by Jason Olson
Plenty of man-made snow held up on the cross country ski trails at Theodore Wirth Parkway long enough for the 2012 ABC Relays to show off some great times by some of the state’s top teams.
Each program divided into an A and B relay skiing four, 2.3 kilometer loops to score the team time.
The ABC Relays is known in the Nordic community as a premiere event. Stillwater coach Bill Simpson said, “This is a big race for our kids. They all get to race and they can’t wait to get here.”
Stillwater is one team that has continued to come since the event’s inception more than 30 years ago at the Bunker Hills Golf Course in Coon Rapids.
This year’s course was altered a bit by Coon Rapids coach Denny Green, eliminating a U-turn near the start/exchange area.
“That change made for a much smoother relay-tag zone, eliminating nearly all of the crashes that had plagued the skiers over the last two years,” Cardinals coach Denny Nelson said.
The top-ranked boys’ program in the state, Roseville, held true to that ranking as it downed teams just off the state rankings list, including runner-up Minnetonka and Stillwater.
Andover finished third in 27:30 followed by Coon Rapids fourth in 27:53, while Roseville paced the group with a time of 26:25. Spring Lake Park finished 23rd in 32:44 and Blaine’s top group was 29th in 40:33.
Andover coach Scott Clark was fine with the third-place finish, but hoped to be a bit closer to section foe Roseville.
“However, they were competitive and managed to bring home a few medals,” he said. “Each of the A team members finished in the top 15.”
Individually, Henry Sibley’s second-ranked Eric Slater won with a time of 6:20, eight seconds ahead of Roseville’s Kyle Marshall and 20 seconds clear of Coon Rapids’ standout and seventh-ranked Calvin Mehrhof. Andover’s Kyle Hellmann led his team with a fifth-place finish in 6:54, ahead of brother Kurt Hellmann, who finished 12th in 7:21.
Coon Rapids’ No. 2 skier was Matt Swanson, who finished 15th overall in 7:27 followed by Spring Lake Park’s Chris Lawson, who was 20th in 7:36.
Freestyle race honors went to Minnetonka’s Zach Goldberg, who edged Roseville’s No. 3 ranked Sam Elfstromg by one second. Andover’s Lucas Hieb was sixth in 6:36, followed by teammate Mitch Fisher in eighth place with 6:39 and Coon Rapids’ top skier Ryan Heida in 6:45. Cardinals teammate Steven Mueggenberg placed 19th in 7:01.
Hieb’s finish impressed Clark. “What was really nice to see was Lucas skiing so well,” Clark said. “He has had a back injury for much of the season and is finally looking like he is getting a little better.”
C-relay member Lucas Kivimaki would have tied Kurt Hellmann for 12th place in the classic race.
On the girls’ side, the level of comeptition was just a fierce as Stillwater, the third-ranked team in the state, won in 31:58, 32 seconds ahead of Mounds Park Academy, who came out of nowhere to upset No. 4 ranked Roseville. The Raiders finished third in 32:34 followed by Stillwater’s B relay.
Andover led the area teams with a sixth-place finish in 34:52 and Coon Rapids was eighth in 35:07. The Cardinals B relay was 10th overall in an impressive 36:14. Spring Lake Park’s top relay finished 19th in 39:39 and Blaine was 27th in 47:03.
Mounds Park Academy’s Kristen Bourne won the classic race by four seconds, while Andover’s Maddie McKeefry led the Huskies with a seventh-place finish in 8:44, 38 seconds behind Bourne’s winning time.
Her time would have been better if it wasn’t for getting tangled up at the start. “She passed more than half the field just to get back toward the front,” Clark said. “It was a great effort on her part.”
He estimated she passed 50 skiers over two kilometers.
“We believe the girls are going to be stronger, as a result of this, or maybe a little more hungry come the end of the year, since they expect to bring back more hardware,” Clark said.
Coon Rapids’ Sam Benson finished 15th in 9:08 and B relay member Kaitlyn Benson garnered 21st place in 9:23.
Spring Lake Park was led by Erin Mathews, who finished 24th overall in 9:30.
Mound Park Academy’s Kim Bourne gave the program a sweeping performance by winning the freestyle race in 7:30. Coon Rapids’ Anna Nelson finished fifth overall in 7:47, while Andover was paced by Amanda Jensen’s ninth-place finish in 8:05. Cardinals’ Sam Dills was 13th in 8:12.
Andover’s Nicole Heitzman finished 20th in 8:33.
Blaine’s Danielle Peterson and Ally Anderson tied for 52nd place with times of 10:40.