Jenna Younker receives her awards from the Rhinelander High School Nordic ski team during a banquet at the Cedric A. Vig Outdoor Classroom in Rhinelander Tuesday, March 6. Younker, who finished 50th at the WNSL state meet in February, was named the teamís most improved female skier. (Photos by Jeremy Mayo/River News)
Levi Smith receives his awards from the Rhinelander High School Nordic ski team during a banquet at the Cedric A. Vig Outdoor Classroom in Rhinelander Tuesday, March 6. Smith, who finished 90th at the WNSL state meet in February, was named the teamís most improved male skier.
3/10/2018 7:32:00 AM Nordic ski team hands out awards
The Rhinelander High School Nordic ski team celebrated what it considered to be another step in its continual development Tuesday as it put a cap to the 2018 season with a banquet for the entire ski program - including elementary, middle and high school skiers - at the Cedric A. Vig Outdoor Classroom.
Coach Charil Reis said she was encouraged by the team's improved performance this season - Rhinelander finished 12th in the girls' division and 13th in the boys' division of the WNSL state pursuit championship in Cable last month - and added the team has successfully completed the first two stages of its multi-year rebuilding process.
Reis cited the roadmap for building a program established by the United State Ski Association which includes instilling a culture of loving of the outdoors, a culture of training and a culture of competition among its ranks.
With a record number of skiers in this, her fourth season leading the program, and a team that averaged attending 37 of 41 practice days during the season, Reis said the culture of loving the outdoors and training have been established. It's now time, she said, to establish a culture of competition.
"From this point on, we'll always have all three stages in mind, with the focus of the stages pointed toward the appropriate individuals," she said during the banquet. "Our new focus will be on strength and offseason training. We all need better technique, but many of the intricacies of the technique are corrected by a specific increase in strength."
The culture of training showed up in the team's awards as all 16 skiers who competed this year earned varsity letters. In addition to the team averaging 37 practice days, virtually even member of the team competed in eight or nine of the nine races the team took part in this season.
"I don't want anyone thinking that was easy to do," Reis said of every team member earning a varsity letter. "I don't see any of the other kids at the high school showing up when it's 5-below zero to ski their hearts out. I don't see anybody else showing up when it was an average of 10 (above) all season to do what they did."
Additionally, in a first during Reis' time at the helm, the high school squad handed out individual awards. Sophomores Jenna Younker and Levi Smith won the team's most improved awards by posting the best jump, percentage-wise in placement, from last year's state meet to this years.
Younker finished 50th at the state meet this year, completing part of Reis' goal for the season of having at least one skier in the top 50 of the state competition. She finished 75th at last year's state meet. Levi Smith was 90th overall in the boys' competition, up from 111th the season before.
Sophomore Valerie Dalka, a first-year skier, earned the team's rookie of the year award.
"(She) couldn't ski prior to Nov. 12, or whenever the season started and, by the end of the year, was keeping up with one of our top skiers," Reis explained.
Additionally, the team named its captains for the upcoming 2018-19 season with seniors-to-be Emma Hjelle and Emma Roberts assuming the captaincy.
Wood moving up
During the banquet Reis announced that middle school coach Jim Wood would be moving up to assist her at the high school level next season.
The team expects to need some extra hands on deck next year with 12 eighth graders, including Wood's daughter Anna, projected to move up to the high school team. That could give the high school team just shy 30 athletes next winter when all is said and done.
"Obviously I can't handle you guys," Reis said, jokingly. "I'm really excited to have Jim join me next season out on the snow. Moving coaches around in a program like ours is a recipe for sustainability."
Added Wood, "We have not had a lot of time to talk about it, but I'm going to move up to the high school and I'm going to help her and one of the things that we've talked about is I want to do more of a summer program. Some of the eighth graders, a big group, are moving up to the high school level and I'll tell you high schoolers that the seventh and eighth graders who are coming in behind you roller skied all summer."
Wood has been Rhinelander's middle school coach the last four seasons. Rhinelander's girls were fifth and its boys were seventh in the middle school portion of last month's state meet.
Jeremy Biolo will assume the role of head middle school coach.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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