The Lakeland Nordic ski team competed at the Wisconsin Nordic Ski League Team Sprint Championships at Elver Park in Madison.
First, they competed in the team event on Saturday, Feb. 1.
Then, they took part in the individual sprints on Sunday, Feb. 2. This all helped them prepare for state coming up Feb. 8-9 in Cable.Sprint Championships
At the sprint championships, the Thunderbirds split into teams. For the varsity boys, the Van Hefty brothers were a team. Casey and Jake Van Hefty finished in first place in their heat.
“It’s competitive, but a lot of fun too,” coach Erich Kern said. “We had warm weather that made it more tricky, but it was nice to be able to spend time outside.”
In the finals, Casey and Jake Van Hefty finished in second place.
For the varsity girls, Johanna Craig and Kiera Rotar were a duo. They came in first place in the finals.
In the JV boys race, Jakob Craig and Brock Metzger won their heat for Lakeland. They ended up in second place in the finals.
Sylvia Meza and Grace Kern were a pair in the JV girls race. Not only did they win their heat, but they won finals as well.
There was also a mixed race. Mia Case and Forrest Dorsey teamed up to finish second place in the finals.
In the individual sprints, there were several heats that one had to qualify. Based on qualifying time, individuals were placed in a certain heat.
The boys qualified three in the top heat. In that heat, Jakob Craig finished in fourth, Casey Van Hefty fifth and Jake Van Hefty sixth.
Dorsey was placed in the second fastest heat. He won his heat and finished in ninth overall for the event.
Other Thunderbirds to ski were Metzger and Henry Shockley. Shockley took 27th and Metzger 28th place.
The girls qualified four skiers in the fastest heat. In that heat, Case finished in first place, Johanna Craig came in second, Grace Kern finished in fifth and Rotar in sixth.
Meza got jumbled up in the crowd and qualified for the third fastest heat for the girls. She won that heat and finished in 17th overall.
Annika Sedelis finished in 26th, Maddie Saunders 27th and Nina Starynski finished in 28th to round out the girls’ side.
“It was good, it was fun,” coach Kern said. “If you don’t get a good start it’s really hard to pass. It takes the boys 2:10, so not a lot of time to get around somebody. If you don’t get around that corner, you might not get by them. Fun to watch.”Prepping for State
Next up, the Thunderbirds compete at the Wisconsin State Nordic Meet in Cable. The meet starts on Saturday, Feb. 8 and ends on Sunday, Feb. 9.
The Sprint Championships were a good tune-up for the Thunderbirds for state competition this week.
“Racing is always good. You get a good warm-up, get some skiing in and really push themselves,” coach Kern said. “A good prep for the week before.”
The girls come in with a good chance to win a state championship. All season they’ve had some of the top skiers in the state.
“We do have high expectations,” coach Kern said. “I can’t make solid predictions, but if the girls ski well they should be right there to win state.”
It starts with Johanna Craig and Case.
Johanna Craig came in first at the conference meet with a time of 21:07.1 on Jan. 28. At the Ascension Hodag Challenge on Jan. 18-19, she won the 5K skate with a time of 18:55. In the pursuit, she won with a time of 38:08.5.
At conference, Case came in second in the girls race with a time of 22:07.8. Earlier in the season, she won the Lakeland Nordic Ski Team Invite on Dec. 17 with a time of 13:15.6.
Grace Kern, Meza and Rotar have all finished relatively close to one another, but the order has been different.
“I think they don’t feel pressure at all,” coach Kern said. “They just want to have fun this weekend.”
At conference, Meza finished third with a time of 23:17.7. At the Hodag Challenge, Grace Kern finished eighth in the 5K skate with a time of 20:52.9. Rotar came in fourth place at conference with a time of 23:26.8.
“We’ll go and have easy and fun practices this week — a little bit of work this week is good to keep them fit,” coach Kern said.
This group of girls won the Northern Wisconsin Conference Meet in Hayward on Jan. 28. Not only did they win, but they had five girls in the top seven.
The boys may not be as much of a favorite, but still plan on being one of the most competitive teams at the state meet.
“The boys are competitive, but we’ll have to see,” coach Kern said. “(In order to win) they need to ski really, really well. But they should be right there.”
Jakob Craig leads the group. He finished first in conference with a time of 19:14.1. At the Hodag Challenge, Jakob Craig proved to be one of the better skiers, finish sixth in the pursuit race with a time of 34:45.6.
The Van Hefty brothers are two other top skiers. At conference, Jake Van Hefty came out with the better time of 19:58.6. But at the Lakeland Nordic Ski Team Invite, Casey Van Hefty had the better finish with a time of 12:04.4.
“This week of practice we’ll do a few higher end speed-up type work. A lot of it will be a little bit of recovery,” coach Kern said. “This’ll make sure they’re rested and prepared for Saturday and Sunday.”
Dorsey finished sixth in conference with a time of 20:45.2. Metzger rounds out the boys’ side, finishing 13th at conference with a time of 22:51.7.
“It should be a really fun event for us,” coach Kern said.
As a team, the boys finished first in conference as well. Four Thunderbirds placed in the top six.
The classic race starts on Saturday. The girls begin their race on at 9 a.m. The boys follow with their race at 10 a.m.
On Sunday, the girls’ freestyle pursuit starts at 11:45 a.m. and the boys’ freestyle pursuit starts at 12:45 p.m. The awards follow up at 1:30 p.m.
“I think they’re just looking forward to having a fun final time at state,” coach Kern said. “They should all do well.”Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].