Jeremy mayo/River news

Lakeland’s Jake VanHefty makes his way down the hill during the Hodag Challenge on Sunday Jan. 6.  VanHefty would finish in fifth place overall with a two day combined time of 26:51.10.
Jeremy mayo/River news

Lakeland’s Jake VanHefty makes his way down the hill during the Hodag Challenge on Sunday Jan. 6. VanHefty would finish in fifth place overall with a two day combined time of 26:51.10.

The Lakeland Nordic Ski team traveled to Rhinelander last weekend to compete in the 2019 Ascension Hodag Challenge.

The two-day race was supposed to feature skate skiing on Saturday and classic skiing on Sunday, but the weather had other plans.

“The weekend was supposed to be a true pursuit race,” Lakeland head coach Erich Kern said. “We were a little disappointed that, due to low snow conditions, we had back-to-back skate races on the same course. None the less, our teams performed well.”

Both the boys and girls varsity teams were runner-up champs, with the boys taking second out of 12 teams with 21 points, while the girls were second out of 10 teams with 24 points.

On the boys’ side, after two days of racing, Cody Schneider and Jake VanHefty finished in the top five for the Thunderbirds.

Schneider finished in sixth place after his day one performance of 13:41.50, but a 13:08.70 the next day propelled him to fourth overall.

VanHefty raced a 13:29.90 the first day and was in third, but even though he improved his time on day two to 13:21.10 he slipped to fifth overall. 

Forrest Dorsey was the third T-Bird points scorer and he finished day one with a 14:25.70 and day two with a 13:42.70 for a combined 28:08.40 that landed him in 12th place overall.

Lakeland’s other two racers were Tony Holmes and Aidan Graf who had overall times of 29:04.80 and 29:45.50 respectively.  

Holmes finished 19th and Graf finished 23rd.

Ashwaubenon, with its 13 total points, was the only team to beat the Lakeland boys, who ended up with 21 points.

Jackson Adler, who won the boys race, skied for Ashwaubenon.

“The boys varsity took second place as a team, only beaten by a very strong Ashwaubenon team,” Kern said. “Strong showings from Jake VanHefty, Cody Schneider, and Forrest Dorsey led the boys.”

Girls team

The girls varsity also had a very strong weekend, placing three racers in the top 10 to take second as a team.

Mia Case led the lady Thunderbirds with an overall, combined time of 31:15.20. She raced a 16:18.20 on Saturday and dropped well over a minute on Sunday with a 14:56.90. Case finished sixth overall.

Not far behind her, in eighth place, was Johanna Craig. 

Craig raced a 16:19.10 and a 15:20.70 for a combined overall time of 31:39.3.

Lakeland’s final girls points scorer, Ashley Peterson, also finished in the top 10. Her times of 16:50.30 and 15:54.70 totaled 32:45.00 for tenth overall place.

Also racing for the girls were Kierra Rotar and Kate Melms, who ended up with combined times of 34:54.20 and 38:02.00 respectively.

Rotar finished in 19th place while Melms finished 31st.

The only team ahead of the lady T-Birds was the Copper County Ski Tigers, which scored 20 points. Lakeland scored 24.

The strong showings were particularly impressive to Kern because of the conditions.

“The CAVOC trail system is difficult terrain to ski. There are many twists, turns, ups, downs, and some long climbs,” he said. “Our athletes did an excellent job on this tough course.”

JV team

The junior varsity teams also had some nice performances.

For the boys, Jakob Craig was the overall race winner with a combined time of 28:00.40. He led both days with times of 14:10.03 on Saturday and 13:50.10 on Sunday.

Henry Schockley also finished in the top ten for the boys with a combined total time of 31:28.20.

In the girls JV race, five different T-Birds ended up in the top 10.

Celeste Teichmiller was third overall with a combined time of 36:08.90, while Riley Mauzer finished sixth overall with a 36:29.10.  

Ashely Ullius placed eighth with a 37:10.60, Stephanie Mauzer was ninth with a 37:12.40, and Annika Sedelis finished in 10th place with a combined time of 37:12.60.

“Strong showings came at the JV level,” Kern said. “Jakob Craig winning all the boys JV events. Celeste Teichmiller made the podium with an overall third place for the pursuit, while Riley Mauzer made the podium with a second place finish on Sunday. I’m proud of all the athletes that completed this tough course.”

Next up for the T-Birds will be a race at Cable for the Seeley classic race in the high school division.

This is a change in schedule, as a previously scheduled race for Saturday at Wausau was canceled due to lack of snow.

Jacob Friede may be reached at or