Nordic boys back on the podium

FL earns third; Wohlk places in top 20 for girls

 

Senior Jacob Jankowski navigates a turn into the homestretch of the pursuit race. The co-captain kicked it into high gear during the afternoon classic race to capture ninth place and all-state honors.  (Photo by Kat Ladwig)

Senior Jacob Jankowski navigates a turn into the homestretch of the pursuit race. The co-captain kicked it into high gear during the afternoon classic race to capture ninth place and all-state honors. (Photo by Kat Ladwig)

Kat Ladwig
Sports Editor

The Forest Lake nordic skiing boys found their way back onto the podium after three years away by taking third at the state meet in Biwabik last Thursday with 345 points. Eden Prairie won the title with 378 points followed by Ely with 358.

The Rangers fought back after a tough morning freestyle race left them one point out of fourth place with top skier, senior Jacob Jankowski sitting in 23rd.

“They definitely needed a halftime talk,” head coach Deno Johnson said. “I knew our fitness was top notch to take on the afternoon race, but I still had to ruffle some feathers and rile them up. I went up to one of our senior leaders, Jacob, and talked to him about having to do really well in the classic race to achieve his goal of making it into the top 10. He looked me straight in the eye and said ‘I’m going to do it.’”

The co-captain stayed true to his word by surpassing 14 skiers in the afternoon classic race to take ninth place overall in a field of 119 and earn all-state honors with a pursuit time of 30:52.

Sophomore Quinn Duffy made strides this season to take 31st in 39:51 after placing 105th last year at state.

“Quinn wins the most-improved award this year,” Johnson said. “He’s work really hard and has picked up some nice hardware for himself now.”

Ninth-grader Tommy Babcock (32:05) and sophomore Leo Hipp (32:15) came in 39th and 47th, respectively, to close out the Ranger scoring.

Also competing for the Rangers were ninth-grader Davis Long, (63rd in 33:11), senior Jack Ebel (78th in 33:44) and sophomore Alex Richert (86th in 33:57).

On the girls’ side, sophomore Rocci Wohlk skiied to a top-20 finish with a time of 36:05, dropping 17 spots from third place last season at Giant’s Ridge, while ninth-grader Kate Schaaf made her state debut in 77th place in a field of 120.

Head coach Deno Johnson said that Wohlk seemed disappointed, but thinks the underclassmen learned some lessons along the way.

“It was a good learning experience for both girls,” Johnson said. “Kate was happy and it was a big deal to get her there as a ninth-grader. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in the results, but at the same time, what I’ve realized over time is no matter how fast you are, there’s always going to be someone faster. The road to a successful path is long, but you’ve just got to keep your head up.”

The Ranger coach said both teams hope to reach state next season and have the right team chemistry and motivation to do so.

“From a coaching standpoint, I can hardly recall a team where we’ve had so much fun,” Johnson said. “Their character and willpower is incredible, and with youth on our side, only time will tell how far they will go.”

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