Boys place third, girls ninth in Nordic pursuitIf last Monday’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Suburban East Conference pursuit race is any indication of what Woodbury Nordic skiing fans can expect from its athletes, it could be a very fun February.
By: Patrick Johnson, Bulletin Newspapers, Woodbury Bulletin
If last Monday’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Suburban East Conference pursuit race is any indication of what Woodbury Nordic skiing fans can expect from its athletes, it could be a very fun February.
Because of its style, its distance and its course, the MLK SEC pursuit is generally thought of as a precursor to the conference and section championships and state meet — which are quickly approaching.
At the race, the Woodbury boys finished in third place overall — behind first place Forest Lake and second place Stillwater — and the girls came in fifth place — one spot (and one point) behind rival Park.
Individually, both the boys and girls had some stellar performances as well.
In the boys race, Woodbury took three of the top 17 spots overall. Senior skier Will Novotny led the way for the Royals with a time of 27.02 and a 11th place finish.
However, coach James Kyes felt Novotny — who finished more than a minute back of Park’s Joe Snyder, a training partner he usually beats — can do even better in the upcoming big races.
“He’s a very strong skier, but I’m still kind of waiting for him to separate himself from being a good skier to being a great skier,” Kyes said. “I kind of feel Will would be a faster guy than Joe, but for some reason Will is still having a bit of trouble for some reason. He needs to go for it, let it out and see what happens.”
After Novotny, senior James Buchen earned 16th place and junior Brock Eastlund was 17th overall. Woodbury junior Marty Joyce was 24th overall and sophomore Tom Drtina was 31st overall to round out the Royals’ scorers in the meet.
“Any of these guys could push each other for the state meet,” Kyes said. “They’re a very good team and are skiing very well. But, I’m still kind of waiting for this team to break out.”
One goal before the season was to finish ahead of Stillwater at the conference race — something that hasn’t happened in at least the last 20 years, according to Kyes.
However, the Ponies were almost 20 points better than the Royals on Monday.
“To beat Stillwater we need two guys to step up — we need Will to step up, that’s the first thing,” Kyes said. “Then, one of those other guys needs to jump up into the top 10 or 15. I think that would do it.”
For the girls, the Royals’ lone state qualifier from last year — Woodbury junior Mara Stewart — sat out the race because of lingering injuries and Kyes is unaware when and if she will return this season.
“She’s still really struggling with pain and fatigue,” Kyes said. “There’s been some discussion that with where she is health-wise it might be a good decision to take the rest of the year off. It’s her decision, but, that’s a hard, hard decision for her to make.”
With Stewart relegated to observer, Woodbury senior Mari Wallis continued her comeback from injury to earn the best finish on the day for the Royals with a time of 31:36, which was good for ninth overall.
Wallis’ recovery is seemingly nearly complete as she was able to edge Stillwater’s Amber Anderson and was only 15 seconds back from White Bear Lake’s Katie Moraczewski.
“Mari probably feels she can do better, and I agree with her, but I’m absolutely not disappointed,” Kyes said. “She’s progressing very well and is skiing better and better at every meet. If she can get faster and conference and at section she can make the state meet. She’s doing better that what I expected.”
After Wallis, Natalie Lugg was 13th overall in a time of 32:12, Justine Pool was 25th, Hailey Clinton was 30th and Lauren Bleyl was 31st overall to round out the Royals’ scoring skiers.
In the pursuit-style, the meet is broken into two races. A classic race takes part in the morning. Starting points for the second race are based on each individual skier’s finish from that first race. The person who finishes with the best time in the first race is the first one on the course in the second race, getting a “head start” of the amount of time they won the first race by and everyone else has to, then, physically catch them.
“It’s a super exciting race format,” Kyes said. “Whoever finishes the race first is the winner.”
Next up for Woodbury is the SEC Championships on Wednesday, July 28 at Como Park in St. Paul.