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Lakeland Nordic ski shines at JNQs

February 21, 2020 by Brett LaBore

Several members of the Lakeland Nordic ski team continued their season, even after state. They participated in the Junior National Qualifiers on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 15 and 16, in Houghton, Mich.

Junior National Qualifiers

The event started on Saturday with the freestyle interval start. Then on Sunday there was a classic mass start.

For the boys, Jakob Craig, Jake Van Hefty and Forrest Dorsey all competed in Sunday’s 10-kilometer U20/U18 event. Jakob Craig took fifth overall with a time of 32 minutes, 10.7 seconds, but was second for the U18. Jake Van Hefty finished 15th overall with a time of 33:50.4, seventh for the U18 and Dorsey skied a time of 34:37.5, good for 18th place overall, ninth for U18.

“It gets difficult this time of year,” coach Erich Kern said. “Other clubs they’re all fit and it gets tough to get motivated for all these races they’re all doing well. Jakob is racing pretty well and boys are where they should be. Looking forward to what they have coming up in the next few weeks.”

In the same event, three girls were in the top 11. Johanna Craig won the overall event with a time of 36:31.1. Mia Case finished third overall with a time of 38:49.9. That time was the best for U18. Kiera Rotar took 11th overall with a time of 41:39.2, seventh best for U18.

“Johanna is peaking at the right time, skiing good all year, well rested and skiing really well,” coach Kern said. “She is really focused.” 

Casey Van Hefty took part in the boys’ 5K U16 event. He placed first with a time of 16:21.3.

For the girls, Sylvia Meza came in first in that event with a time of 19:50.6. Grace Kern finished sixth with a time of 20:51.5.

“Sylvia is skiing incredibly strong and keeps forging her way up the ladder,” coach Kern said. “Sylvia is definitely skiing very strong right now so that’s good to see.”

There was also a 2K U14/U12/U10 race that had one member from Lakeland for the girls’ side. Stella Meza, a seventh grader, finished first overall with a time of 6:27.2.

“She’s skiing very well,” coach Kern said. “It takes a lot of commitment from the families, but she’s skiing very well, a nice addition to the team in a couple of years.” 

The Thunderbirds also participated in Saturday’s races. 

In the 10K SR/U20/U18, Jakob Craig finished in 42nd overall, but just second for the U18. He finished with a time of 30:00.2. Jake Van Hefty finished 55th overall, ninth for the U18 with a time of 31:56.6. Dorsey finished 57th overall with a time of 32:15.2. That marked was 11th best for U18.

As for the girls in the 10K SR/U20/U18/U16, Johanna Craig took 10th overall, third in the U20, with a time of 15:58.8. Case took 22nd overall, first in U18, with a time of 17:05.5. Sylvia Meza took 33rd overall, second in U16, with a time of 18:15.1. Rotar placed 41st, sixth in the U18, with a time of 18:52.1. Grace Kern took 53rd overall, 11th in the U16, with a time of 19:54.8.

“Mia and Kiera are skiing good too, coming off state from last weekend, well rested,” coach Kern said.

In the boys’ 5K U16 race, Casey Van Hefty won with a time of 15:00.1.

“He was a little ill in the middle of the season and now finally getting that snap back,” coach Kern said. “He’s back into his healthiest he’ll be and he’ll be dong well at Junior Nationals.”

In the girls’ 2K U14/U12/U10 girls, Stella Meza took first overall with a time of 5:47.3.

Across the country

Now in the Great Lakes Division, the Thunderbirds qualified all nine of their high school skiers for a postseason event.

Johanna Craig, Case, Sylvia Meza, Jakob Craig, Dorsey, Jake Van Hefty and Casey Van Hefty all qualified for the Junior Nationals in Truckee, Calif. Johanna Craig will be in the U20s. Jakob Craig, Case, Jake Van Hefty and Dorsey will be in the U18s. Sylvia Meza and Casey Van Hefty qualified for U16s. The races take place March 9-14.

Grace Kern qualified for the New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA) U16 Eastern Nationals in Vermont on March 6-8. Kiera Rotar qualified for NENSA U18 Championships in New York 13-15. Stella Meza will be participating in a Central Division Final in Minneapolis in mid-March.

“It goes to show their commitment, not only skiers, but family to get skiers out there and make these goals. It’s not easy, it’s expensive, time consuming and it’s hard,” coach Kern said. “It’s great repping Wisconsin and the local area at a national level.”

Up next

Up next, the Thunderbirds will compete at the Kortelopet tonight in Hayward.

Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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