BIWABIK - Garrett Beckrich admits that classic skiing isn't his strength.

Then again, when you open up a full minute lead in the freestyle portion of a Nordic pursuit race, it really doesn't matter.

So dominant was the Grand Rapids senior during the first part of Thursday's Section 7 meet at the snow globe that was Giants Ridge, the conclusion was anticlimactic. Beckrich skated 5.2 kilometers in 17 minutes and 38 seconds, while Cloquet-Esko-Carlton senior Aidan Ripp was next at 18:38.5.

That meant Beckrich, the defending section and state champ, had a 60-second jump starting the classic race. A minute doesn't sound like much, but when you're talking about spotting a world-class talent like Beckrich, the top-ranked junior biathlete in the U.S., that kind of cushion, well, all he had to do was stay upright for a successful title defense.

"If this was state, I'd have been pushing to the end. I'd have gone all-out," Beckrich said, explaining that he didn't pay much attention to the clock Thursday, especially considering the course skied slow after receiving about 10 inches of fresh snow. "In this case, I didn't have much motivation."

Beckrich was well out of sight when Ripp took off, and covered the 5.3K classic division in 16:51.1 for a total winning mark of 34:29.1. Ripp was second at 35:07.2, followed by Ely sophomore Jasper Johnston at 35:10.8.

Johnston hammered home the fastest classic time to challenge Ripp for second place and lead the Timberwolves to the boys team crown.

Duluth East's Gretchen Haggenmiller, meanwhile, convincingly topped the girls field to power the first-place Greyhounds.

For Ripp, Beckrich's ascension has initiated a role-reversal. They've grown up competing against each other.

"I was the kid in middle school that Garrett was chasing, and now he's super good and we're trying to catch him," Ripp said.

Lately, nobody is catching Beckrich.

He said his training this winter was geared toward the world junior biathlon championships, which wrapped up last week in Slovakia. So he was unsure how sharp he'd be Thursday. Likewise for next week's state meet back in Biwabik.

Beckrich had enough in the tank, though, to sap the drama from a section meet that played out over a course that was slow in spots. Giants Ridge staff kept it as smooth as they could, but with that much snow, there were bound to be loose patches where skis bogged down. Throw in a subzero windchill, and conditions were hardly ideal.

Healthy Haggenmiller cruises

After an injury cost her the cross-country season, Duluth East's Gretchen Haggenmiller wasn't taking anything for granted this winter.

"I was just really happy to be able to ski," said the junior, who couldn't run in the fall because of a sprained Lisfranc ligament in her left foot.

Winning is a bonus.

Haggenmiller built about a 35-second lead in the morning freestyle ski, spent the ensuing three-hour layoff warming up and trying to stay loose, then was nearly as dominant in the afternoon's classic race. She went 22:34.5-19:17.6-41:51.6 en route to her first Section 7 title.

Like Beckrich on the boys side, Haggenmiller essentially was racing against herself. Unlike Beckrich, she added to her cushion in the afternoon, producing both the fastest freestyle and classic times. Elsa Viren of Grand Rapids and Haggenmiller's teammate, Clara Kramer, were second and third, respectively, in 43:03.9 and 43:39.4.

"I just like to focus on having the best race that I can," Haggenmiller said. "I try not to worry about what's going on around me."

Haggenmiller was third at the 2018 section meet and 14th at state. She's hoping for a top-10 showing next week and, if everything goes her way, possibly a top-five.

The show must go on

Despite learning that school was canceled because of snow when she woke up Thursday, Haggenmiller knew the section meet would be a go. That was true even though when there's no school, that usually means there are no school-related activities.

"Except for section and state events, because we can't make this up," East coach Bonnie Fuller-Kask explained.

Indeed, with only a week between the section and state competitions, there wasn't enough time to reschedule. Compounding the problem: Today's forecast isn't any more favorable, and the meet's timer isn't available Saturday. That meant the show had to go on.

And, despite the snow and cold, participants were complimentary of the course. Skate-skiing was a little challenging because of the scattered tracks that result, but the classic portion was relatively seamless, many said.

Section 7 Nordic Ski Meet

At Giants Ridge, Biwabik



1. Ely, 377; 2. Duluth Marshall, 364; 3. Cloquet-Esko-Carlton, 360; 4. Grand Rapids, 359; 5. Duluth East, 323; 6. Mesabi East, 319; 7. Duluth Denfeld, 269; 8. Proctor-Hermantown, 224.


State Qualifiers

1. Garrett Beckrich, GR, 17:38-16:51.1-34:29.1; 2. Aidan Ripp, CEC, 18:38-16:29.2-35:07.2; 3. Jasper Johnston, Ely, 19:01-16:09.8-35:10.8; 4. Sam Stertz, GR, 19:38-17:24.7-37:02.7; 5. Declan Hutchinson, DM, 19:58-17:19.2-37:17.2; 6. James Schwinghamer, Ely, 19:01-16:09.8-35:10.8; 7. Henry Campbell, DM, 20:11-17:45.7-37:56.7; 8. Kjetil Midttun, Ely, 20:47-17:09.8-37:56.8; 9. Benjamin Bauer, CEC, 21:13-17:26.2-38:39.2; 10. Gabriel Pointer, Ely, 20:46-17:54.9-38:40.9; 11. Raif Olson, Ely, 20:55-17:49.1-38:44.1; 12. Jonas Hutchinson, DM, 20:47-18:07.8-38:54.8; 13. Seth Kemp, DE, 21:21-17:54.8-39:15.8; 14. Josh Sanders, CEC, 21:35-17:42.1-39:17.1; 16. Jacob Gontjes, DM, 21:38-18:12.4-39:50.4; 24. Nate Netiffee, Ely, 23:16-17:49.4-41:05.4; 33. Ethan Bremner, Ely, 23:28-18:48.4-42:16.4; 43. Riley Hutchinson, DM, 24:00-21:29.2-45:29.2; 51. Peyton Marshak, DM, 25:39-21:43.9-47:22.9; 54. Zach Marshak, DM, 27:27-22:19.3-49:46.3.



1. Duluth East, 381; 2. Grand Rapids, 352; 3. Ely, 348; 4. Duluth Marshall, 332, 5. Mesabi East, 330; 6. Cloquet-Esko-Carlton, 273; 7. Duluth Denfeld, 273; 8. Proctor-Hermantown, 267; 9. Two Harbors-Cook County, 204; 10. Hibbing-Chisholm, 198.


State Qualifiers

1. Gretchen Haggenmiller, DE, 22:34-19:17.6-41:51.6; 2. Elsa Viren, GR, 23:15-19:48.9-43:03.9; 3. Clara Kramer, DE, 23:09-20:30.4-43:39.4; 4. Lydia Skelton, ME, 23:51-20:19.5-44:10.5; 5. Zoe Devine, Ely, 23:22-21:00.8-44:22.8; 6. Megan Bettendorf, PH, 24:36-20:30.3-45:06.3; 7. Natalie Fultz, ME, 24:33-21:05.1-45:38.1; 8. Riley Pohl, DD, 24:43-21:06.7-45:49.7; 9. Molly Weberg, DE, 25:02-21:12.4-46:14.4; 10. Lily Brown, DE, 25:30-21:03.4-46:33.4; 11. Annika Viren, GR, 25:38-21:13.0-46:51; 12. Kalyssa Eilrich, Ely, 23:53-23:00.4-46:53.4; 13. Lucia Wyland, GR, 24:51-22:05.9; 14. Maj-Lis Helmer, DE, 26:12-21:24.9-47:36.9; 21. Grace Chandler, DE, 25:59-22:58.1-48:57.1; 23. McKenzie Radloff, DE, 25:53-23:23-49:16; 26. Samara Schlauderaff, GR, 26:25-23:15.7-49:40.7; 27. Sanny Gangi, GR, 26:19-23:43.8-50:02.8; 33. Ada Jackson, GR, 26:50-24:04.8-50:54.8; 40. Hailey LaFrenier, GR, 28:20-23:53.1-52:13.1.