Northland Pines freshman Tommie Jo Springer put on a show during her first appearance at the WIARA state Alpine Ski meet.
Springer was one of only two skiers to place in the top five in all three races during the two-day meet as she finished as the state runner-up in the event that concluded Monday at Mt. La Crosse.
That was the highlight of the weekend for the Rhinelander/Northland Pines skiers. The girls' team finished 16th in a field of 22 teams. The Hodag boys were 14th in a 22-team field while Ty Springer's chances for an individual top-five finish were derailed by a crash in Sunday's first event.
Tommie Jo Springer finished second in Super G and fifth in slalom on Sunday, and followed that up with a third-place finish in giant slalom on Monday, for a total score of 10 points in the three races. That was one point behind state champion Aly Cunningham of Catholic Memorial, who won the Super G and slalom races before finishing seventh in Monday's GS.
"She had a great performance, a great showing," coach Rod Olson said. "In my mind, she could have won. She was a little groggy on Sunday and just needed a little bit more snap out of her skis, but she skied excellently. She's a great performer. I think she was probably 90%. What I told her when she came up to me after GS is, 'Hey, we've got just really small things to do to win this in years to come. We're 98% of the way there.'"
Tommie Jo Springer finished second in the Super G with a time of 36.39 seconds, 0.16 off Cunningham's winning time. Cunningham pulled away in slalom, however, as she skied to the win with a time of 40.42 seconds. Springer was 1.9 seconds off the pace in fifth.
"The Super G was excellent. The slalom, she was just a little tired, I think," Olson said. "She had a lot of training in the last few weeks and a lot of racing. I think just a little bit more energy there. I don't think it was her technical ability that lost that eight-tenths. I know she can beat those girls. It's just how it is. Each day is a little bit different."
Springer finished third in Monday's GS run, 0.28 seconds off the winning time. Olson said the ski setup she used Monday cost her a little time at the top of the hill, which she was not quite able to make up after she dove from the headwall and dashed toward the finish.
"That little smidge changed the GS score. She skied the rest of the course better than the ladies that surpassed her. I think just that little start took her out of it," he said.
Still, Olson said Springer's future is very bright and she will have plenty of other opportunities to stand on the top step of the podium.
"With as seasoned as she is, she's still young," he said. "Even having a commanding performance, I think she learned a lot to better herself going forward. It's really optimistic and we're really proud of her going forward. It's great."
Things did not got as well for Ty Springer, who looked to build off of last year's seventh-place finish at state as a sophomore. A crash in giant slalom derailed those hopes.
"Ty got caught with his inside shoulder to the snow on his inside ski, so we lost him," Olson said. "He lost the outside edge on a pitch that's about 88 degrees. He got a little bit of air on that one pitch and just kind of flew and landed. There wasn't enough edge hold left and he kind of slid out there."
Springer recovered with seventh-place runs in slalom and Super G but the 200-point penalty he took for not finishing the GS race knocked him down to 60th overall in a field of 157 skiers.
It was a similar story in GS for Springer's teammate, Patrick Stemper, who missed a gate and had to hike, dropping him to 116th in the event. From there, Olson said he had to dial back the aggression of his final four skiers in an effort to salvage a team score. Even then Rhinelander/Northland Pines was 20th of 21 teams following Sunday's GS.
"I had to give them the yellow light," Olson said. "Daniel (Ritchie) came out and he was not able to fire off his wide-open run like he usually is in the third seed, because we didn't have finishers. We had to gear back everybody just to get four finishers there. That took us back."
The Hodags finished 12th in slalom and ninth in Super G on Sunday. Ritchie ended up with the team's best finish in the competition, taking 41st overall. Stemper finished 56th, AJ Gillespie was 85th and Luke Fritz was 101st.
McKenna Nash was 85th for the Hodag girls. Marisa McGuire finished 97th, Izzy Haverkampf was 99th, Lilly Berger was 121st and Kathryn Borski finished 128th.
"Kathryn came on a little bit (Monday), but she was very held back," Olson said. "She was not as aggressive as we would have liked. Same with McKenna. They haven't been down there a bunch either and they could have been more competitive for sure, which is easy to do being more aggressive, more confident. I'm sure in years to come, they'll take some more risks.
"Izzy Haverkampf had the run of the weekend. She just came on this year as a senior. She's a good athlete. I told her I wanted her to tuck the whole Super G, even though there were some turns in it, just to get them aggressive. She did and she almost missed a gate, but she picked up her left inside ski in the air and crossed it across her body to make a gate in time. Somehow she made that move as someone who has not been racing except for only just this year. It was very exciting for us, very cool to watch her give everything she had with her limited experience."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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