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T-Birds take first in conference

January 31, 2020 by Brett LaBore

The Lakeland Nordic Ski team had a memorable couple of days with two different competitions.

First, they competed in another Junior National Qualifier at the Gitchi Game Games Jan. 25-26 in Cable. Then both the boys and girls won conference on Tuesday in Hayward.


“We knew we would have a strong conference meet this year cause everybody is skiing well,” coach Erich Kern said. “We’re one of the strongest teams in the conference and it was really fun for the kids to go and show what they have, even though some are tired and fatigued.”

The boys finished first in conference with 7 points. They had four skiers in the top six and all five in the top 13.

“First overall in a runaway fashion,” coach Kern said. 

Jakob Craig came in first with a time of 19:14.1.

“He’s starting to show to be our top consistent top finisher,” coach Kern said. “A great day for the Craig family.”

Jake Van Hefty had a second place coming in with a 19:58.6 time.

“Jake is getting better, getting faster, a really good finish for him,” coach Kern said.

In fourth place, Casey Van Hefty skied a time of 20:16.1.

Dorsey finished in sixth place with a time of 20:45.2.

Brock Metzger rounded out the group with a 13th place finish and time of 22:51.7.

The girls came in first place with six team points. They had five skiers in the top seven, including the first four.

Johanna Craig came in first with a time of 21:07.1. She won by over a minute over second place. 

“Johanna’s showing her strength as a skier,” coach Kern said. 

Mia Case finished second with a time of 22:07.8. She, too, finished over a minute ahead of the next place.

“Mia not too far behind,” coach Kern said. “A little fatigued from the weekend, but (Johanna and Mia) are right where they should be. They’re two of the best skiers in the state.”

Sylvia Meza finished third with a time of 23:17.7.

“Sylvia has been skiing really well, another strong classic race,” coach Kern said.

Kiera Rotar came in fourth with a time of 23:26.8.

“Kiera has been really consistent, right where she’s been all year,” coach Kern said. 

Grace Kern took seventh with a time of 23:56.3.

“Grace did well, too,” coach Kern said. “Just a really strong girls team this year.”

Junior National Qualifier

“We have eight skiers from our team which is really a high number of kids participating in these National Junior Qualifiers,” coach Kern said. “It shows the dedication these kids have.”

The Thunderbirds started with the Saturday Sprint Qualifier Freestyle. 

In the boys’ U18/U20/U23/SR 1.55k freestyle, Jakob Craig finished 19th with a time of 3:44.23.

Jake Van Hefty finished 23rd with a time of 3:50.41. 

Forrest Dorsey finished 25th with a time of 3:50.89.

In the boys’ U16 1.35k freestyle, Casey Van Hefty finished third with a time of 3:02.37.

“Really good racing this weekend for them,” coach Kern said. 

In the girls’ U18/U20/U23/SR 1.35k freestyle, Johanna Craig won with a time of 3:22.31.

Case had a top five finish. She finished fourth with a time of 3:29.06.

“Great racing by both (Johanna and Mia) on Saturday,” coach Kern said.

Rotar finished 21st with a time of 3:51.91.

In the girls’ U16 1.35k freestyle, Grace Kern finished fourth with a time of 3:44.01 while Meza finished fifth with a time of 3:45.07.

“Both (Grace and Sylvia) had a really good finish there,” coach Kern said. 

Then on Sunday, they competed in the Individual Start Classic.

Jakob Craig came in 40th with a time of 33:19.22 in the boys U18/U20/U23/Sr/NCAA.

Jake Van Hefty finished 52nd with a time of 35:04.79.

Dorsey finished 67th with a time of 36:44.20.

In the U16 boys, Casey Van Hefty came in third with a time of 17:00.06.

“(It was) mixed with a lot of high school kids so they all did really well,” coach Kern said. 

In the girls’ U18/U20/U23/Sr/NCAA, Johanna Craig came in eighth with a time of 35:49.14. 

“Johanna skied incredibly well today,” coach Kern said. “She was the first high school girls (to finish).”

Case came in 20th with a time of 39:15.78.

Rotar finished 34th with a time of 42:51.34.

In the girls U16, Meza finished first with a time of 20:16.00 and Grace Kern finished fourth with a time of 20:52.93. 

“The community should be really proud to see our kids,” coach Kern said. “A fairly small high school with a good ski program. All the kids that ski for Lakeland go to Lakeland Union High School.”

Up next, the Thunderbirds compete Feb. 1-2 at the Wisconsin State Sprints in Madison. 

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

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