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High School Championships this weekend

Thu, Feb  12, 2009 - By Dean Woodbeck

The Michigan High School Cross Country State Championships will be held this weekend (Feb 14 and 15) at the Michigan Tech Nordic Ski Trails.  The weekend begins with the classic race starting at 10AM (boys first, girls to follow).  After a break, the skiing will resume at 2:30PM with the freestyle race (boys first, girls to follow)  Because this race is a qualifier for Junior Olympics, there will also be collegiate racers racing.

On Sunday, the qualifying rounds for the sprint race will begin at 9:30 AM.  The top 16 qualifiers from both boys and girls will then advance to the finals, scheduled to start around noon.

Teams participating include the Copper Country (Ski Tigers), Marquette (Superiorland), Boyne City (Lake Michigan), Traverse City (West, Central and St. Francis), and Ironwood (Team Gogebic)

The individual state champs will be determined on Saturday, at the end of the pursuit race. The sprint race on Sunday does not figure into the individual titles. The team championships are decided by all three races, including the sprints. There is a boys team title, a girls team title and a combined title.

The Copper Country Ski Tigers have won three state team championships in a row and the girls team has won the last five girls championships.

For the Ski Tigers, the boys team includes five veteran skiers. Jay Woodbeck and Kai Sharp are expected to lead the boys team – both scored top-ten finishes last year and both have a shot at the individual championship. Jonathan Kilpela and  Elias Featherly, who also had a top-ten last year, round out the team with Alan Toczydlowski just back from an early season injury.

The girls team includes a mix of experienced skiers and newcomers. Ruth and Louise Oppliger and Madeyln Shoup all scored top-ten finishes last year. Jane Gregg and Kara Donahue both had top-20 finishes, and newcomers Elizabeth Haataja and  Nina Karinen bring additional depth.

Zach Wagner from Marquette is a contender for the top spot. He finished second in the state meet last year and was second to Jay Woodbeck in the skate race at the Giants Ridge (MN) Invitational this year - - the largest high school race in the country.

From lower Michigan, Ross Williams from Lake Michigan is a contender for the races on Saturday . Brendan Baic (Lake Michigan) is a top contender in the sprint race. He was seventh in the state meet last year.

Team Gogebic from Ironwood is a second-year club and is making their first appearance in the MI HS Championship meet.

The coach for the Copper Country Ski Tigers is Mike Young.