As far as the Little Falls girls are concerned, Mora can have the conference title.
On Tuesday, the Flyers took home the hardware that really counts.
Five days after the Mustangs topped them in the Granite Ridge Conference meet, the Little Falls girls came away with a ninth consecutive trip to state by winning the Section 8A crown.
It was a heartbreaking finish for the Flyers boys, who finished one point away from joining the girls at state. However, seniors Mathew Massmann and John Gottwalt and eighth-grader Hunter Zupko all qualified individually.
“We had a great effort from every skier, both boys and girls,” Little Falls head coach Terry Wasland said. “We were the healthiest we have been for a while and it showed.
“The girls took up the challenge of keeping the string of section titles intact and had great focus and effort,” he said. “We had been so close to Mora the week before at conference, we knew beating them was possible. Each skier knew what they had to do individually to help their team beat Mora and they executed wonderfully.”
Hauer captures third
Little Falls’ path back to state began with senior Maria Hauer, who captured a third-consecutive section title by an overwhelming margin, outdistancing the runner-up 32:36 to 35:42.
“She has been such a solid force for us,” Wasland said, “and I am glad she is on our side.”
Freshman Kendal Hendrickson finished in fifth place in 36:56 and senior Kaitlin Geisenhof took eighth in 37:06, each placing one spot ahead of a Mora skier.
“We had outstanding races from our top three skiers in Maria, Kaitlin and Kendal in handling their Mora counterparts, and our four through seven skiers did what they needed to do. To quote another coach, ‘Your top three just hammered that classic course today.’
“We were down to (St. Cloud) Cathedral by four points and up on Mora by two after the morning skate race, but really dominated in the afternoon classic race, pulling away for a comfortable margin of victory,” he said.
Sophomore Amelia Kresha placed 19th in 39:09 to cap the scoring for the Flyers, giving them a healthy winning spread.
Sophomore Claire Gammon-Deering took 20th in 39:35, eighth-grader Catherine Zack was 25th in 40:26 and eighth-grader Allie Foote was 31st in 42:17 to round out the lineup.
Flyers boys one point back
The Little Falls boys came within an eyelash of joining the Flyers girls at state, finishing in second place behind St. Cloud Tech, 366-365, with the Tigers advancing on the strength of a sweep of the top two individual spots.
“I could not have asked for more from them,” Wasland said. “Being down by seven points after the morning skate, they could have let up, but they came back with an outstanding effort in the classic, only to fall short by one point.
“Although disappointed at not moving on to the state meet, I know they all knew they gave it their all and respected St. Cloud Tech for their effort in holding on,” he said. “As a coach, I was disappointed for them as I knew how hard they had worked to achieve this goal, but I was certainly not disappointed in their effort or character in finishing second. I was proud to be their coach.”
Cushioning the disappointment was the fact that three individuals moved on to state, including Massmann in sixth place in 31:41, Zupko in eighth in 31:55 and Gottwalt in ninth in 32:26.
Sophomore Gunner Kleinschmidt was 16th in 33:33, followed by junior Hunter Kleinschmidt in 20th in 33:58, freshman Seth Crocker in 28th in 35:10 and junior Ethan Crocker in 30th in 35:21.
LF boys capture Granite Ridge title, girls second
Led by an individual title from Massmann in the skate in 18:18, the Little Falls boys topped runner-up Mora 595-585 to win the Granite Ridge Conference championship held at Mora, Jan. 30.
Also earning all-conference were Gunner Kleinschmidt in second in the skate (19:13), Zupko in second in the classic (21:44) and Hunter Kleinschmidt in third in the classic (21:59).
Receiving honorable mention were Gottwalt in fourth in the classic (22:56) and Ethan Crocker in fourth in the skate (19:49).
In the girls race, Little Falls finished four points behind champion Mora before their rematch at the section meet.
Hauer won the conference title in the skate in 20:04, with Foote placing third in the classic in 26:09 to also earn all-conference honors.
Geisenhof took fourth in the classic in 26:27 to earn honorable mention.
In the sprint, Massmann, Gottwalt and Hauer were all-conference and Zupko was honorable mention, with Massmann and Hauer taking first.