It wasn’t the ideal start for Manon Gammon-Deering, but the ending was bliss.
The Little Falls senior began her final Nordic skiing season with a stress fracture in her ankle and health issues. Both kept the returning state meet skier from her peak until when it mattered the most.
And that was OK with her.
“I was just really blessed to overcome them by the time the state meet came, which was my priority,” said Gammon-Deering. “I believe those things that hold you back make you stronger and make you appreciate more your ability to do the things you love.”
Gammon-Deering suffered her stress fracture during the cross country season, but said it didn’t affect the way she skied. Her health was the key issue and she said by the time the Central Lakes Conference meet hit, she was 100 percent.
It showed the week before as Gammon-Deering won the Bemidji Pursuit Jan. 25 in 34:02 to help the Little Falls Flyers to first place.
“Bemidji was really helpful in that I was looking to pull off a win,” she said. “I was looking for confidence leading into the bigger meets. It was nice to see that I was ready and knew I could compete.”
In the Feb. 3 CLC meet at St. John’s University, Gammon-Deering won the freestyle portion in 15:02 to help Little Falls to its fifth straight conference title. Less than a week later, she skied to a second-place pursuit time of 36:55 in the Section 8 meet at Camp Ripley.
“I’m very happy with that result,” she said. “The girl who beat me is very good and I actually made some ground on her from two years ago. She beat me by a couple of minutes back then. This year the gap was only 50 seconds.”
Then came the state meet Feb. 17 at Giants Ridge.
“We always think Manon is pretty balanced, but lately her classic has been a little bit better so it was important for her to go out and pull off a very good skate race to start the state meet,” said Flyers head coach Terry Wasland. “She was pretty happy with that race. She said it was probably the toughest race she had ever skied in her life because she pushed herself so hard through it.
“She was 17th after the skate and that put her in good position to reach her goal of making the top 25. Being 17th gave her a little bit of breathing room and she finished her classic in 22nd overall. Her skis weren’t great. There was a little bit of slippage, but she finished solid and reached her goal.”
Gammon-Deering finished her skate race in 15:29 and posted an 18:51 in her classic for a 34:20, which earned her all-state honors (the top 25 pursuit finishers).
“My goal was to be all-state and I just wanted to have two smart races and put everything out there and give everything I could to be successful,” said Gammon-Deering, who will attend the College of St. Benedict next year and run cross country and track and field.
“I was very happy after the skate race,” she added. “I knew I had given it everything I had. Whatever the outcome was going to be I knew I had given everything I had in that race and I was in good position for the classic race. I was tired, but I was happy.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Whitney Weisz, Little Falls, finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots against Willmar and 19 points and nine rebounds against Sauk Rapids.
Lindsay Monson, Pierz, finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds against Pine City.
Melissa Paulson, Aitkin, scored 19 points against East Central.
Jackie White, Pillager, scored 21 points against Verndale, 16 against New York Mills and 18 against Northland, helping her reach 1,000 for her career.
Tatum Sheley, Pine River-Backus, finished with 19 points and seven steals against Laporte and 19 points against Crosby-Ironton.
Mattie Lueck, Pequot Lakes, scored 19 points against Crosby-Ironton and 20 against Parkers Prairie.
Emily Miron, Wadena-Deer Creek, scored 20 points against Menahga.
Kelly Pearson, Staples-Motley, scored 27 points against Brooklyn Center.
Gymnastics: Rachelle LeBlanc, Little Falls, advanced to the state meet by tying for third place on floor in the Section 8-1A meet.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at jeremy. firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.