By PATRICK SLACK
Coming off a seventh-place performance a year ago, the Little Falls girls Nordic ski team entered the state meet with a goal of placing near the middle of the pack.
The Flyers came away with that and then some at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, Feb. 14, bringing home a fifth-place finish and a pair of all-state skiers in junior Maria Hauer and senior Mattia Hendrickson.
“The girls wanted to be closer to the middle of the pack than the back of the pack,” Little Falls head coach Terry Wasland said. “We knew every team in there was looking for the same thing. The girls went in there and competed like they knew they belonged.”
“We knew there were three teams that were probably pretty untouchable,” Wasland said. “We knew we could end up anywhere from fourth to eighth and were just an eyelash behind Stillwater for fourth. We were very satisfied with a fifth-place finish. Fifth place among that number of powerhouse teams is very gratifying.”
Hauer turned in the top time for the Flyers, earning 15th overall with a combined time of 35:52.0 to come away with all-state honors, turning in an 18:07 split in the freestyle and 17:45 split in the classic.
“My goal for the state meet was to be in 25th place for skate and work up to top 20 in classic,” Hauer said. “Another goal of mine was to ski my best for the team and help the team move up from seventh place last year to top five this year.”
“I was honestly surprised when I saw my placing in the skate race because skating is not my favorite style of skiing,” she said. “I was mentally excited for the classic, knowing the girls ahead of me were only a couple seconds away.”
“After the race, I was content where I finished, but now I am ready to work on moving up to higher placing in skiing and work on my weak spots.”
Hendrickson entered the afternoon classic in 30th place, needing to catch five competitors to attain all-state distinction.
She passed six, following an 18:20 time in the freestyle with an 18:08. 6 split in the classic to take 24th overall.
“The classic race was one of the hardest things I have ever done,” Hendrickson said. “I wanted to stop every second, but I just kept going because I knew every person I passed would count. I knew I was all-state when I crossed the finish line and couldn’t stop smiling and tears came to my eyes.”
“It was very gratifying to see the achievements both those girls were able to make,” Wasland said. “They skied against some outstanding skiers.”
“For Mattia, it was the culmination of working hard and never losing focus and Maria had just an outstanding day.”
Senior Chelsea Rutz placed 61st with a time of 38:40.2 and junior Kaitlin Geisenhof took 82nd in 39:34.1 to also count toward the Little Falls team score.
Eighth-grader Kendal Hendrickson (40:21.7) and freshmen Claire Gammon-Deering (42:48.6) and Amelia Kresha (43:16.6) rounded out the lineup.
Wayzata (365), Duluth East (362) and Roseville Area (351) took the top three spots in the team competition, with Stillwater Area (331) edging out Little Falls for fourth (326).
Hopkins (324) took sixth in the meet, followed by Burnsville (313) and Lakeville North (230).
“I thought we competed pretty well,” Wasland said. “It made a big difference this year from last year actually being able to train on snow. We lowered our times significantly.”
“I think it’s a credit to the kids to continue to be so focused,” he said. “It’s sometimes easier to get to the top of the section than to stay there. It’s a tradition that’s been handed down. We’ll have our work cut out for us next year, but we have some younger skiers up to the challenge.”
In the boys race, Little Falls junior Mathew Massmann earned 103rd place in his first state meet, posting an overall time of 35:15.4.
Seniors on this year’s girls team included Rutz, Chloe Houle, Josie Lange, Kristen Gotfredson and Mattia Hendrickson.
Seniors on this year’s boys team included Brian McNamara and Isaiah Korver.
State Nordic ski meet notes
Heading into the fall season, Little Falls junior Maria Hauer faced a dilemma.
She was a strong cross country runner, but wanted to remain healthy for Nordic skiing in the winter.
After injuring her tibia during a race her freshman year, she decided that continuing in cross country was probably not ideal for preserving her legs.
So this fall, she opted to join the swimming and diving team instead, a decision that helped her earn all-state honors with a 15th-place effort, Feb. 14.
“Being a lifeguard and swim instructor, I admired the swim team, so this fall I went out for swimming,” Hauer said. “Coach Corbett and the team were very supportive and encouraging.”
“Swimming helped me become more confident and gave me upper body strength needed for skiing,” she said.
Not that she’s closed the door on running.
“I have been invited to run in three college cross country programs,” Hauer said. “Depending on my major, I hope to run in college cross country. I am grateful for being on cross country varsity for four years and continue to enjoy track.”
State prep becoming routine
The newness may have worn off a bit after eight trips to state in a row for the Flyers girls team.
But in its place is a familiarity with what to expect upon arriving at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
“We try to get up there late in the afternoon the day before, ski the course one last time and figure out exactly how we want to approach the course,” Little Falls head coach Terry Wasland said.
“The team likes to dress up for the banquet and be as classy of athletes as they possibly can,” he said. “We get a lot of compliments that our kids are so well-behaved, that’s something we have prided ourselves on.”
An extra sweet finish
After narrowly missing out on a trip to the state cross country meet in the fall, Little Falls senior Mattia Hendrickson not only qualified for the Nordic ski meet once again, she took home all-state honors with a 24th-place finish.
The quest was not an easy one, as Hendrickson entered the afternoon competition in 30th place, needing to pass at least five top competitors in front of her.
“I knew I had to go out there and give it everything I had in order to be all-state,” Hendrickson said. I was very determined going into the race, but I wasn’t sure if that would be enough because I had to pass five of the best skiers in the state.”
“It was wonderful,” she said. “I felt very accomplished at the end of the day.”
Class A state girls Nordic ski meet
Girls team—1. Wayzata, 365; 2. Duluth East, 362; 3. Roseville Area, 351; 4. Stillwater Area, 331; 5. Little Falls, 326; 6. Hopkins, 324; 7. Burnsville, 313; 8. Lakeville North, 230.
Little Falls—15. Maria Hauer, 35:52.0; 24. Mattia Hendrickson, 36:28.6; 61. Chelsea Rutz, 38:40.2; 82. Kaitlin Geisenhof, 39:34.1; 91. Kendal Hendrickson, 40:21.7; 114. Claire Gammon-Deering, 42:48.6; 115. Amelia Kresha, 43:16.6.