Rhinelander’s Nicholas St. Pierre skis toward the finish of the Wisconsin Nordic Ski League state meet in Cable Sunday, Feb. 8. St. Pierre finished 58th overall in the two-day race as the Hodags placed 12th of 17 teams in the high school boys’ standings. (Photos courtesy of Linda Goldsworthy/Rhinelander Nordic Skiing on Facebook)
2/11/2020 7:32:00 AM Hodag skiers place outside top 10 at state meet
Things did not play out as the Rhinelander High School Nordic Ski team had hoped they would over the weekend at the Wisconsin Nordic Ski League State meet.
A combination of missing skiers and a difficult day in the classic race left the Hodags short of their goal of finishing in the top half of the state. The Rhinelander boys finished 12th out of 17 teams and the Hodag girls were 11th of 12 teams during the two-day event that concluded Sunday in Cable.
Junior Zach Goodrich led the Hodag boys placing 27th overall in a 133 skier field. The Hodag girls, without top skier Anna Wood who was unable to compete because of the flu, were led by Liana Teter in 58th overall of 116 skiers.
"We had the opportunity to score better than we did in general overall as a team - as boys and girls teams, but sometimes not everything comes together," Rhinelander coach Charil Reis said.
Reis said the biggest disappointment of the weekend was struggling to hit on the setup for the classic skis during Saturday's race. She said the combination of waxes the team used struggled to provide enough kick to power the skiers up some of the tall hills present at the venue that is used to also start the American Birkebeiner ski race.
"I guess it would be like getting kids to a swim meet and throwing in a pool that's 20 degrees colder than they anticipated and then asking them to swim their best times," Reis said. "I just don't think it could happen."
Rhinelander's struggles on the classic day were underscored by the fact that the vast majority of the skiers, especially on the boys' side, were faster relative to the field in Sunday's freestyle race. Four of Rhinelander's top six boys' finishers had significantly better freestyle days.
Goodrich was 32nd after Saturday's classic race. He picked up five spots on course Sunday to finish 27th overall, with a freestyle time that was the 25th-fastest on the day. Levi Smith, Daniel Goldsworthy and Breckin Younker also made significant jumps on Sunday. Smith was in 70th place Saturday but jumped to 60th overall Sunday with the 48th-fastest freestyle time. Goldsworthy's freestyle finish was 37 places better than his classic as he took 67th overall and Breckin Younker had a 22-place differential between freestyle and classic as he took 70th overall.
"They were all out for redemption today," Reis said. "Skate is their favored technique and they knew they were they knew they could move up places today. So they went into it with the perfect mindset in my opinion just itching to get after it."
Kyle Morien was second fastest on the team. He was 51st after Saturday's classic race, but dropped back to 53rd overall. Nicholas St. Pierre was 59th after classic and moved up one spot to 58th overall on Sunday.
Travis White (73rd), Will Rutkowski (80th), Sam Rutkowski (82nd), Cole Worrall (119th) and Gavin Hackbarth (123rd) rounded out the boys' contingent as the Hodags finished a mere 13 points out of eighth place in the overall standings.
Teter, who raced through illness over the weekend, was 61st after Saturday's classic race and picked up three spots on course Sunday at finish 58th overall and lead a tightly-bunched Hodag contingent. Gwyneth Lowry was 60th overall and Abbey Henrichs finished 61st. Valerie Dalka, who was a team-best 57th Saturday in the classic race, finished 64th overall and Jenna Younker rounded out the scorers in 65th place.
But the Hodags were left thin without Wood, Megan Lester and Emma Germain, who were all unable to compete over the weekend.
"We left it up to the other girls to step up to the plate and I'll tell you what they did everything in their power to do it," Reis said. "If you look at the results, they just they skied like I thought they would ... Very pleased with that for what they had to work with, and what they were up against."
Carleen Morien (77th), Aubrey Younker (79th), Olivia Gillen (82nd), Jaylen Janssen (83rd), Callie Threlkeld (86th) and Grace Berger (104th) rounded out the Rhinelander contingent that had a time in both races. Juliana Smith did not post a time in Saturday's classic race after taking a wrong turn on the course. She was 83rd-fastest in Sunday's freestyle race.
Reis said the course for the weekend's event was more challenging and technical than previous state meets held in Cable.
"This course today and yesterday was really very steep up, very steep down," she said. "It required a lot of confidence to hold your line and a lot of confidence to tuck and run it, but if you did it paid off in spades. If you snow plowed at all and scrubbed any speed you paid for it dearly and so it really catered to the confident skiers for sure."
Though state did not pan out the way the Hodags had hoped, Reis said she still categorizes the 2019-20 season as a success.
"This has been our breakout season," she said. "This season we finally have had kids on the podium in the top 10 in being recognized for their efforts. It's a shame state didn't played out the way they wanted, but there's no reason that they should see this as a disappointing season. Not a single one of them should be disappointed with how they performed over the course of the season for sure."
There will still be chances for team members to compete in some citizens races now that the high school season is over. Reis said some of her skiers will take part in the ancillary races surrounding the Birkie coming up next weekend and some team members have competed in the Squirrel Hill Loopy Loppet at Minocqua Winter Park in the past. That race will take place Feb. 29.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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