Wisconsin State High School Championship Predictions
The 40th running of the Wisconsin High School Nordic Championship is going to be weird. No, I’m not talking about Covid. It’s the fact that 40 years have passed so quickly. The old, “time flys when you’re having fun” adage comes to mind, but then I look up and oh, yeah, it is 2021, not some dim distant past. So let’s resurrect “Back to the Future”, Nordic style, and see what the near future time machine holds. Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.
Disclaimer time. If ever there was a foggy Crystal Ball, this is the year. My data accumulation is thin, like weak gruel Birkie morning. In most cases the Covid impact to our sport has been minimalized. Smart people that they are, generally, Nordic types know how to mask up and socially distance. Someone told them they can get sick from germs and that science has something to offer, and they listen. A few might even say having an outdoor sport at this time is smart.
Coaches, skiers, and parents have adapted to restrictions and proceed to train, travel, accommodate, and race, safely. Unfortunately, not every event has been able to host because of the pandemic. Races were canceled, postponed in some cases, and generally my predictive factors have lessened. Being brave, I press on.
Aside from a few intersquad time trials, the first race of note was the Houghton JNQ. While the majority of Wisconsin high school skiers don’t attend, it sets the tone for the top end of the field. There are always some early season nerves and anticipation for the first meet. Unanswered questions about fitness, technique gains, and growth spurts come to mind. Only the cold hard facts of racing for a reality check.
Most Wisconsin skiers fall into the U16 or U18 age groups. Last year we had a hard charging, closely skiing group of U16 boys. However, that move into the “Big Boys” class typically sends some high flyers back into reality. The difference in muscular development and a jump in distance from 5k to 10 and 15k looms large for the newbies. Noah Straka, Peak, made the jump. With a fourth in class at the 10k freestyle on Sunday he left his contemporaries behind, gasping for air.
On the girls side at Houghton, Avery Tolbert, Peak, had a 7th, teammate Ashley Grossklaus a 10th, while Nina Chosey, Madnorski, came in right behind at 11th. A solid start to the season.
Next up in a race starved year, was a get together at the Iola Winter Sports Club that featured many of the teams in the state, especially the southern half. A socially distancing, masked, wave separated start came with a jaw dropping finish. In the boys, Straka and teammates took the win with a near perfect seven points. The girls, led by Anne Straka do the six point perfecto, crushing the other teams. Middle school boys, Peak, girls, Peak. Ouch!
And to add insult to injury the Boy’s Peak II team would have finished second in points if they had been another club. Looks like a Russian Conspiracy thing, or fluoridated city water additives, or they’re wearing out the man made snow at Lapham Peak, home training gulag.
Of course there are others. Casey VanHefty and Jakob Craig, Lakeland, have put up some promising results. Bay Nordic, as in Green Bay Area, have William Murphy and Issac Novak putting things together. Iola Winter Sports Club has Owen Williams,
who’s been looking for the right combination. The Blackhawk club, western Madison/Middleton fame, has up and comer Dietrich Mattison.
On the girls side, aside from the Peak whirlwind, the Lakeland trio of Grace Kern, Kiera Rotar, and Sylvia Meza look ready to contend. Chippewa Valley Nordic have Aubrie Ecker and Madyson Rosenberger skiing well, with a newly acquired Fran Peterson. They will bear watching and careful consideration for podium spots. Nina Chosey, and Kristina Rohrer, MadNorSki, have been climbing the lists and could certainly do damage to overall team points totals, depending as always on a third to influence team scores.
Conference is usually the last chance to get a good look at the skiers as they approach the run up to state, peaking and tweaking training, rest, distance and speed, as individuals and teams look for the right combinations. At the Northern Conference meet, held at the Birkie Start, the boys had a squeaker between Lakeland and the Chippewa Valley Nordic team of Marcus Peterson, Connor Jol, and Kristian Hudacek. Lakeland with 11 and CVN with 12 made it mighty interesting. Who knows how that tight skiing will impact team scores when everyone gathers, February 13-14? Or better yet, the postponed March 6-7 weekend temperature wise now looking like a spring festival featuring ooey gooey klister for the classic pursuit.
The girls also had a close one at Northern with CVN scoring 8 points to Lakeland girl’s 13. With conferences being an individual freestyle start, mimicking the order at state this year, it’s difficult to factor in the Classical Pursuit set for Sunday afternoon.
Some skiers prefer one technique over the other and some skiers do better with a chasing rather than a timed format. Of course kick wax adds another twist.
At the time of this writing I didn’t have results from the other two conferences, so, like Covid vaccinations, a moving target with a great deal of uncertainty, predicted outcomes will have a certified amount of variability. We have a new course, slightly longer at 6.75k. The pursuit is only used at the championship. New wax protocols limit teams to NF, non flourinated brands. Somewhat of a whole new world out there,
perhaps leveling the wax playing field. This year klister concoctions may play into placing, again messing with my carefully planned conclusions.
So here’s the straight skiing skinny. Peak is destined to win both the boys’ and girls’ titles, a rarity in Wisconsin high school skiing history. Second for the girls will go to Chippewa Valley Nordic with Lakeland a close third. However, we have up and coming programs with Wausau Nordic United and Bay Nordic. While I don’t think those two will shake up the top, they may scramble the other two podium spots.
On the boys side, Lakeland will have the upper hand over Chippewa Valley for second and third with Bay Nordic and Iola Winter Sports also gaining traction.
Individually for the girls, Peak’s Ashley Grossklaus may be in position for a win with her teammate, Avery Tolbert close behind. Nina Chosey, MadNorSki, may have a thing or two to say about that, as well as Fran Peterson, CVN, and Grace Kern, Lakeland.
The boys will feature Noah Straka, Peak, in first, with Lakeland’s Jakob Craig and Casey VanHefty duking it out for the other two spots. A possible upset could come from Staka’s teammates, Kaden Hacker and Nathan Grossklaus. Owen Williams, Iola, has been due for a breakout and he could be up there, along with William Murphy, Bay Nordic, and Aidan Earll, Wausau United.
Temps look good at this time, snow depth sufficient, Covid precautions in place, and volunteers are primed and ready, along with the professionally smooth running grooming and staff of the American Birkebeiner. Should be a great 40th!