BIWABIK — The Stillwater boys’ and girls’ Nordic ski teams each placed fifth at Saturday’s Mesabi East Invite, which drew 63 teams and more than 1,200 skiers to Giants Ridge for the prestigious event.
Rainy conditions forced organizers to alter the course, but the Ponies managed to succesfully deal with the icy conditions.
“We had a great outing,” Ponies co-head coach Torry Kraftson said. “The iron range got even more rain than the metro area so the athletes didn’t enjoy Giants Ridge’s beautiful wooded loops, but they did get a safe, fair and challenging course along the downhill areas.”
The Ponies totaled 729 points in the boys’ standings to finish behind runaway winner and top-ranked Eden Prairie (798), Irondale (757), Tech (745) and Elk River (739). Suburban East Conference rival Forest Lake finished four points behind the Ponies in sixth place with 725 points.
Paul Larson finished ninth with a time of 15:49.1 in the classic race, which was won by Irondale’s Tyler Gilbert in a time of 14:49.4. Luke Richie was next for the Ponies in 60th place with a time of 17:33.9 and Mike Gilleo followed in 84th with a time of 18:23.4.
“Paul started things out for us in the classic race with an excellent performance,” Kraftson said. “His style was aggressive and confident. Luke climbed very well and can gain more time with greater aggressiveness on the downhills. Mike managed the ice with smooth, technical skiing.”
Sean Bjork, who is ranked 10th in the individual state rankings, crossed the line in 13:29.7 to provide Stillwater’s top showing with a fifth-place finish in the freestyle race. Kellen Wessels followed in 25th with a time of 14:33.1 and Seth Cattanach finished 89th in a time of 16:10.7.
“With temperatures continuing to drop for the freestyle race, Sean had hot skis in the tightly packed boys’ race,” Kraftson said. “He managed the choppy course by riding flat skis. Kellen powered up the climbs and Seth gives up size to many of the boys, but used a quick tempo to his advantage.”
The Stillwater girls also placed fifth while turning in a score of 698. Duluth East secured the top spot with 750 points and Wayzata was the runner-up at 724. Roseville (718) and Eden Prairie (715) followed in third and fourth.
Vessa Pearsall paced a strong effort for the Ponies in the classic race while placing seventh in a time of 18:15.2. Cela Peterson (19:23.3) and Haley Beech (19:41.5) followed in 23rd and 27th.
“Vessa earned her top 10 with powerful poling on teh flat stretches and a quick, snappy kick on the climbs,” Kraftson said. “Haley and Cela were each fluid and poised as they threaded through the field.”
Shelby Ahrendt (16:51.4) and Megan Weaver (17:09.6) placed 20th and 24th to lead the Ponies in the freestyle race while Sofie Wicklund finished 99th in a time of 20:01.5.
“The sun started setting during the girls’ freestyle race,” Kraftson said. “Megan and Shelby both used V2 freestyle technique effectively, which provides glide and efficiency on the gradual climbs. They were also aggressive on the descents, earning high points for the team.”
n Stillwater also fared well in the JV competition on Saturday, with the boys placing second and the girls finishing fourth.
Linder Wendt (18:11.1) and Matt Trumper (18:14.6) finished seventh and eighth in the classic race while Sam Hanson (15:42.3) and Davis Gray (15:44.1) placed eighth and ninth in the freestyle event to help the Ponies finish just four points behind Eden Prairie (416-412).
Sammi Potts (21:03.2) and Anya Nelson (21:24.7) placed third and fourth to provide a strong showing for the Stillwater girls in the classic race while Morgan McBride (19:39.4) and Siri Brochman (20:37.8) finished 11th and 23rd for the Ponies in the freestyle race as they scored 424 points to finish behind Duluth East (458), Eden Prairie (449) and Wayzata (439).
n The Ponies also competed in a 5-kilometer freestyle race against Suburban East Conference teams on Tuesday at Green Acres in Lake Elmo, where the girls placed second and the boys finished third. See Thursday’s Gazette for complete results.
Boys team standings (top 10 out of 63)
1. Eden Prairie 798; 2. Irondale 757; 3. Tech Nordic Ski Team 745; 4. Elk River 739; 5. Stillwater 729; 6. Forest Lake 725; 7. Eagan 715; 8. Duluth East 713; 9. Hopkins 710; 10. Copper Country Ski Tigers 698.
Classic — 1. Tyler Gilbert (Irondale) 14:49.4; 2. Harris Dimberger (Hopkins) 14:59.5; 3. Luke Brown (Minnehaha Academy) 15:05.4; 4. Andrew Egger (Benilde-St. Margaret’s 15:13.3; 5. Blake Murray (Marquette) 15:44.0.
Freestyle — 1. Nick Acton (Eagan) 13:19.4; 2. Tom Bye (Eden Prairie) 13:20.5; 3. Lucas Mason (Roseville) 13:27.9; 4. Zak Ketterson (Bloomington) 13:28.5; 5. Sean Bjork (Stillwater) 13:29.7.
Classic — 9. Paul Larson 15:49.1; 60. Luke Richie 17:33.9; 84. Mike Gilleo 18:23.4.
Freestyle — 5. Sean Bjork 13:29.7; 25. Kellen Wessels 14:33.1; 89. Seth Cattanach 16:10.7.
Girls team standings (top 10 out of 63)
1. Duluth East 750; 2. Wayzata 724; 3. Roseville 718; 4. Eden Prairie 715; 5. Stillwater 698; 6. Irondale 678; 7. Southwest 657; 8. Andover 653; 9. White Bear Lake 648; 10. Lakeland 631.
Classic — 1. Delaney Fitzpatrick (Lakeland) 17:12.3; 2. Kristen Bourne (Mounds Park Academy) 17:17.0; 3. Sophie Schuder (Duluth East) 17:39.4; 4. Bri Paulson (Eden Prairie) 18:04.5; 5. Eryn Stewart (Eden Prairie) 18:06.8.
Freestyle — 1. Anna Kubek (Duluth East) 15:12.6; 2. Mattie Watts (Irondale) 15:14.4; 3. Amy Bianco (Ely) 15:37.6; 4. Alayna Sonnesyn (Wayzata) 15:38.8; 5. Anna French (Wayzata) 15:40.0.
Classic — 7. Vessa Pearsall 18:15.2; 23. Cela Peteraon 19:23.3; 27. Haley Beech 19:41.5.
Freestyle — 20. Shelby Ahrendt 16:51.4; 24. Megan Weaver 17:09.6; 99. Sofie Wicklund 20:01.5.