Pretty much anyone who is anyone in the landscape of Upper Midwest Nordic Skiing competed at the Mesabi East Invite at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, Jan. 11.
Nearly 1,3000 athletes participated, including the majority of the ranked teams and individuals in the state, as well as some of the top talent from Wisconsin and Michigan.
So naturally, Little Falls was there … and near the top of the standings.
“Mesabi East is an opportunity for us to gauge where we are at, at this point in the season, and how we stack up against the best competition,” Little Falls head coach Terry Wasland said. “If you can compete at Mesabi, you can compete anywhere in the country at the high school level. It is a unique experience for our skiers and for many, a true highlight of their career.”
The Flyers girls finished 12th as a team, with the Flyers boys taking 23rd out of 73 squads.
In the girls race, the top six teams in the state all finished in the top 11, just ahead of Little Falls.
Senior Maria Hauer, the 10th-ranked individual in the state, took sixth overall in the freestyle competition in 17:37.4 to pace the Flyers.
Freshman Kendal Hendrickson took 44th in 19:28.3 and eighth-grader Anna McNamara was 121st in 21:53.4.
In the classic race, senior Kaitlin Geisenhof took 48th in 22:22.9, eighth-grader Allie Foote took 66th in 22:58.8 and sophomore Amelia Kresha was 85th in 23:38.0.
On the boys side, senior Matt Massmann posted the top finish in the freestyle competition, placing 27th in 15:34.1.
Sophomore Gunner Kleinschmidt followed in 86th in 17:00.7 and sophomore Christian Ganz took 147th in 18:34.8.
Senior John Gottwalt was the Flyers’ top classic skier, taking 41st in 18:14.0.
Eighth-grader Hunter Zupko was 95th in 19:37.7 and junior Hunter Kleinschmidt was 105th in 19:49.5.
Of Little Falls’ 19 competitors, 13 were sophomores or younger, giving many Flyers their first experience at the meet, which is held at the same site as the state competition.
“ I was pleased with their efforts and results and we can certainly build on this experience,” Wasland said. “Individually, I thought all our seniors had very solid races. Maria Hauer lived up to her top-ten ranking, finishing sixth behind the top-four ranked Minnesota skiers and the top-ranked Wisconsin skier.
“Matt Massmann had a great finish in the freestyle race, as well as John Gottwalt and Kaitlin Geisenhof in classic.”