. Erin Moening, St. Paul Highland Park, will have Kelly Koch of Burnsville, to ensure she earns the girls championship. St. Paul Central and Minnehaha Academy boys will dual for the overall title with St. Paul Central the slight favorite. St. Paul Highland Park and Burnsville appear to be the front runners for the girls team title, with Highland Park coming on strong as of late, but don't rule out some competition from Henry-Sibley.
- Section 4 Thu Feb 5 at Hyland Lake (Bloomington)
Another pair of perennial favorites, Stillwater and Forest Lake should see both teams advancing, with the Forest Lake boys and Stillwater girls for the overall title. Forest Lake's Rocci Wohlk and Leo Hipp are picks for the individual title, though Stillwater's Sam Hanson will certainly take another run at Hipp. It should be refreshing to finally see these pair of top teams both advance to the State Meet and settle it at Giants Ridge for once.
- Section 5 Wed Feb 4 at Theodore Wirth (Minneapolis)
The Andover boys look to be the favorites for the overall title with a strong club, as Irondale boys hope to be the best of the rest. The girls team race could be very close with Roseville the favorites, but Irondale and Andover will be in the mix as well. Xavier Mansfield, Minneapolis Patrick-Henry, is the stronghorse in the boys field and should take the title. Top ten ranked Sarah Bezdicek, Osseo, is the girls favorite, but keep an eye on a scrappy Hanna Torvi from Roseville.
- Section 6 Mon Feb 2 at Theodore Wirth (Minneapolis)
The boys race could come down to a three-way finish with Sean Cork, St. Louis Park, the favorite to go out on top, but Armstrong's Tom Norman won't go down easy, and Cork's own teammate Liam Schmelzle will hope to be in the hunt as well. Armstrong's Hannah Rudd is our pick for the girls title, but she'll have stiff competition from Benilde-St.Margaret's Amanda Kautzer as well as Ingrid Thyr, Breck. The St. Louis Park boys and Armstrong girls are expected to handedly win the team titles, with the Minneapolis Southwest boys and Hopkins girls best bets for runner-up.
- Section 7 Thu Feb 5 at Giants Ridge (Biwabik)
The Northern powers always provide some tough team racing. Goliath Duluth East has generally ruled, but not without challenges from the David's of the section, Ely and Mesabi East. The Duluth East boys got a little wakeup call from Mesabi at the conference championships and should bring their A-game to sections to take the title, with Mesabi East coming in second. Duluth East girls have been moving up, but this one could be extremely close as Mesabi East, Grand Rapids and maybe even Cloquet-Esko-Carlton all take a run at the championship. Anna Johnson, Mesabi East, appears to on form, but will receive pressure from a number of girls for the individual title. The boys title should be very tight as well, with Seth Prigge, Ely, hoping for some recovery from the conference championships, as both Keaton Long, Duluth East, and Reed Melicher, Mesabi East, will be making bids for the top of podium.
- Section 8 Tue Feb 3 at Maplelag (Callaway)
The Brainerd boys have been holding off challengers most of the season, and should take the section title. Expect St. Cloud Tech, Mora and maybe even an improving Little Falls boys team to be battling for second. The Little Falls girls reloaded quickly this year, and now appear on track to take the section title, with Mora the possible runner up. St. Cloud Tech's Cory Rouw is the clear favorite in the boys field. The girls race will be a real battle, with Kendal Hendrickson, Little Falls, Sadie Peterson, Mora, and Jenna Truedson, Bemidji, all vying for the title.
* Team tie-breakers use the total time of the top four skiers. If a tie remains, they go to the fifth, etc. up to seventh.
* View the full High School Racing Calendar for more event details, plus access race updates, trail reports, and eventually results.
One final note: This season has brought obviously huge pressure on the snowmaking venues in the Twin Cities. Please be aware that none of the venues, not even for sections, are closed courses. While most of the skiing public tries to avoid working out during the competitions, some people have limited time and access to trails, and could be on the course. Likewise, those that do choose to ski during the competitions should make their best effort to not interfere. Everyone plays nice, we all get along... :-)
Watch for same day results and hopefully coverage from all the sectionals!