Twelve area skiers with a combined 25 years of state meet experience will compete for all-state accolades Thursday (Feb. 14).
Highlighting the skiing caravan is Brainerd’s Zean Baker. The senior will ski in his fourth state meet. Little Falls junior Maria Hauer will ski in her fifth state meet and leads a Flyers girls team into its eighth-straight state meet appearance.
This will be the third state trip for Brainerd’s Allison Kosobud and Sarah Fairbanks and the second for Noah Baker and Gerrit Garberich.
Little Falls’ Matt Massmann will enjoy his first state meet.
At last year’s race, Zean Baker finished 63rd, Garberich was 99th and Noah Baker 106th. In 2011, Zean Baker finished 53rd and in his first state meet, placed 99th.
“I know last year he had a great skate portion and was in great position, but he didn’t do as well in the classic portion and was disappointed in his results,” said Brainerd co-head coach Mary Claire Ryan. “He plans to make amends at this state meet. He’s aiming to be in the top 25 and I expect to see him there.
“He has been very consistent, finishing 1-2-3 in all the races this season. He’s been up skiing with the lead guys, not only in our section, but when we’ve competed against Section 7 schools as well.”
Zean Baker placed second in the Section 8 meet Feb. 5 at Camp Ripley. He was followed by Noah Baker in 11th and Garberich in 12th.
“Both of those guys have a good understanding of what is to come and what to do between the races and during the down time and the day before, too,” said Ryan. “Last year, the Wednesday before state, we were actually on decent snow for the first time all year and I think we skied too much the day before state.
“We’ll slow them down this year so that we remain fresh and ready to go.”
Massmann finished 10th at sections. Flyers head coach Terry Wasland expects this to be a learning experience for his junior.
“Matt is a competitor, but he hasn’t raced the course yet,” Wasland said. “Your first time up there is always interesting. I’m thinking he’ll be in the middle of things and hopefully come away dreaming about next year and what he needs to do even more.”
Wasland will have his attention on his veteran girls team. Hauer won the Section 8 meet and was followed by Mattia Hendrickson, who will ski in her fourth state meet. Chelsea Rutz finished sixth at sections. This will be her fourth state meet. It’s the fourth state meet for Kaitlin Geisenhof, who finished eighth at sections, and Josie Lange will ski in her third state meet. Kendal Hendrickson and Claire Gammon-Deering are the team’s state rookies.
“They have some experience and this year we’ve been able to train a little bit better than last year,” said Wasland. “We should be more competitive this year than last year. There are a lot of the same teams. I think there is only one different team from last year’s state meet. I don’t think anyone lost anything either so it’s a rematch of last year’s state meet.”
Duluth East is back and will go for its third straight state title.
Last year, Little Falls placed seventh in 2012. Hauer was 42nd, Hendrickson placed 71st, Kaitlin Geisenhof finished 89th, Rutz was 93rd and Lang 114th.
The Flyers finished seventh in 2011. Hendrickson placed 39th, Rutz 49th, Geisenhof 89th, Hauer 98th and Lang 115th.
Little Falls finished eighth in 2010. Hauer finished 71st, Hendrickson 83rd, Geisenhof 97th and Rutz 102.
In 2009, Hauer finished 114th as a seventh-grader.
“Wayzata and Duluth East will be tough to beat, but I think you can throw the rest of the teams in a hat for the final spots,” Wasland said. “I’m not sure how we’ll finish, place-wise, but I know we’ll be more competitive. These girls will go up there and compete with anyone.”
As will Brainerd’s Kosobud and Fairbanks. The seniors finished third and 12th, respectively, at the section meet.
Kosobud finished 83rd last season with Fairbanks in 106th. As a sophomore Kosobud placed 41st and Fairbanks 81st.
“Their goals are to place better than they have in the past,” said Ryan. “This is an entirely different race. It’s a pressure-cooker for all the kids. It’s a little different in that we start with the skate portion in the morning. The afternoon pursuit is the classic so the key for the girls is to have a good morning skate race, which is Sarah’s strength. Ali is pretty even in both techniques. If you have a good morning, it gives you a shot in the afternoon to improve their standing.”