DRESSER, Wis. — The Stillwater girls’ and boys’ Nordic ski teams each placed second in Friday’s Suburban East Conference Championships under frigid weather conditions at Troll Hollow.
The Ponies scored 460 points to finish nine points behind first-place Roseville (469) while White Bear Lake snuck into third place with 436 points. Stillwater held off Forest Lake for the title a year ago.
The Stillwater boys held off Roseville 441-436 in a tight battle for second place, but both teams were well off the pace set by conference champion Forest Lake (471).
“We were glad to see temperatures creep above minus-4 (Fahrenheit) at noon on Friday so we could finally race,” Ponies co-head coach Kris Hansen said. “The air was cold, the snow was slow, but the sun was shining and there was very little wind. As long as you were skiing uphill, it felt very comfortable, weather wise. The best thing about the cold weather is that it makes kick waxing very easy. We tested two waxes in about five minutes and had kick that we could have used to climb a mountain.
“Roseville is a very strong team and there’s no shame in losing out to them — I’m very satisfied with second place,” Hansen said. “The girls skied extremely well in very tough conditions — probably the most difficult conditions most of them have every raced in. I’m very proud of both the effort and the results.
There’s lots of extra preparations that go into racing in the super cold and in racing a pursuit. We usually have a pursuit race during our regular season so we can work the kinks out on the two-race-in-one-day routine, but this year, we had to do that in the conference championships. Add to that the fact that it was extremely cold and the weather delay results in a much shortened rest period between the two 5-kilometer races and you begin to appreciate how many things the athletes were juggling.”
Stillwater produced seven all-conference honorees in the girls’ race, led by Vessa Pearsall in fifth place with a time 29:50. Rocci Wohlk of Forest Lake turned in the fastest time in the morning classical race and pulled away during the freestyle portion of pursuit to record a winning time of 27:04, which was 30 seconds in front of White Bear Lake’s Allison Ternes (27:34). Megan Weaver (29:53) finished just three seconds and one spot behind Pearsall to lead the Ponies up front.
“When it is so cold, the snow is very slow…. skis don’t glide well and you definitely have to work harder to get up the hills,” Hansen said. “You could see the effort in the faces of the athletes to the point where I almost felt bad shouting encouragement to them. You could just tell that they were working so hard.
Megan and Vessa had another chance to ski together, working together to get around that course. It’s nice to see them skiing so tight and that they can take teamwork to a new level. They were caught between packs, which can be a dangerous spot as the racing loses its spark. But by working together, they pushed each other the whole way.”
Cela Peterson finished ninth for the Ponies in 30:44 while teammates Shelby Ahrendt (31:26) and Haley Beech (31:54) followed in 12th and 13th to close out the scoring. Sofie Wicklund (33:18) and Anya Nelson (33:56) finished 20th and 23rd to receive all-conference honors while Morgan McBride was not far back while placing 25th in 34:53.
“Cela, Haley and Shelby continued in their traditional role of following Megan and Vessa’s lead and forming the backbone to our scoring,” Hansen said. “They are all three so consistent and solid. It was also nice to see Sofie and Anya collect those all-conference medals. This has been a year of great growth for both of them — hopefully that progress will continue to develop with some off-season training.
“I was looking at some photos from last year’s conference race and was struck by the fact that fully half of the varsity conference team has moved on,” Hansen said. “Usually we lose two or three, but last year we lost five, three of whom grabbed the top three places for our team at this meet. The photos reminded me what a young team we have and of how far they’ve come this season.”
After placing third a year ago, the Stillwater boys moved up one spot in the conference hierarchy, led by Paul Larson (25:23) and Sean Bjork (25:25) in the sixth and seventh spots.
“I was pleased with our second-place team performance,” Ponies co-coach Torry Kraftson said. “We have been battling with Roseville and Forest Lake throughout the season. Forest Lake is a talented team and earned a clear team title on their home course today. It was a significant accomplishment for us to beat an excellent Roseville squad. The SEC conference displays some of the top Nordic talent in the state of Minnesota. Our Martin Luther King Day pursuit race was canceled due to the cold, so the conference meet today was our team’s first opportunity to race a pursuit format. As a boys’ team, we jumped out to a great start in the morning classical race. We skied aggressively with a crisp, strong kick.
“Sean was a bit rundown from an illness earlier in the week. He had a strong classic leg but slipped a few spots during the freestyle to finish seventh in the pursuit. Paul looked strong throughout the day and slipped by Sean in the freestyle pursuit to earn his sixth place overall finish.”
Four additional Ponies delivered all-conference performances, led by Kellen Wessels in 14th place with a time of 26:37. Linder Wendt (27:34) and Sam Hanson (27:39) followed in 18th and 20th while Luke Richie moved into 24th place with a time of 28:35.
“Kellen kicked to a strong 14th position after the classical, which he maintained in the freestyle,” Kraftson said. “Linder and Sam finished five seconds apart in the classical and maintained that five-second separation throughout the freestyle to finish 18th and 20th, respectively. Luke earned the last all conference position by moving up from 25th to 24th in the freestyle pursuit. Davis, Matt and Mike each had great varsity performances.”
l Stillwater was well represented in the JV competition on Friday. The Stillwater boys swept the top four places and placed nine skiers among the top 12. Shad Kraftson ranked third after the classical leg, but finished the freestyle portion in 14:10 for a winning time of 29:36. Stefan Nelson (29:44), Ries Jones (30:03) and David Ross (30:04) followed in second through fourth while teammates Matt Fronczak (sixth), Quentin Ikuta (seventh), David Holmes (10th), Nolan Noer (11th) and Josh Daum (12th) also finished in the top 12.
“In the JV event we had some great performances from our rising talent,” Kraftson said. “Juniors Stefan Nelson and David Ross topped the classic field, while junior Reis Jones had the top spot in the freestyle race. Shad Kraftson (8th grade) finished 2nd in the freestyle. From top to bottom, our JV team showed grit and determination as they tackled the frigid conditions. Some of our skiers are out on the course longer than others and feel the full force of the cold temperatures. I didn’t hear a single complaint. The race was fun to watch as their technique and fitness have improved so much throughout the season. We are looking forward to big things from this group in years to come.”
The Ponies also dominated the girls’ race with Siri Brochman (34:23), Emma Rettner (35:24) and Kristen Diederichs (36:22) occupying the top three spots. Maria Kalambokidis (sixth), Hannah Beech (seventh), Rana Kraftson (10th), Siri Bohacek (12th), Christine Corcoran (13th) and Sintra Nichols (15th) finished in the top 15 for Stillwater.
“I’m also super proud of our JV skiers,” Hansen said. “We had a big group that took on the challenge of racing two 5-kilometer races in this challenging weather. Siri Brochman won both races and racked a combined time that would have put her in the mix for varsity. As a team, we had 12 girls in the top 20 (combined times), many of whom were first- or second-year team skiers. It’s great to see the strength and potential we have backing up our varsity.”
“Our waxing crew did a tremendous job of preparing about 200 pairs of skis for the two-part pursuit race,” Kraftson added. “We had 8 to 10 technical coaches preparing skis on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. These waxing efforts were a huge key to our success today. We also had many volunteer coaches on hand today helping with timing, bibs and kick waxing.”
Girls team standings
1. Roseville 469; 2. Stillwater 460; 3. Whitet Bear Lake 436; 4. Forest Lake 414; 5. Mounds View 359; 6. East Ridge 314; 7. Woodbury 296; 8. Hastings 236; 9. Park 122.
1. Rocci Wohlk (FL) 14:00-13:04—27:04; 2. Allison Ternes (WBL) 14:15-13:19—27:34; 3. Niki Reker (Ros) 14:35-13:35—28:10; 4. Caroline Brisbois (Ros) 15:00-13:27—28:27; 5. Vessa Pearsall (St) 15:25-14:25—29:50.
5. Vessa Pearsall 15:25-14:25—29:50; 6. Megan Weaver 15:22-14:31—29:53; 9. Cela Peterson 16:01-14:43—30:44; 12. Shelby Ahrendt 16:07-15:19—31:26; 13. Haley Beech 16:38-15:16—31:54; 20. Sofie Wicklund 16:55-16:23—33:18; 23. Anya Nelson 17:06-16:50—33:56; 25. Morgan McBride 17:47-17:06—34:53; 28. Sammi Potts 17:23-18:08—35:31; 37. Clara Wicklund 18:35-18:05—36:40.
Boys team standings
1. Forest Lake 471; 2. Stillwater 441; 3. Roseville 436; 4. Mounds View 411; 5. White Bear Lake 371; 6. Hastings 323; 7. East Ridge 309; 8. Woodbury 296; 9. Park 252.
1. Lucas Mason (Ros) 12:16-11:22—23:38; 2. Steve Hokanson (MV) 12:26-11:53—24:19; 3. Leo Hipp (FL) 13:05-11:49—24:54; 4. Jake Jankowski (FL) 12:42-12:13—24:55; 5. Wilson Pietruzewski (Ros) 13:04-12:08—25:12.
6. Paul Larson 12:58-12:25—25:23; 7. Sean Bjork 12:42-12:43—25:25; 14. Kellen Wessels 13:44-12:53—26:37; 18. Linder Wendt 14:16-13:18—27:34; 20. Sam Hanson 14:22-13:17—27:39; 24. Luke Richie 14:51-13:44—28:35; 29. Davis Gray 15:03-14:05—29:08; 31. Matt Trumper 15:01-14:28—29:29; 33. Mike Gilleo 15:27-14:06—29:33.
Contact Stuart Groskreutz at email@example.com