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Liz Maata returns to the East Ridge Nordic team this season.

2012-13 Winter Preview: Will high turnout turn into more success for Nordic teams?

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A year ago, first-year head coach Joe Wacker just wanted to rejuvenate the struggling Nordic skiing program in District 833.

This year he's hoping to build on last winter's accomplishments.

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Wacker, a Nordic skier at Park just six years ago, was able to inject some life back into the Nordic program last season. This year, the program has nearly doubled in size overall. The number of skiers went from 45 in 2012 to 82 currently.

"We are still laying the foundation for a successful program, and this dramatic increase in numbers is a step in the right direction," Wacker said. "With all of these new skiers we are going to have a lot of people learning how to ski for the first time, but we also have a lot of returning second-year skiers who we expect to see make a huge jump in ability this season."

During the regular season, the East Ridge, Park and Woodbury teams practice together, compete in identical races and are administrated by the same staff, but race as individual high schools. However, in the postseason, East Ridge and Woodbury compete in Section 4 and Park is in Section 1.

The bad news for the squads is that all three teams graduated some of their top skiers from last year. Among others, Park lost longtime skier Sara Manship, while Woodbury graduated Lars Espe and Erica Storvick and East Ridge said goodbye to Erik Jorgensen, Melanie Rabino and Hannah Strom. Espe and Storvick were the top skiers for the Royals and Jorgensen and Rabino were the Raptors' No. 1 skiers.

However, a number of good skiers return to help lead the teams as well.

Returning to the Wolfpack are junior Evan Bonneson and sophomore Cameron Anderson, while Woodbury welcomes back seniors Anna McKeown and Misa Adams and East Ridge returns junior Sam Boardman, seniors Liz Maatta and Therese Besser and junior Krystal Kleven.

"Despite our losses we expect to be a more competitive team because of returning talent and increase in team size," Wacker said.

Bonneson, Park's Annie Lisson, Woodbury's McKeown and East Ridge's Boardman, Besser, Maata and Kleven will captain the team this season.

Weather permitting, the teams kick off competition with a conference meet on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at Troll Hollow. Other key meets will be the Martin Luther King Conference Meet on Jan. 21, the Suburban East Conference Championship Meet on Jan. 31 and the section meets on Feb. 5 (Park) and Feb. 6 (Woodbury and East Ridge).

The squads failed to send any skiers to the state meet in 2012, but Wacker hopes that will change this season.

The top competition in the SEC is expected to be Stillwater, Roseville and Forest Lake, while Eagan and Lakeville South will be the teams to watch in Park's section and Stillwater and Forest Lake are the two toughest teams in Woodbury and East Ridge's section.

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