Ricky Devine has gone from no clue to really good in three years.
The Little Falls senior joined the Flyers’ Nordic ski team as a sophomore and through hard work has become one of the top skiers in the Central Lakes Conference and Section 8.
He proved it the last two weeks. Devine won the individual skate race during the Feb. 3 Central Lakes Conference meet. His win helped the Flyers tie for the conference championship with St. Cloud Tech.
“We knew that we hadn’t beaten St. Cloud Tech all season and we knew any chance to get close was to probably win one of those two races,” said Flyers head coach Terry Wasland. “It was between trying to beat Sam Anderson in the classic or one of Tech’s other racers in the skate.
“We felt Ricky had been skating really well so we went that route. He knew that was our only hope. They went out together in a mass from the start and were together all the way through, until Ricky beat him by about eight inches. It was a real clutch performance.”
Devine crossed the finish line in 13:08 to earn all-conference honors.
“My hopes were if we can tie them it would be great,” said Devine. “We had some hopes. After the classic race we were down by two points so I knew it was possible to tie them and that was the reason Wasland put me in the skate.
“We figured I could stick with Tech’s Nick (Proell). I was skating behind him the whole race and I just had this feeling that I might be able to overtake him. Then I did and I was able to hold him off, barely.
“I fell on the ground and yelled ‘Yes’ in my head over and over. It was a great feeling. All the guys came over and congratulated me.”
He followed his conference performance with a second-place finish in the section meet Wednesday, helping the Flyers advance to state as a team for the second straight season.
Devine’s 16:50 in the classic was the second-fastest time and his 15:33 was the fourth-fastest freestyle. Combined, Devine registered a second-place 32:23.
“I want to get top five for the team,” said Devine, who will attend St. John’s University next year. “If we race like we did at sections we’ll do well. We had some big races from Nathan (Almen), Preston (Zimny) and Alex (Houle). If we race like that again we should be able to get top five. I want to try to make all-state, which I believe is the top 25.”
In last year’s state meet, Devine placed 84th with a pursuit time of 33:13.9. He skied a 16:47 in the freestyle and a 16:27 in the classical.
“Last year was the first year for our boys at state and they saw the level of competition they encountered there,” Wasland said. “Ricky worked hard in the offseason. He had a good cross country running season this fall. He spent more time on rollerskis and came in focused and determined to get back to state as a team. He had his individual goals, too, but he wanted the team there with him.”
Devine placed second at the Bemidji Invite with a pursuit time of 28:38.
“When he came out three years ago he had never been on skis before, but he was always the last one back on the bus from practice,” said Wasland. “After his sophomore season at our banquet, I said, ‘Ricky is going to ski in the skate Nordic ski meet simply because of his work habits.’ He was always the first one on the bus and the last one to get back on the bus at night. He never stopped moving in practice. He was constantly in motion.
“He is a great kid, a great teammate and a great role model.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Jordan Reed, Wadena-Deer Creek, scored 21 points against Park Christian.
Caleb Janson, Pierz, finished with 21 rebounds and 14 points against Holdingford.
Danny Daily, Aitkin, scored 21 points against Ogilvie.
Wrestling: Peter Harrison and Christian Harrison, Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus, won individual titles at the Park Region Conference meet.
Issac Lustila, Wadena-Deer Creek, won the 171-pound title at the Big Ole tournament.
Blake Miller, Josh Becker, Jordan Heldman, Blake Petrich and Chandler Trout, Staples-Motley, won individual titles at the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley tournament.
Hayden Zillmer, Crosby-Ironton, won an individual title at the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley tournament.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.