Wisconsin Nordic High School Sprints Prediction 2024

by Ken Schoville
February 1, 2024

What a weird, wild, wacky winter. If it wasn’t for good news from Europe we’d all be crying in our rapidly melting snowpack as we watched white turn to gray and ugh! Brown! God bless snowmaking and with my good business sense I’m going to be investing all my petty cash where it should have gone before. Of course the northern tier of Wisconsin got used to good winters; bountiful, beautiful, winter wonderland stuff; record setting in many departments, including using up grooming equipment with accumulating hours that now sits idle. Enough whining, on to the good stuff.

Several years ago the Wisconsin Nordic Ski League decided that it would be a good thing to make sprinting on par with the distance championship. If you were a high school skier who had aspirations of being a state champ, or in the hunt competitively speaking you needed to do well at both events on two weekends.

Of course Nordic race types are blessed with both fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers to varying degrees all linked to a cardiovascular system that is trained to a multitude of finite levels and then harnessed to a spirit that has a personality able to withstand pain, suffering, possible humiliation and angst for the joys of competition.

If it was track we’d have a duathalon combining 800m speed and 7,000m endurance; the physiological ying and yang of high school skiing in Wisconsin producing an “Skimeister”. Works for me. They do it on the World Cup in a different fashion over a season with the same outcomes, with elite profiles that is.

Over the past dozen or so years sprinting has resided in Madison; first around the Square as part of a surreal trucked in Winter Festival, later to a west side park, Elver, and finally to the CXC Outdoor Center in Middleton, all run under the good graces of CXC and one of the local ski clubs; MadNorSki. Through mutual agreement, WNSL assumed control of the event and the fantabulous new Ariens Nordic Center in Brillion became the venue de jour and Wow! What a shining new, vast array of snowmaking equipment you have there folks! A great place to be this year.

Saturday is Team Sprints day and with around 350 skiers entered it should be nonstop action; high school in the morning and middle school afternoon of the freestyle variety. Two person teams, everybody plays the game, some longer than others, and by late afternoon we will see who’s done their homework.

Sunday is an individual classic day with many waxologists pouring over the klister tubes as temps are predicted to swing from sub 32 qualifying to 40+ degrees for the rounds. Klister blister will be a real deal for some, along with a fair amount of sweat and sunscreen for all. This is the last year of a SWIX/WNSL deal limiting selection for glide, but with a full range of non flouro kickers to choose from.

In “the old days” the northern teams might have had a psychological/physiological edge based on snow time and length of season. This, of course, is a long standing myth exposed countless times by well coached southern teams with smug attitudes, chips on the shoulder, “we’ve got something to prove” enthusiasm, and long bouts of roller skiing, along with judicious road trips. Unfortunately almost everyone has the same problem this year, so we’ll see which cream rises to the top.

This year’s predictions are fundamentally flawed, lacking in hard data, and limited to a couple of JNQ sprint results, marred by U-somethings age groups muddying the waters and fogging up my crystal ball. Sure, we can look at last year’s sprint results, wade through the select kids doing the GL JNQ circuit, but to get head to head, all together results? Pure ethereal, will o’ the wisp, phantom musings. Not much to go on here, but drawing on outside/insider resources, a few key trends are observable.

Iola Winter Sports Club stepped in for the Rhinelander Hodag Challenge this year as the biggest ski event prior to the two championship weekends. Two days of mass starts, freestyle and then classic brought out some tight racing and meaty results.

In the boy’s team scoring Iola stands out for both depth and quality. The Iola ski coaches have made some sort of devil’s pact with the Stevens Point high school cross country running coaches, a perennial state powerhouse, effectively handing over enviable Vo2 Max capacity. Throw in a bunch of technique training, depth, chemistry, and you have my #1 pick.

However, Chippewa Valley Nordic, is also riding high in the boys department and had a key player missing at the big Iola meet. If healthy and all present, they’ll be locked and loaded, ready to rumble on the corn snow.

The number three spot will be contested between ANST and Peak, tough to call at this point and it may depend on the klister kids hitting the sweet spot of grip and glide as temperatures and sun exposure play havoc at the wax table. Fun times ahead.

The girls’ team predictions also hinge on the wax table, obviously, but also who’s recovered from the latest corona/nano/rhino crap that’s been making the rounds this winter and shows up present in more than body only. It’s just my personal conspiracy theory, but it seemed that we had a lot fewer colds and flu with a good dose of sub zero temperatures, hard to find this winter. I’m checking my sources, but I believe Aaron Rodgers agrees with me.

Peak and Iola were a point apart at the big meet and ANST was missing their #1 girl. As you recall, numbers don’t lie and Peak has the numbers. It’s not just the top three per team that matter, but all the little pushes from below as team members train and travel that add up. But, with a full ANST squad, healthy, on a close to home turf, properly motivated, and a with screaming crowd in the spectators mosh pit….definitely a run for the number one spot. That’s not to say that Bay Nordic and Chippewa Valley Nordic are left out. They’re both going to have some top ten spots and that third place podium block has a big question mark on it at this time.

After an El Niño for the record books were finally to the start of the championship weekends; the clan is coming together. The bags are packed, the skis waxed, coaches and team managers primed to kick in the necessary ingredients to the traveling teams road show. The silvery crystals of Ariens awaits. It’s gonna be a hot one!