by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
There was a time when Elk River routinely won conference championships in skiing. The current Elks boys team finally returned the program to the head of the pack Wednesday for the first time in six years.
Led by Jake Schroeder in second place, the Elks had four of the top six finishers, and six earning all-conference, as they out-pointed runner-up Osseo 544 to 508 in the 10-team meet on a bone-chilling day (13 degrees, wind) at Elm Creek in Maple Grove.
“When the sport first started, Elk River was one of the first to know how to ski,” said Elk coach Kirsten Anderson, “because (coach) Rollie Ring-Jarvi knew how to teach the techniques. After a while a lot of schools learned from him, and other teams got stronger and things leveled out.”
The Elks’ championship (it’s now a pairing with Zimmerman and Rogers) was their first since the 2007 team won the last of seven in an eight-year stretch under Ring-Jarvi, who had a total of 14 boys and 10 girls championships.
Anderson, who was one of his skiers, succeeded him as coach and on Wednesday picked up her own first title as coach. And Ring-Jarvi was there to enjoy the moment, too, serving as a meet official as always.
Enough history. This one belongs to the current group of boys who dedicated themselves to this goal (and state) starting last summer, and improved their times steadily throughout the season.
“We made a huge improvement, actually,” said Schroeder. “From the beginning we’ve stuck together and we’ve been fighting for it. We’ve gotten stronger and our depth has increased. Our four, five, six and seven have all moved up quite a bit.”
Schroeder, a senior, was runner-up to Armstrong’s Jon Delaney (nine seconds behind).
“Jon is tough competition,” said Schroeder. “A couple previous races I had him by a few seconds. I didn’t have my best skate race today. I was 13 seconds back. I tried to close the gap (in classic) and got close but dropped back a little.”
Four teammates quickly followed him into the chute. Elk senior Nate Webster placed third. Juniors Breck Hickman and Joey Martin hit the chute together in fifth and sixth place. Tommy Como, a Rogers junior, was 21st, and senior Ryan Trapp 25th.
The top 30 (among 89 total skiers) make all-conference.
Regular-season results in meets against conference rivals indicated the Elks were the favorite, and they delivered.
“We thought it would be a good year,” said Webster, “but not as good as it’s been. I think it helps that we have run together. We know how to train together and how to race together. Three of the top four were also in cross country.”
That CC team had some success, too, not so much at conference (sixth) but at section where they raced to the championship.
The Elks top four all made a big jump from last year — Schroeder from 8th to 2nd, Webster 10th to 3rd, Hickman 11th to 5th, and Martin 20th to 6th.
“We really zeroed in on technique,” said Schroeder. “John Kallemeyn helped us a lot with technique. All the coaches did.”
Kallemeyn, one of Ring-Jarvi’s stalwarts, joined the staff this year.
“It has been a lot of fun coaching them,” said Kallemeyn. “The boys are really disciplined. They worked really hard in the summer. The girls, too, The girls are young and they are going to get a lot better the next two years.”
Next quest for the skiers is, of course, sectionals, the bid for “state.” The Elks are ranked fourth in the state, but Eden Prairie is ranked first, having won the big Mesabi Invitational two weeks ago. The Elks will try for an upset at sectionals next Wednesday at Theodore Wirth Golf Course in Minneapolis.
1. Elk River-Rogers-Zimmerman 544
2. Osseo 508
3. Andover 467
4. Coon Rapids 437
5. Armstrong 428
6. Maple Grove 396
7. Anoka 384
8. Park Center 338
9. Champlin Park 291
10. Blaine 40
(Listed with skate-classic-pursuit)
1. Jon Delaney, Armstrong, 12:05-13:46—25:51
2. Jake Schroeder, ERZ, 12:18-13:44—26:02
3. Nate Webster, ERZ, 12:26-13:34—26:10
4. Chris Hecker, Anoka, 12:21-13:51—26:12
5. Breck Hickman, ERZ, 12:38-13:41—26:19
6. Joey Martin, ERZ, 12:34-13:45—26.19
Other Elks counting scores
21. Tommy Como 13:01-15:37—28:38
25. Ryan Trapp 13:43-15:18—29:01