Nordic boys pleased with their progress
The Cardinal boys’ Nordic ski team went into last offseason having no one qualify for the state meet. This year, they hope to change that behind an improved group of skiers who dominated the top five of their home meet on Tuesday.
The meet at Andes Tower Hills was rescheduled from January 4 as the Cardinals welcomed in opponents on a blustery day. Brainerd did not field a full roster and St. Cloud Tech and Ottertail Nordic were also absent after planning on being at the original meet.
Things will look different when the Cardinals host the Central Lakes Conference championship meet on January 28, but on Tuesday, they raced the opponents in front of them and took home four top-five finishes. Senior Patrick Flynn has been the catalyst for this group and he was again at Andes as he finished first in a time of 16:40 on the 5K course.
Flynn and Carl and Eric Branch have all shown progress this season as they continue to put up faster times. Carl was third on Tuesday with a time of 17:29 and Eric finished right in front of him in a time of 17:20.
“Pat has consistently been first for the boys the past three meets,” head coach Jeremy Rapp said. “But there has been alternating between Flynn and the Branch brothers as the race leader. Realistically, any of the three of them have a shot at state.”
That’s what they are striving for this season after coming up short a season ago. Rapp felt the skiers they sent to the Mesabi East Invite on January 11 were some of the top skiers Alexandria has sent to Giants Ridge for that meet in quite some time. The Cardinals had many finish in the middle of the pack at that event against a field that included more than 1,200 skiers.
The Cardinals continue to build on performances like that. Dalton Struck gave Alexandria a fifth-place finish at the home invite on Tuesday in a time of 18:53 and Casey Call rounded out the team with a 10th-place finish in 19:48.
“In regards to the top three boys (Flynn and Eric and Carl Branch), they have been placing in the teens or single digits, whereas last year they were further back in the pack.” Rapp said. “They also have been more responsible in leading team activities, so there is an element of them wanting to do well.”
The Cardinals have a few more races to keep building toward the section meet on February 4. Alexandria will be at Camp Ripley on January 20 and at St. John’s University for an invite on January 23. The Cardinals then host the CLC championship back out at Andes on January 28.
BOYS – Flynn – first place, 16:40; E. Branch – second place, 17:20; C. Branch – third place, 17:29; Struck – fifth place, 18:53; Call – 10th place, 19:48