Nordic skiing: Bonneson sprints to state
Park's Evan Bonneson put it all together at just the right time.
The junior Nordic skier finished in ninth place at the Section 1 Championship meet to punch a ticket to his first state meet.
"I think some people were surprised by it, but I wasn't," said second-year head coach Joe Wacker. "He put together two really strong races, which he really hadn't done all year, and picked the best time to do it."
The top seven individuals not on the championship team earn a state berth. Bonneson finished the pursuit-style race in a time of 32 minutes, 52 seconds on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at Valleywood Golf Course in Apple Valley.
In the pursuit-style race, skiers compete in a 5K classic race in the morning and a 5K skate in the afternoon, where they literally pursue the skiers that finished ahead of them in the first race.
Sitting in 13th place after the classic, Bonneson had the fifth-best freestyle performance, with a time of 14:59, to earn a trip to state.
"He was right behind four people at the start of the race," Wacker said. "He caught them instantly and never let go. He's a really strong skater."
Bonneson became the first Park Nordic skier to reach state since 2009, when Joey Snyder and Nicolle Westphal reached state.
"Evan realizes it," Wacker, who is also a Park grad, said. "He told me he thought it was really cool that we're sending Park kids back to state, because every year you used to have two or three from Park. With him being a junior we're starting to build something. Even though the team is ridiculously small, there are some competitive skiers starting to brew there."
Park, East Ridge and Woodbury practice together, compete in identical races (except for the section race) and are administrated by the same staff, but race as individual high schools.
As a team, the Park boys took eighth place out of 12 teams with 221 points, despite only having a total of five skiers on the roster. Eagan (392 points) won the team title.
Park junior Connor Gabbert had the Wolfpack's second-best finish, taking 56th with a time of 43:38.
The Park girls took 10th place out of 11 teams at the Section 1 race with 188 points. Lakeville North won it all with 363 points. Sophomore Molly Haus and freshman Cameron Anderson had the top two times for the Wolfpack, finishing back-to-back, in 32nd and 33rd places respectively. Haus had a time of 43:41 and Anderson finished in 43:48.
In the Section 4 race on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at Green Acres in Lake Elmo, the East Ridge and Woodbury squads weren't able to send any skiers to the state meet.
In the 10-team section, the East Ridge girls took seventh place with 254 points and the Woodbury girls placed ninth with 233 points. The East Ridge boys placed eighth with 241 points and the Woodbury boys took 10th with 233 points. Stillwater won the girls meet with 380 points and Forest Lake won the boys meet with 387 points.
Senior Therese Besser had the best finish for the East Ridge girls, taking 30th place with a time of 37:48. Woodbury's Kathleen Danielson and Pauline Aamodt led the way for the Royals, finishing back-to-back - in 32nd and 33rd, respectively - with times of 38:14 and 38:38. Also, East Ridge's Liz Maata took 36th (39:01) and Megan Schiferl placed 40th (39:27).
Junior Sam Boardman had the best time for the East Ridge boys, taking 16th place in 29:31.
"He's been sick for the past few weeks," Wacker said. "He'll be back next year and he's going to light it up. He's got a great head on his shoulders and he'll be back."
Wacker said Boardman was probably at less than 70 percent for the section race.
"It's heartbreaking," Wacker said. "He's in a really tough section, but if he was healthy, he could've been top five. After just a great season, it was a hard pill to swallow for him."
Grant Davis had the best finish for Woodbury, taking 28th with a time of 33:00. Also, for the Royals, Paul Henning placed 40th (35:44) and Peter Buttery took 48th (37:36). For East Ridge, after Boardman, Jake Fabro had the Raptors second-best finish, taking 47th (37:20) followed by Nathan Strom who took 49th (37:53) and Alec Porter who took 51st (38:25).
Wacker said, overall, it was a very good season. Since he took over before last season, Wacker said the No. 1 priority was to get more kids on skis. The Nordic program went from 45 kids to 89 at one point this year.
"The kids were recruiting, the parents recruited and the coaches worked hard to improve the numbers," he said. "We were very vocal. We have lofty goals for next year too. Almost all of our new skiers were ninth or 10th graders. They had a great year and they're coming back. The coaching staff was great, we focused on technique more and had some time for fun. We're really happy with the way the season went."