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Thunderbirds put bow on season

April 17, 2020 by Brett LaBore

One of the highlights of the year for the Lakeland Nordic ski teams was competing at state. Another highlight is going to the Junior Nationals, something numerous Thunderbirds did recently.

“I mean, it’s really unheard of for one school to be sending this many kids for one school,” coach Erich Kern said. “Really awesome for all of them to get that experience to go out there.”

Johanna Craig, Mia Case, Sylvia Meza, Jakob Craig, Forrest Dorsey, Jake Van Hefty and Casey Van Hefty all participated in the Junior Nationals in Truckee, Calif., March 9-14.

For the sprints, everyone got an individual race and if one were to make the top 30, they move on to the next round. The better the finish, the more one got to move on until one were to have reached the finals.

In the women’s U20, Johanna Craig placed 10th overall in sprints. In qualifying, she finished sixth with a time of 3:05.48. Moving on, she finished second in quarterfinal number three with a time of 4:41.22. Next, she placed fourth in semifinal number two with a time of 3:57.18. Then in the “B” final, she took fourth as well with a time of 4:06.60. 

Johanna Craig also took third in the classic individual start with a time of 15:18.3, earning her a medal and a spot on the podium.

“When it gets down to nationals, only top three get a medal,” coach Kern said. “She took third in the 5K classic individual start, which is phenomenal.”

In the men’s U16 sprint, Casey Van Hefty placed 18th overall. In qualifying, he finished 15th with a time of 2:42.30. In quarterfinal number three, he placed fourth with a time of 2:44.16. Only the top two got to advance to the next round. 

“The first qualifier time puts him in the top 30 racing heats against other racers individually for one quick lap,” coach Kern said.

In qualifying for women’s U16 sprint, Meza finished 62nd with a time of 3:23.26.

“Sylvia did really well, she was 62nd in the sprint,” coach Kern said. “It was her first year out there. Got to give them credit.”

In qualifying for the women’s U18 sprint, Case finished 48th with a time of 3:11.46.

“She just had a great career at Lakeland and going to Nationals three times she pushed herself to get there to place well,” coach Kern said.

In qualifying for the men’s U18 sprint, Jake Van Hefty placed 60th overall with a time of 2:41.54 and Jakob Craig 70th with a time of 2:42.84. Dorsey finished 101st with a time of 4:29.20.

“Great representation. I’m sure they wish they were higher up,” coach Kern said. “They went in having fun and the goal was to make it and they were there. I think that was an accomplishment in itself.”

Grace Kern participated in the New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA) U16 Eastern Nationals in Vermont on March 6-8. She placed 14th in the sprint with a time of 4:37.1.

“She did well. She took 14th in one of the events so that was good,” coach Kern said.

Kiera Rotar qualified for NENSA U18 Championships in New York on March 13-15. Because of the coronavirus, her race got cancelled.

“Kiera was supposed to go to same type of races Gracie went to, so they flew out to do U18 and it was cancelled,” coach Kern said. “Kiera didn’t race at all.”

That wasn’t the only thing that got cancelled over the course of the Junior Nationals. Some events in California never happened.

“There were supposed to be four events, two got cancelled,” coach Kern said.

It’s safe to say the Lakeland community was represented well all over the country as the Thunderbirds skied their hearts out.

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

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