Wisconsin State Championships Predictionsby Ken Schoville
February 8, 2017
You have to admit it's been an interesting year, and I'm not just talking skiing here. I've adapted a new writing style where I'll be limiting my observations to 140 characters, with hash tags, that may be written any hour of the day or night. This will allow every reader to precisely know where the high school predictions stand, along with the use of “alternative facts” and data that I don't need to verify, but use to bolster my completely grand, accurate, and tremendous observations. You're welcome.
Individually speaking, let's start easy, with the girls. Abby Jarzin, Ashwaubenon wins, again. End of story. Dancing merrily along snowy trails both near and far, she stands out as a mere junior. As last year's champion, and runner up the year before that, she has the credentials to put another notch in her belt, and does so cheerfully with smiles and congratulations for all.
However, waiting in the wings is another youthful contender, Olivia Dreger, Wausau United, who's had some fantastic victories this season, both in the Wisconsin high school events and also in the MW JNQ races, U16 class.
And let's not forget talented youngster Isabel Seay from Peak Nordic who may have something to say about the outcome at state. In her second year, she's solid in both techniques, well coached, and with a good pair of skis under her could surprise.
The boys individual champion will be a bit more of a toss up. The top five at state last year have all graduated. The next three in order of finish were; Cullen Choosy, Madison, and Kieran Mullen and Luke Bodewes, both from Lakeland, and that could be the finishing order at state this year.
Of course being competitors, winning rather than placing seems to be the order of the day. As our esteemed leader says, “Work hard, be smart, and always remember that winning takes care of everything!” Of course being #2 merits some angst, first loser and all that, and if we don't win should we even play the game? Confusing times here and just to add fuel to the fire seniors Sam Williams, Iola Winter Sports Club, and Gavin Martell, now skiing for 4H CANSKI could upset the apple cart. Then there is young whippersnapper, Noah Bodewes, Lakeland, from the long lineage of the Bodewes Clan who has no respect for his elders. Get him mad and he skis pretty hard, and he could be plenty mad by February.
Teamwise, the girls are part of a youth trend sweeping the state. Ashwaubenon has Junior Jarzin leading the charge, minus the two departing seniors Alissa Niggeman and Liz Slaby to help her regain the number one status of last year. Luckily she has two returning cohorts in Jessica Slaby and Kate Stumpf.
That could do it, except for last year's number two team, Wausau United Nordic. With Sophomores Olivia Dreger (#3 last year), Lauren Lackman, Ally Swenson, and Junior Anna Buchberger, that is a whole lot of returning powerhouse skiing deserving attention.
Peak Nordic, from the snow challenged southland, also show up consistently with exceptional girls' teams, and this year is no different. Aforementioned Isabel Seay leads the pack with Elise Boudry, Maddie Holman, and Julia Olenchek all looking to do the coaches proud. Could happen.
Last year's Lakeland girls obtained #3 by a tie breaker over Peak. With the loss of a couple of key seniors, leader Stephanie Balas will have to don her “Make Lakeland Great Again” persona to fire up the troops and score an upset. I'm sure senior co-captain Julia Malicki and hard charging frosh Johanna Craig will be on the same page and true believers. Stranger things have happened.
Just out of reach last year was the Iola Winter Sports Club girls team in #5. With the senior Zajakowski twins, Anna and Mya making their final appearance at state there may just be a little extra motivation to find the winning formula. Having sophomore Tori Weier covering their backs will help.
The boys? Lakeland. They might have lost two past state champions in Will Bodewes and Mack FitzPatrick, but the bloodlines run deep. Bodewes #2 (Luke) is a senior and skiing intensely, searching for solutions when need be. Baby FitzPatrick (Kav) is on a tear and has picked up his game consistently. Junior Kieran Mullen, if he ever gets healthy, is a clear contender for a podium spot and sophomore Noah Bodewes just scored a JNQ win skating at the Birkie Start in the U16 class, and that's from starting in a #22 mass start spot. A slight disadvantage he overcame while dodging traffic.
Of course last year's number two, Ashwaubenon, might have something to say about that. They have a young dandy in Jackson Adler. He's beat up on Lakeland at a couple of the early meets and could be a factor, not only with the team, but also with individual standings. He's joined by Seniors Tim Spaulding and Kevin Berg. When they're having a good day they can both play havoc with the field.
Madison was third in team points last year and they could be a player in results. They have three different clubs, and at times find common ground if Eli Gore, Hunter Derks, and Cullen Chosy can play nice together. If they come to state as a team they could warp the crystal ball.
The 2017 edition of the Wisconsin Nordic High School Championships has a new venue. The brand spanking new Birkie Start in Cable will host the meet, after being vetted at a December 28 race, the Double Pole Derby/Hayward Invite, and also at a CXC JNQ with a field of 520, one of the largest ever with every class of age group and ski skill set represented.
With a three lap format on a 2.4 km course the total 7.2 km distance and Birkebeiner style vertical, the race should prove quite a challenge. This year the pursuit begins on Saturday with a freestyle individual start followed by a classical pursuit on Sunday. Same deal for the Middle School except they will run two laps on a 1.9k for a 3.6k distance.
Speaking of middle school, I've noticed a movement, perhaps indicative of good things to come. It appears that more and more frequently we have freshmen coming in and becoming a factor in scoring, placing high enough to impact my prediction and murky the previously crystal clear 20/20 vision useful in prediction articles. In the past youthful athleticism was enough to generate excitement and inconsistent results, thereby giving short shrift to their contributions. No more, I've seen the light.
Now, it seems that a more mature athlete is matriculating from middle school to the high school ranks, their training and techniques sufficiently developed enough to put them in the top tier immediately and therefore impacting team scoring. A youth crusade is underway.
I'm going to lay this latest development squarely at the feet of the middle school coaches, a group who have specialized in the emotional turmoil of the early teens and developed a fondness for the general squirreliness of that age that requires patience while advancing ski skills, a heady combination of talents. They are a unique breed that should be proud of the skiers they are passing along to the high school coaches.
Further down the evolutionary line, elementary coaches are also to be congratulated for the very beginnings of our sport and being able to resist the allure of M&M's while motivating and focusing tiny tykes on gliding skills. More power to them.
It also could be that three years of the Igor Legacy Camps are paying benefits, and perhaps the CXC Youth Cup is a part of the changes. Whatever the combinations, it seems evident that a higher quality of middle school skiers are impacting the high school ranks.
2017 should be fun, indeed essential in my mental makeup. I've given up on politics, denied myself the pleasure of the news media, because as I understand it, none can be trusted and facts are what you make of them. “Truthiness” is under siege.
The Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year is “Post-truth”. So in a post-truth environment I take the intense focus of cross country skiing as my safe harbor emotionally. It is the undiluted satisfaction derived from a gathering of high school and middle school skiers coming together February 11-12 at the new Birkie Start Area for the highest nordic competition weekend in the state that will keep me sane. All tweeting aside, when it comes to State, from a galaxy far, far away, because this planet is weird enough, “ May the force be with you!”