Kyle Morien, left, received the Rhinelander High School Nordic ski team’s boys’ most improved skier award from coach Charil Reis, right, while teammates Cole Worrall and Gavin Hackbarth look on during the team’s season-sending banquet at the Cedric A. Vig Outdoor Classroom Monday, Feb. 17. Morien improved 30 positions in the pursuit rankings at the WNSL State Championships in Cable earlier this month, finishing 53rd overall in the race after placing 83rd last year. Senior Jaylen Janssen won the girls’ most improved award with a 21-place improvement in her finish at this year’s state meet (83rd). (Jeremy Mayo/River News)
2/20/2020 7:33:00 AM Morien, Janssen named most improved skiers
The Rhinelander High School Nordic ski team considered both tangible objectives and plenty of intangibles when determining the winners of its season-ending awards presented Monday evening at the Cedric A. Vig Outdoor Classroom.
Kyle Morien and Jaylen Janssen won the team's most improved male and female skier awards and virtually everyone on the largest team coach Charil Reis has had in her six years at the helm at RHS earned varsity letters after she reconsidered the criteria for the award.
The most improved award was the most objective of the night as Reis compared the finish for each athlete at this month's WNSL state meet relative to the field and as well as to last year's performance at state.
"We had a lot of improvement at state this year, and this is based on overall pursuit standings this year compared to last year," Reis said.
Morien improved 20% from last season on the boys' side - finishing 53rd in a field of 133 skiers this year, compared to an 83rd-place finish last year. Janssen moved up 15 percentage points from last year, taking 83rd this year compared to 114th last year.
Last season Reis instituted a criteria that skiers finish in the top 60 percent of the field at the WNSL state meet in order to earn a varsity letter. Using that metric, 15 skiers would have lettered this year - just as many as accomplished the same feat a year ago. But Reis, in addressing her team during the banquet, said she had a change of heart.
"You won't find another sport like ours. We do things a little differently. I'm always asked by the school district why we do things they way we do. We just do. So why should lettering in Nordic be the same as all the other sports if we do things so differently," she said. "My way of thinking is you showed up, you skied the practices, you communicated with coaches, you donned your speed suit and you stood - shivering from the cold and the nerves - at the starting line time and time again to test your mettle. You've earned my respect and all the coaches' respect, the respect of your peers and also your parents ... For me, that alone is letter worthy.
"Let the letter stand for your resilience, bravery, learning to have hard conversations regarding defeat, recognizing how you succeeded, overcoming adversity and all of the other life lessons you have learned along the way ... All I ask of you is this - when you gaze at your earned letter, remember all that it stands for and not just that you ranked at a certain level on a given day in variable conditions that you can't replicate."
Rhinelander finished 12th out of 17 teams in the boys' division and 11th of 12 teams in the girls' division in this year's WNSL state race. The Hodags entered the season with a goal of finishing seventh place, which they figured would roughly equate to placing in the top half of the team standings, based on last year's state participation.
"You didn't reach your goal. You weren't seventh at state, but if I just defined success by that one single marker, the journey would not have been worth it. The season would not have been worth it. But it was worth it," Reis said.
In addition to the most improved awards Reis presented the most disciplined award to Cole Worrall, the positive attitude award to Gavin Hackbarth and the rookie of the year award to first-year skiers Eleanor Steffen and Sarah Squires.
Lastly, Reis honored the team's seven-member senior class of Valeria Dalka, Janssen, Carleene Morien, Levi Smith, Nicholas St. Pierre, Breckin Younker and Jenna Younker.
"You had a lot of dedication to this team," she said. "You set goals. Without them, we would have reached the heights that we did, and you displayed a wonderful ability to work together ... All together you've afforded yourselves a collective 25 years of high school skiing experience. We'll miss skiing with you. Thank you."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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