Champlin Park Nordic boys skiing are headed back to state for the second straight season after finishing 5A section runner-up Feb. 5 at Theodore Wirth Park.
The Rebels finished with a 372, three points behind section champion Maple Grove (375). At sections, only the top four racers count toward the final score. And while many of the teams remain the same, there are notable teams in different sections, such as Armstrong.
That makes both races extremely different, not even including the different weather and randomness of times.
But in the end, the goal is to make it to state, and Champlin Park accomplished the feat again.
“Maple Grove had a really good race, and we are looking forward to the state race and doing better,” senior Jack Nightingale said. “Last year, we didn’t do so well at state, so we are hoping to improve, take home a good spot and do well.”
Nightingale led the Rebels in fifth place, and seniors Mark Scheller and Connor Preston were right behind him in sixth and seventh – which earned all three racers medals.
Scheller actually led the three headed into the 5K classical pursuit, but Nightingale had a faster pursuit time to finish in 25 minutes, 25.2 seconds.
Scheller (25:32.7) had a time of 11:46.7 in the 5K freestyle skate, just ahead of Nightingale’s 11:47.2. But Nightingale’s pursuit time of 13:38 was a little faster than Scheller’s time of 13:46.
Preston finished in 25:48.9 with a freestyle time of 11:52.9 and a pursuit time of 13:56.
The three seniors have raced close and in the top 10 for much of the season, including conference when Scheller took third, Preston took fourth and Nightingale was sixth.
That competition by teammates makes the group very tight-knit, Nightingale said.
“It makes it exciting for sure,” Nightingale said. “It makes it very interesting when you always have a teammate right next to you. It kind of drives you and gets you going.”
Senior Zachary Oldroyd had a top-15 finish, taking 14th in 26:25.8. His freestyle time was 26:25.8, and his pursuit time was 14:05.
Senior Joseph Eisenberg and sophomore Keegan Poston finished in the top 30. Eisenberg was 24th in 27:32.9 (12:16.9 freestyle, 15:16 pursuit), and Poston took 29th in 27:46.8 (12:42.8 freestyle, 15:04 pursuit).
Junior Kyle Ostendorf took 40th in 28:26.1 (13:39.1 freestyle, 14:47 pursuit).
“We are very happy with the way the team performed,” coach Charlie Rietschel said. “Everyone gave it their all today. Three points was pretty close, so we’d have loved to have taken the win but we are happy with it the way it is.”
All seven skiers earned All-Northwest Suburban Conference honors in a season that coaches and athletes have said is ahead of where the team was last year.
That makes the goal higher in the group’s second opportunity at state Friday, Feb. 14, at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
And besides the experience from a year ago, the Rebels have also skied on the course already this season on Jan. 4 at the Mesabi East Invitational.
“We know what the course is like,” Nightingale said. “We are not surprised when we get there. We know the competition is going to be fierce, so the mental preparation and the physical preparation I think is going to be better.”
Champlin Park was 15th out of 16 teams at the 2019 state meet. The boys hope to be in the top eight or better in 2020, which shouldn’t be that big of a stretch.
“We should have an opportunity,” Rietschel said. “They have to do their race, and hopefully we will be able to save our best race for the end.”