It’s all in the hills.
That’s what Little Falls Flyers head coach Terry Wasland is most nervous about. That, and a field stacked with the state’s best talent.
Wasland’s Flyers are one of three teams returning to the state Nordic ski meet Thursday at Giants Ridge Resort in Biwabik.
The Flyers finished seventh last year. They placed eighth in 2010, fifth in 2009, third in 2008, sixth in 2007 and seventh in 2006.
“The hills are going to be our biggest challenge because we haven’t practiced on any,” Wasland said. “We’ve been stuck on a lake because of the lack of snow. We’re too far to drive to any ski hill with man-made snow so the kids don’t really have a lot of training on hills.
“How we handle that will play a major role in how we do. That, and it’s an extremely talented field. The state is filled with USSA skiers, who train year round with the Olympic developmental programs.”
Returning Flyers are junior Mattia Hendrickson (39th last year) junior Chelsea Rutz (49th), sophomore Kaitlin Geisenhof (89th), sophomore Maria Hauer (98th) and junior Josie Lang (115th).
This will be Hauer’s fourth state trip. She was 71st as an eighth-grader and 114th as a seventh-grader.
This will be state trip No. 3 for Hendrickson (83rd as a freshman), Geisenhof (97th as an eighth-grader) and Rutz (102nd as a freshman).
“It’s always nice to have experience and most of these girls have three years in a state meet,” Wasland said. “It’s beneficial to know what it’s like going in there.
“Again, we’ll see how we do this year without any hill work. But we have no excuses. We’ll go up there and compete the best we can.”
Rounding out the Section 8 champion roster are Chloe Houle and Ingrid Floersheim.
Brainerd Warriors Allison Kosobud and Sarah Fairbanks are also returning to state. Unlike their neighbors to the south, they have hill training.
“Ski Gull has been a lifesaver for allowing us to be there before it opens on Saturday mornings,” said Warriors co-head coach Chris Hanson. “We were able to work the base of the hill and climb to the top of that hill, and that’s a pretty good climb to work on technique and learn how to climb. We’ve done very well because of it. It’s a big part of our success.”
Kosobud finished 41st in last year’s state meet with a time of 35:48.9. Fairbanks finished with an 81st-place time of 37:30.0.
“Both are fired up to improve on their previous year’s results,” Hanson said. “For returning state participants that’s a pretty straightforward goal. Still, things can happen — one fall or a broken piece of equipment, or you can be going all out and letting it all hang out and you just have to hope nobody takes a spill in front of you.”
Both Warriors are juniors and could be back to state again, but Hanson would like to see them close to cracking the top 25, if not sneaking into the all-state honor threshold.
“Despite the snow conditions, these girls, and the boys team, too, have had great attitudes this season,” Hanson said. “The reward for their persistence is advancing to state.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5856.