Champlin Park senior Annie Miller is off to the Nordic skiing state tournament, advancing as the lone individual for the Rebels Feb. 5 in the 5A section meet at Theodore Wirth Park.
Miller has been one of the top skiers all season, also earning an All-Northwest Suburban Conference selection, and her combined time of 29 minutes, 37 seconds was good enough to get her a sixth-place overall finish and her first career state berth.
“I have poured my heart and soul into this sport for eight, nine years now,” Miller said. “And so it is just super exciting to see the hard work pay off and to be able to go with our boys team.”
Miller came into the 5K classical pursuit with a 5K freestyle skate time of 13:33, which had her in the third position at the start.
Miller finished the pursuit in 16:04 and claimed the third of six state individual qualifier spots.
“Annie has made great strides since she started skiing, and we are very excited that she made it to state,” coach Charlie Rietschel said.
The Rebels finished sixth as a team with a 324. Miller advanced, but there were some bittersweet feelings at the end of sections.
Miller’s senior teammate Jennifer Omann, who was also an all-conference skier, fell just short of the final state berth by one spot and about 25 seconds. Omann finished 11th overall in 30:30.2. The final spot went to Spring Lake Park junior Autumn Vandentop (30:05.3).
“It’s tough because we can only put out the race that we can put out on that certain day, and so she has been working really hard this whole year, along with the rest of the team,” Miller said. “It’s tough for her to miss it by just that much, but she’s got the positive outlook that she did what she can do for this day.”
Omann’s freestyle time was 14:13.2, and her pursuit time was 16:17. Despite just mixing a state berth and a section medal, the season had plenty of positives for Omann and all of the girls that ended their season in the race.
“We are very sad that Jen didn’t make it, but we are very proud of all the hard work that all the girls did,” Rietschel said. “We want to see improvement throughout from the beginning of the season to the end of the season and we did.”
Junior Atley Schreiner also was an all-conference recipient, and she closed her season with a 23rd-place finish at sections in 32:10.3. Schreiner’s freestyle time was 14:35.3, and her pursuit time was 17:35.
Junior Ashlyn Murphy finished the team scoring with a 40th-place finish in 34:02.7. Her freestyle time was 15:32.7, and her pursuit time was 18:30.
Freshman Elise Oldroyd, senior Melanie Schluender and junior Cassidy Tanner also participated at sections.
Oldroyd finished 49th in 35:26.3, and Schluender was 63rd in 37:12.6. Tanner was 68th in 37:24.
Miller now sets her sights on state, which is on Friday, Feb. 14, and she comes in with experience racing at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
Miller raced there Jan. 4 in the Mesabi East Invitational.
“The course is a blast, so it will be super fun,” she said. “I’m stoked.”
As for a goal for a finish, Miller said she knows the competition is tough, and she will just see how everything shakes out. She said she is just going to try her hardest and enjoy the experience.
“We just hope she goes up there and does her best, and hopefully, she can pull off a good race,” Rietschel said.