In this Feb. 1, 2020 file photo, Tommie Jo Springer competes in giant slalom during a Northern Conference race at Ski Brule in Iron River, Mich. Springer, a freshman, was the Northern Conference girls’ skiing champion in 2020 and placed second overall at the WIARA state meet in La Crosse. Photos by Jeremy Mayo/River News.
In this Feb. 1, 2020 file photo Bailey Schwab clears a jump in the boardercross competition during a Northern Conference race at Ski Brule in Iron River, Mich. The Hodag boys won the Northern Conference boys’ snowboarding title, led by Schwab’s third-place finish in the individual standings.
3/24/2020 7:29:00 AM Team review: RHS/NPHS Alpine skiing:
Fast squad had Hodags near top of Northern Conference
The Rhinelander/Northland Pines Alpine ski and snowboard team had a little more depth this year compared to years past. That strength in numbers, plus some of the fastest athletes in the conference, helped the team achieve plenty of success during the 2020 season.
The Hodags won conference championships in both boys' skiing and boys' snowboard and were second in girls' skiing. The team also had at least one top-three finisher in each of the four divisions offered by the Northern Conference, and had six individual top-five conference finishes overall.
Here are five storylines from the recently completed season.
Ty and Tommie Jo Springer, siblings from Northland Pines, took the Northern Conference by storm this season.
For Ty Springer, a junior, it was part of a continued run of dominance as he claimed his third Northern Conference championship, finishing first in 14 of the 15 total runs the conference had this season.
Tommie Jo Springer, a freshman, did her younger brother one better, winning all 15 runs on the way to her conference title. On several occasions, Tommie Jo Springer dusted the girls' competition with times that would have placed in the top three in the boys' division on the same runs.
For Tommie Jo, the success carried over to the WIARA state meet where, as a freshman, she finished in the runner-up spot in the state.
"She had a great performance, a great showing," 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.'"
Ty Springer was looking to improve upon a top-10 finish at state last year, but those hopes were dashed in a crash during Sunday's giant slalom run. He rebounded with seventh-place finishes in both slalom and Super G - performances that helped earn him a spot on Team Wisconsin for the Eastern High School Championships in New Hampshire.
"He skis great. He's always been a competitor and he's worked hard on it and dedicated himself," Olson said. "He really enjoys this sport but he keeps it in perspective. He doesn't sweat it. He's a kid I think he gets where he is with his success because he just loves to go fast. It's fun for him. He doesn't really set these goals like, 'I'm going to get first today.' He's not like that. He sets attainable goals for his performance and he just loves to go fast. That's what gets him those results."
In Ty Springer, Patrick Stemper and Daniel Ritchie, the Hodags had three consistent finishers at or near the top of the leaderboard in the Northern Conference. Stemper finished fifth overall and Ritchie was sixth in the final overall conference standings.
The Hodags won the first two races of the year, but struggled in round No. 3 at Ashwabay, finishing third and making the championship doubleheader at Ski Brule more important.
"We were, I don't know about sweating it, but we were doing everything we could to create and maintain those performances - whether it was how we were talking to the kids, trying to get them mentally prepared, calm them down, build them up," Olson said.
Rhinelander/Northland Pines was hoping to finish in the top 10 overall at the WIARA state meet, but mishaps for Ty Springer and Stemper in the giant slalom mired the team in 20th in the 21-team field heading into the final day of competition. The team improved in slalom and Super G to finish 14th overall.
Ritchie, who had three clean runs, was Rhinelander's top finisher at state in 41st place. Stemper finished 56th, AJ Gillespie was 85th and Luke Fritz was 101st.
Rhinelander finished second as a team in girls' downhill in the Northern Conference behind Ashwabay.
Tommie Jo Springer was the only member of the team to place in the top 10 individually in the conference. Kathryn Borski finished 12th, followed by McKenna Nash in 14th, Marisa McGuire in 16th, Izzy Haverkampf in 19th and Lily Berger in 24th.
The Hodag girls finished 16th of 22 teams at state. Nash was 85th for the Hodag girls.
McGuire finished 97th, Haverkampf was 99th, Berger was 121st and Borski finished 128th.
"Kathryn came on a little bit (Monday), but she was very held back," Olson noted. "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."
Depth ultimately led the Hodags to an unexpected conference championship in boys' snowboarding.
Ashland had edged out Rhinelander in the first two races of the season but, with the last two races plus Round 3's boardercross saved for the season finale at Ski Brule - and with Ashland down a boarder during that race - the Hodags were able to overtake the Oredockers for the conference title.
"I knew we were close but I didn't know we were in there until they announced it tonight that that's what happened. That was a great surprise," Olson said of winning the boys' snowboard title. "They had some guys go down. They had one guy sick and one of their good guys in GS he came to a stop, had to stop and get going. The strength of our team lied in our ability to have six or seven guys always competing. Your numbers help and that's what we want. I haven't looked at the numbers yet to figure it out, but that's what appears has happened. Depth overtook some higher talented individuals."
Individually, Bailey Schwab finished third in the conference with Robert Masini in fifth, Max Durkee in seventh, Joey Sturzl in eighth and Joey Durkin in ninth. Kylee White and Kyleigh Allen were third and fifth in the girls' snowboard standings, respectively.
At state, the Hodag boys placed seventh out of nine teams led by a 13th-place finish individually by Schwab. Though the Hodag girls did not have enough boarders to qualify for the team portion of the state meet, they sent three boarders down to state, placing two in the top 10 overall. White finished fifth and Madesyn Van Order, who missed the start of the year due to injury, came home seventh.
The Hodags will lose some of its depth to graduation this year. On the boys' side Ritchie, John Krueger and Luke Fritz are all set to graduate while the Hodag girls will lose McGuire and Haverkampf. Masini is slated to be the team's only loss in snowboarding.
"We'll work more next year," Olson said following the state meet. "We'll lose Daniel next year, which is a bummer, and John Krueger really came on toward the end of the year. He started being a solid performer down in those anchor positions. But we'll bring a good percentage of the crew next year and start rebuilding."
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