Wisconsin High School Nordic Championship Predictions
One more revolution around the sun and we’re back to square one in the prediction game, or is it the predicament game? Either way, in reviewing last year’s bets, errors were made. I knew that already because I’ve had some personal confrontations, snide comments about reliability, Previgen ads popping up, snickers in parking lots and Facebook memes that are of a denigrating nature. Luckily no major sums of cash exchanged hands. A slight wound in a changing game that is behind us now and a fresh year brings a fresh outlook. Let’s get into it.
Last year Lakeland’s Casey VanHefty emerged the champion in a spring fling, klister filled, sweaty slugfest. As a sophomore, he put it to the upperclassmen and now, with a year of training and maturity, has the driver’s seat. Close back teammate Jakob Craig has put some injuries aside and trades hammer and nail positions in tight races all season. As a team they’ve pulled their number three skier, Leo Rotar, closer to the front of the pack and he has responded well to the tutoring.
Down south, Peak is leading the charge with strong skiing from Kaden Hacker, Noah Straka, Gaven Chow, and Ben Dohlby, and more, like youngster Easton Tolbert. With a large squad the returning team champions look in shape and with an in charge attitude to get it done again.
The Iola Winter Sports Club boys are young, but getting faster and with senior Owen Williams leading the way they aim to up last year’s second place with one big leap up and onto the top step of the podium. It could happen as Charlie Vater, Huba Bodor-Gosztony, and Bode Erickson battle for the two and three spots on the team.
Ashwaubenon Nordic Ski Team, as always, has contenders. Joe Stumpf, Noah Jahnke, Ben Buchmann, and Jonathon Hanson are well coached and want to improve on their 2021 third place. They’ll come loaded for bear.
Young, but improving and very viable to move up are teams from Chippewa Valley Nordic and Bay Nordic, some boys ready to make their Nordic stamp on the world.
So for the boy’s individual, barring unforeseen circumstances, I see Casey VanHefty retaining his crown. A classic start on Saturday gives a slight nod to his teammate, Jakob Craig, but depending on the time gap for Sunday’s skate pursuit, Casey pulls it off. Unless Kaden Hacker,and Noah Straka, Peak, catch fire and some good skis, with Joe Stumpf, ANST, being in the mix as well as Iola’s Owen Williams.
Of course Blackhawk’s Dietrich Mattison and Alex Zavadoski, Wausau United, have shown glimmers of speed and durability and could upset the pecking order.
Speaking of good skis, it should be noted that the Wisconsin High School Nordic Ski League has entered into a three year contractual commitment with the ski wax company, Swix. The coaches voted to use only non flouro Swix product for glide zones at both the conference and state meets. This move has leveled, somewhat, the wax part of the playing field. As many will note, it still leaves open the doors of ski flex selection, structure, application, experience with the products, and kick wax options; plenty of variables there. While the international ski organization, FIS, struggles to find a way to test and ensure compliance with non flourinated products Wisconsin high school skiing has taken steps to improve the environment and safety of waxers. Seems positive and here’s to hoping the spirit of fair and friendly competition continues all the way up the line.
Team wise, it’s going to be tough to beat Peak. They have the numbers near the top that allows for an off day here and there; backup. Lakeland has the elements to give them a run for their money, minus depth. They’ll need a solid two days from the three amigos to unseat the reigning champions. ANST and Iola will duke it out for third unless they’re both holding back for the big weekend upset.
On the girls’ side two names appear repeatedly at the top of the results; Fran Peterson, CVN and Ashley Grossklaus, Peak. At the Hodag Challenge Pursuit, early January, Peterson took the weekend. At the CXC Cup, Houghton, end of the month, Grossklaus for the freestyle day, Peterson the classic. Add in Greta Hansen, ANST, who split the couple in the classic and you have the proverbial flipping of the coin.
But wait, there’s more! Grace Kern, Lakeland, and Anne Straka, Peak, both want their day in the sun and Blackhawk’s Sophie Stevenson has been making her young self known. Outliers factoring into team scoring and placement include Madyson Rosenberger, CVN, and Josephine Kwazny, Iola, along with Lauren Carlton, ANST, and Eleanor Bennett, Wausau. Sylvia Meza and Kiera Rotar, Lakeland, could also make a dent. All worthy competitors and certainly among the top ten, their weekend results being decided by the final factors of fitness, ski skills, and mental tenacity.
The team scoring for girls looks pretty straightforward. Lakeland won at the Hodag, second largest meet in the state, they have to be considered the front runners. Typically led by Grace Kern, she has strong support with senior Kiera Rotar and the Meza girls, Sylvia and Stella. They’ve all had days where they look like team leaders, not afraid to pull to the front, and that intra team rivalry builds speed, a good thing and helpful for championship peaking, even at conference, where they swept.
However, several teams will keep Lakeland from a free ride in. Peak was a mere two points back at Hodag, they’ll be looking for revenge and they have a pack of girls to put the big hurt on. Did I mention that CVN was another point back with Fran Peterson and friends also needing to feel the love of a top podium spot?
OK, maybe not the straight line, clear cut predictions that I started with but it’s going to be a dog fight, cat fight, raining cats and dogs, or any other mixed metaphors conglomeration you want to apply when skiers gather for the February 12-13, 41st running of the Wisconsin High School Nordic Championship at the “Mount Telemark Villages”, Cable, WI, formerly known as the Birkie Start. It should take me another 41 years to get that straight, but given my social media/influencer status, that’s just fine.