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2012-13 Winter Preview: East Ridge alpine teams could be formidable on slopes

East Ridge's Elizabeth Koprucki returns to the slopes as one of the best racers in Minnesota. She finished second as an individual at last year's state meet.

Though the school is only 4 years old, the East Ridge alpine boys and girls teams could be two of the best in the state this winter.

The alpine program was dubbed the PWER alpine team at its inception in 2009 - the Park, Woodbury and East Ridge teams practice together, compete in identical races and are administrated by the same staff, but race as individual high schools.

Since the beginning, the East Ridge alpine teams have stood out.

The Raptors are led by Elizabeth Koprucki, who is now a senior. Koprucki finished second in the state as an individual last winter - just 1.12 seconds behind the state champion, Megan Danelski of Hermantown. The state meet was the only Minnesota State High School League-sanctioned race Koprucki competed in last year that she didn't win. Koprucki won all four of the Suburban East Conference race in which she competed, in addition to the Section 4A championship.

As a team, the East Ridge girls reached the state meet for the second-straight year last season, taking fifth place, while Hermantown won the girls team state title. East Ridge graduated two skiers from last year's team - Jessie Lepel and Bethany Wozniak - however, senior Morgan Maxwell and junior Stephanie Schmitz rejoin Koprucki for another run.

On the boys side, East Ridge graduated just one senior and return freshman Jack Midtlien fresh off a state-meet appearance as an eighth grader. He finished 29th in the state competition last year. Also back to help lead the Raptors again this season is senior Drew Del Toro and junior Oliver Kennedy.

Woodbury graduated seven girls and five boys, including state entrants Sarah Niederhofer and Brittany Roth, while Park lost three girls and one boy to graduation. Roth and Niederhofer finished 57th and 58th, respectively, at last year's state meet.

Weather permitting, the season starts on Jan. 3 with a Suburban East Conference meet at Welch Village.