by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Elk River-Rogers-Zimmerman boys Nordic Ski team finds itself ranked No. 4 in the state after a strong showing at the huge Mesabi Invitational on Jan. 12.
The Elks placed fourth among 64 teams in the state’s biggest regular-season event, held at the site of the state meet. The only downside was the Eden Prairie, a team in ERZ’s section, was the boys champion. The Elks beat five other section teams.
SkinnySki.com’s latest state rankings reflect the order of finish at Mesabi, with Eden Prairie, Irondale, St. Cloud Tech, ERZ and Ely in the top five. Duluth East and Wayzata lead the girls rankings.
The Elk girls had a solid showing that day, too, placing 22nd.
“They are really seeing the results show now,” said coach Kirsten Anderson, about both teams working hard for this season, starting in the summer.
At Mesabi, Jake Schroeder placed 10th, Breck Hickman 19th and Dan Janasz 100th in freestyle, while Joey Martin placed 24th, Nate Webster 36th and Bem Vrchota 96th in classic.
For the girls, Reece Hickman was 32nd, Anna Haugen 59th and Shannon White 96th in classic, while Mary Elmquist was 47th, Mallory Adams 69th and Maggie Hohlen 109th in freestyle. Competing for Rogers, Brittney Dorn placed 38th in freestyle.
The Elks are looking ahead to the Northwest Suburban Conference meet Wednesday, Jan. 30, at Baker National Park and Golf Course in Medina, and the sectionals Feb. 6 at Wirth Golf Club in Minneapolis.
“We are gearing up to make a solid push in the conference race. We know results will be tight,” said Anderson. “Sections will be even tougher … with only one boys team and one girls team qualifying.”
In a meet last week at Elm Creek involving all the conference teams, the boys placed first among 11 teams and the girls were second, just 2.5 points behind Andover. In smaller meets of three and four teams, the boys have won each time, with the girls either first or second.
Seniors Webster, Schroeder, and Ryan Trapp and juniors Hickman and Martin have been leading the boys.
“They have been pushing each other each day, really making each other step up and reaching for the high goals,” said Anderson. “They have been a huge asset to the whole team with their dedication and their readiness to do everything that will help them and the team.”
Girls leaders have been senior Elmquist, sophomore Hickman, and junior Adams.
“Those girls have put everything into skiing,” said Anderson, “and it is really showing in their improvement from last year and in the example they are setting.”
Dorn, a junior, has also stepped up this season and will play a key role at conference. Sophomores Hohlen, White, Emma Crane, and Ali Manthey back them up. The sixth boy has been junior Tommy Como.
At the conference meet, the top six count, and at section, the top four count. At sections, Como and Dorn will be racing for a separate Rogers team.
While the Elks feel a conference title is a possibility, the section is more of a longshot.
“Eden Prairie will be very tough to beat,” said Anderson. “Even though the boys are looking extremely strong in the state rankings, they might not be able to ski as a team at state.”
Last year, the Elk boys placed third and the girls sixth in the 10-team conference. At sectional, the boys were third and the girls fourth.