Whew! An exhausting JNQ weekend tossed up the rankings, along with some good conference racing over the past few weeks. And to be honest, the second round of rankings showed a little rust -- some individuals and teams were overlooked.
First, credit where credit is due: St. Paul Highland Park boys have been seeking out competition all winter and are sporting a very well-rounded team that has earned 8th place in the new rankings. The Mora boys also climb up, as they continue to perform well this season, led by senior John Swinghamer, who earns a spot in the individual rankings at #9. Another name new to the rankings is Alex Nemeth of St. Cloud Cathedral, who scored the U16 classic victory in Cable and has been pressing Hunter Zupko of Little Falls in conference meets.
From the JNQ action, a number of athletes earned new recognition. Luc Golin, Wayzata, sported some fast skis to move up into the top five. Golin's teammate, James Schneider scored a pair of second place finishes in the U16 category with very competitive times, which also helped boost Wayzata up to #2 in the team rankings. And of course, immediately after to put Erin Moening, St. Paul Highland Park, on the "cusp" for recovery, she comes out swinging at the JNQs, scoring a victory in the skate race. Minneapolis Southwest's Kasia Bednarski had a pair of good weekend races to crack the girls top 10.
We tackled the team rankings once again, and tried to reevaluate the cusp list as well, but things still are pretty fuzzy outside of the top 8. As it seems in recent years, we struggle with the northern powers like Ely, Mesabi East, Duluth East and Grand Rapids when attempting to compare them with the big city folk. This is especially true in the girls team rankings, and unfortunately, not all of those teams will get their shot at the State Meet. With sparse direct competition, and teams that aren't always fielding their full squad, the job of determining "proper" team rankings has proved difficult this season.
Another JNQ this weekend, up in Duluth, will most likely shake this list up again -- especially if more of the northern kids turn out for some head-to-head competition. Conference championships are just around the corner, and sections not far away...