The Flyers have had bigger senior classes.
But not many have been better than this year’s group, one that spread dozens of awards between just four skiers.
At the state Nordic ski meet held at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, Feb. 13, Little Falls seniors Maria Hauer, Kaitlin Geisenhof, Mathew Massmann and John Gottwalt led the team one last time, with Hauer garnering all-state honors for the second year in a row.
“Although a somewhat smaller senior class this year than other years, what they lacked in quantity, they made up for with quality,” Little Falls head coach Terry Wasland said. “These four seniors have been an integral part of our varsity for their entire high school career, and some into their middle school years. I have been privileged to work with these fine athletes and individuals and they will be greatly missed by their teammates and coaches.
“Combined they have won numerous varsity letters, all-conference awards, all-section awards and state meet participation awards,” he said. “They have given their all to the program and we have been the recipient of some fantastic role models for our younger athletes.”
Hauer skied to a 12th-place finish with an overall time of 39:26.8, capping a season that saw her consistently defeat opposing teams’ top competitors by several minutes.
Hauer’s time helped lead the Flyers to eighth place as a team.
“Going into the skate race, I knew I just had to ski my hardest and have fun,” Hauer said. “When I found out I was in 10th place in the skate race, I was honored and hoped to make up some more places in the classic, but many other girls had the same plan as I did. The classic race was a race from the start to the finish. Every girl was giving their best to their race and a couple of their best was a little better than my best. The girls ahead of me had a great race and I am glad to know that they will be on the Midwest team with me as we leave for nationals Feb. 28.”
Freshman Kendal Hendrickson was the next best finisher for the Flyers, coming in 58th place with a time of 42:59.8.
Finishing consecutively just outside the top 100 were sophomore Claire Gammon-Deering (46:11.5), senior Kaitlin Geisenhof (46:22.0) and sophomore Amelia Kresha (46:25.9), trailed closely by eighth-graders Allie Foote (47:13.9) and Catherine Zack (47:26.5).
Wayzata took the team title with 382 points, followed by Robbinsdale Armstrong (347), Stillwater Area (346), Burnsville (341), Roseville Area (320), Duluth East (306), Eastview (288) and Little Falls (270).
Massmann leads Flyers boys
In the boys race, senior Mathew Massmann led the Flyers in 38th place in 36:06.1, joined at the state meet by eighth-grader Hunter Zupko in 65th place in 37:09.3 and Gottwalt in 91st in 38:34.6.
“I felt like for it being their first time at state, both John and Hunter skied with a lot of emotion and intensity,” Massmann said. “They really put up an incredible fight and I was honored to be able to race with them in my final ski meet as a Flyer. It will be a lot of fun to be able to come back and watch Hunter and the rest of the family of Flyers. They have a lot of talent and I couldn’t be happier for them.”
“Our athletes competed with the very best at state with some mixed results,” Wasland said. “I thought seniors Maria Hauer and Matt Massmann had outstanding races. Also, eighth-grader Hunter Zupko and ninth-grader Kendal Hendrickson were very solid.
“With the five inches of new snow just before and during the race, it made for some very tough conditions,” he said. “Those conditions favor the smaller, lighter skiers who are runners, so that did not help some of our other team members. It was a great opportunity for our younger skiers to see what the level of competition is at the state level and how they need to prepare throughout the summer and coming years.”
Great way to go out
For the Flyers’ seniors, it was exciting to be competing at state as their high school careers concluded, yet bittersweet to have them be over.
“It was a bag of mixed emotions when I finished my high school Nordic career,” Hauer said. “It was sad to know after the six years of high school state meet experiences that this year was my last one. Looking at the past it is hard for me to say goodbye to high school skiing due to the friendships with other athletes, coaches and parents I have made from Mora to Detroit Lakes.
“At the end of the state meet comes a new chapter in life of collegiate skiing,” she said. “Even though my college coaches will be good, I am not sure if they could ever replace Waz (Terry Wasland) and Joe’s (Joe Dunaisky) coaching. I have been blessed having two head coaches like Joe and Waz – they have been my friend, my coach, my mentor and my extended family.”
The Flyers boys team just barely missed out on joining the girls at the state meet as a team, finishing one point behind St. Cloud Tech at the section meet.
Nonetheless, sending three individuals on wasn’t a bad way to go out.
“Ending my high school Nordic career at the state ski meet was a wonderful experience and to be able to share it with John Gottwalt III and Hunter Zupko was incredible,” Massmann said. “We were able to keep each other very relaxed and yet when it came to getting prepared to race, we were able to immediately turn the switch to be prepared. I’ll never forget it.
“The experience was very interesting and unlike any other race I’ve ever been in. The support that we received from our teachers, administrations, parents and our team that didn’t qualify was unbelievable,” he said. “I really felt like I had my whole community and school body right there the whole time I was out on the 10K course.”
“Ending a sport is always bittersweet, but to have the season finish at the state meet was the best way it could have ended,” Geisenhof said. “I was able to ski in one last meet with the rest of the girls, and for that I am very thankful. The state meet was a great experience. I really enjoyed spending time with the team. We never fail to have a good time together, and state was no exception.
“I think the meet was a challenge, both physically and mentally, but everyone did their best and some great results came from it,” she said. “Most of the team is young yet and still has potential so I’m excited to see where their hard work takes them in the future since they are already doing so well. As for me, I didn’t have the race I was hoping for, but that doesn’t stop me from being excited for the rest of the girls that did.”
It was especially sweet for Gottwalt, competing in his first state meet.
“Ending my Nordic career at the state meet was one of the best ways I could’ve gone out,” Gottwalt said. “After last year not ending the way I wanted, I went into the section race with state as my goal. Five years of hard work and training, I’m thankful God gave me the strength to succeed. My skate race and my classic race at state weren’t the greatest, but cracking the top 100 in the state was satisfying.
“The state experience was indescribable,” he said. “I hope every high school racer gets the chance to race in the state meet.”