LITTLE FALLS -- Jason Thielen is only a sophomore at Little Falls High School but he's already been to three state tournaments.
Saturday he'll make it four. The Flyers' nordic skier advanced to the state tournament Saturday at Giants Ridge, thanks to a fifth-place finish in the classic portion of the Section 8 meet last Wednesday at Camp Ripley.
Thielen's time of 18:33 along with his freestyle time of 18:25 gave him a combined sixth-place finish in the pursuit with a time of 36:58.
"Jason is a really gifted athlete," said Flyers coach Terry Wasland. "He's gone to the state meet twice in cross country. He's been able to handle the pressure in stride. This was his goal and he expected to be at the state meet."
Thielen not only battled the competition, he also was battling an illness that may have hurt his freestyle time.
"He has a good work ethic," Wasland said. "He knows what it takes to prepare himself. He was sick for the first month of the season. He had a tough time recovering from that. He's about 90 percent now."
Thielen said the course was in good condition and he figured his best shot at advancing to the state meet was in the classic portion of the meet. The sophomore gives credit to his physical stamina and his improved technique.
"My endurance and technique really helped," said Thielen. "I've worked a lot on my technique especially for the hilly courses, which we'll see at the state meet."
His coach agrees. Having gone to the state meet in cross country the last two years, Thielen has proven he has the stamina to be a competitor at Saturday's meet.
"He has a really good motor," said Wasland. "His aerobic capacity is really good. Plus, he's a competitor."
As a third-grader Thielen took up cross country skiing with his mom and dad. The early exposure helped him to a 40th place in last year's state meet.
Although the skier was happy to make it to state, he said his best race was the Central Lakes Conference meet Jan. 31 in Alexandria.
"It was a good course," said Thielen. "There was one really long climb about three-quarters of a way into the course and I knew when I got to the hill I would win the race. That was my goal the whole year.
"That was one of my best races. I was really peaking for that race."
Wasland said his skier dominated the field and won by a substantial margin. His time of 17:14 was a minute faster than the fourth-place finisher.
Unlike last year, when Thielen had to prepare for the state tournament alone, he has company during practice this week as Josh Gold also advanced to the final meet. Being able to train with someone else should help.
"It will be a lot nicer," said Thielen. "I will have someone to train with me who is also taking it serious. A lot of people will come to practice but they have nothing to look forward to."
Along with cross country Thielen was in track and field last year. But this spring he plans to take up golf.
"He could do well in any sport he participates in," said Wasland.
Other notable performances:
Basketball -- Nate Miller of Little Falls scored 34 points to help the Flyers past St. Cloud Apollo 78-59 Friday. Miller added 20 points Saturday against Duluth East.
Justin Kelley scored 28 points to help the Pine River-Backus Tigers over the Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines 59-49.
Pillager's Adam Brown finished with 19 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds to help the Huskies over Swanville 81-48. Teammate Lee Roberts scored 22 points in the game.
Wrestling -- Aitkin's Chris Tibbetts, Jordan Keil, Justin Keil, Dusty Finlayson and Chad Hasskamp each won three matches last week to help the Gobblers move to 11-3 on the season.
Chris Breitenfeldt and Jason Becker of Staples-Motley won both their matches at the Perham triangular.
Brady Switajewski, Corey Swenson, Ben Keen and Josh Bresnahan each earned two wins at the Aitkin triangular.
Nordic skiing -- Josh Gold of Little Falls placed fifth in the freestyle race with a time of 17:32 at the section meet Wednesday to advance to the state tournament.
Hockey -- W-DC's Kyle Davis finished with two goals and two assists in a win over Long Prairie-Grey Eagle. In a 3-2 loss Saturday to Little Falls, Davis scored two more goals.
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