Alexandria Nordic skiing: Cardinals are third, fourthBeautiful weather leads to successful invitational for Alexandria
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
The Alexandria Nordic ski team didn’t have to worry about mild conditions ruining its chances at hosting its home meet this season.
A year after just getting on snow proved to be a challenge, Alexandria welcomed in 10 teams on a cool and calm morning at the Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center. First-year head coach Jeremy Rapp had a lot of work to do leading up to the race in what is the only home meet of the season in Alexandria.
“I have to give a huge shout out to my stellar cast of parent volunteers for helping make the meet a success,” Rapp said. “And a huge thank you to John Morgan of Arrowwood for the great grooming and the countless hours of work to help keep the ski trail in shape.”
The Cardinal skiers’ only focus was on performing well on their home course in front of family and friends. They did just that with a third-place team finish on the girls’ side and a fourth-place finish for the boys.
“My assistant, Taylor Ellison, and I feel good about how our varsity squad did today,” Rapp said. “Almost having three girls in the top 10 is a great accomplishment. On the boys’ side, we had Carl Branch sneak into the 10th-place position with our three other boys close behind. They’ve been consistent from race to race, but there is always room for improvement.”
Julia Sieling and Melissa Gromatka continued to be the anchors for the Cardinal girls. Sieling set the pace for her team with a fourth-place finish in a time of 24:15. Gromatka was not far behind in eighth place after finishing in 25:03.
Both girls have high expectations this season after coming off state meet appearances as underclassmen. Sieling, now a junior, has two of those trips to state under her belt, while Gromatka is shooting for her second trip this season as a senior.
“They have been great leaders on our team and are not afraid to work hard,” Rapp said of Sieling and Gromatka. “As long as they continue on the way they have been going, I believe they will be able to earn a spot in the state race.”
Senior Adrianna Wensman followed their lead on Saturday as she finished just out of the top 10 in 11th place. Wensman was just 25 seconds behind Gromatka in a time of 25:28. Lauren Hagstrom rounded out the top four finishers for the Cardinals by placing 26th in a time of 27:16.
Carl Branch paced the Alexandria boys to their fourth place finish by taking 10th individually. The sophomore came across in 21:37, 11 seconds ahead of teammate Pat Flynn, who finished 13th overall. Eric Branch was right behind in 15th place in a time of 21:54, and Cody Call rounded out the top for scorers for the team in 20th place (22:10).
“What I like on the boys’ side is that our top four boys, Cody Call, Pat Flynn, Carl Branch and Eric Branch, are very close in time and have been consistent from race to race,” Rapp said. “Every race has had a different leader on the boys’ side. Although we will be losing our senior captain [Call], I am hoping that they work hard for the rest of the season and into the off-season so that they can be a strong threat next year. Our whole boys’ team has great team chemistry and that is something every coach wants.”
Rapp feels the whole team has progressed throughout the season, especially some of the young athletes who will be the future of the program. That continued improvement is what this team is searching for as it inches closer toward the Central Lakes Conference meet in Fergus Falls on January 31.
“If I could have videotaped a lot of our young and new skiers on their first week on skis compared to now, there would be a huge difference,” Rapp said. “It’s fun as a coach to see that improvement. As far as the boys and girls varsity, I like where they are sitting right now.”
NORDIC SKI MEET
ALEXANDRIA GIRLS – Third place; Sieling – fourth place, 24:15; Gromatka – eighth place, 25:03; Wensman – 11th place, 25:28; Hagstrom – 26th place, 27:16; Becca Mateer – 27th place, 27:33
ALEXANDRIA BOYS – Fourth place; C. Branch – 10th place, 21:37; Flynn – 13th place, 21:48; E. Branch – 15th place, 21:54; Call – 20th place, 22:10; Dan Finazzo – 45th place, 26:19