Coming off a state title with the Lakeland girls’ Nordic ski team, Sophia Annis was not sure if she would collect anymore hardware this season.
She qualified for the Midwest Junior Olympics 2 team that traveled to Holderness, N.H., recently to compete in the Eastern J2 Championships.
The J2 race is open to skiers 14 to 15 years old who did not qualify for the J1 race. Last year, Lakeland’s Erin Bolger qualified for this event.
Following in her teammate’s footsteps, Annis traveled east to compete in the race and to gain experience.
“My expectations going into the event were just to try my best and learn from this awesome experience,” Annis said. “When I realized I won the sprint and took third overall, I could only smile. I was not expecting such a placement.”
Annis opened the event with the 5k skate race where she finished eighth overall with a mark of 17:21.9. The following day, she took tenth in the 5k classic race with a time of 17:49.5.
That kept Annis within striking distance of the top five. Medals are awarded to the top five finishers.
In the sprint race, Annis excelled as she finished the event in 3:08.5 second to take first overall by more than two seconds over her next closest opponent.
That put Annis in third-place overall and sent her home with a medal in her first J2 event. Annis said her success at this event will spur her on for next season and beyond.
“This experience gave me the confidence to know I can compete,” she said. “It also made me realize I have things I can work on to make me a better skier. I am looking forward to three more years of skiing at Lakeland and being part of one of the best programs in the state.”
Annis said she attributes some of her success to having good role models on the Thunderbird team, including Bolger and this year’s state champion, Delaney FitzPatrick.
“This season has definitely been a learning experience,” Annis said. “I’ve learned from my teammates, Erin and Delaney, and also from my very dedicated coaches Mr. [Ken] Schoville and Mr. [Mike] Bolger.”
Annis said facing a tough field in the Wisconsin high school season also prepared her for the meet.
“This year I have gained so much experience from skiing at the high school level and skiing against other great teams in the state,” Annis said. “It helped me to compete out east. We have a great team here at Lakeland.”
While the high school season and being part of the Thunderbirds helped prepare Annis for the event, competing at a national meet has her excited for next season.
“The number of skiers and amount of days for this event was huge,” she said. “Being at the race, every skier was happy to be out there. The atmosphere was awesome, motivating me to do my best and represent Lakeland well.”
Bryan Rose may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.