STATE ALPINE: Rough course trips up Northland skiers

BIWABIK -- Two days of rain and high temperatures didn't do much for the Giants Ridge ski hill or the fortunes of Northland entrants in the Minnesota high school Alpine meet on Thursday.

State Alpine meet
Hermantown sophomore Dan Padden navigates a cluster of gates as he nears the end of his run in the second round of races at the State Alpine Ski Meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. Padden's times put him in 19th place at the end of the competition. (Amanda Hansmeyer /

BIWABIK -- Two days of rain and high temperatures didn't do much for the Giants Ridge ski hill or the fortunes of Northland entrants in the Minnesota high school Alpine meet on Thursday.

Race officials worked to keep the snow as solid as possible, which meant no practice runs Wednesday, but underneath a thin layer of ice was a soft base. That led to a rutted course and some rough going on a 20-degree day.

Blake senior Marc Massie and Lakeville South ninth-grader Paula Moltzan took the conditions in stride and won individual titles in the one-class finals. Massie, state runner-up last year, led the boys in 1 minute, 9.42 seconds for two runs, while Moltzan was first in the girls division in 1:15.68, overshadowing two-time defending champion and junior teammate Niki Larson, who was fourth.

"There wasn't anything anyone could do about the conditions, and it ended up to be better than I thought," said Massie, who hopes to ski at the University of Colorado. "I was a little conservative on the first run, and when I found out I had the best time I decided to go for it a little more on the second run."

The top Northland finishers were Duluth East senior Amy Sienko, seventh in the girls race in 1:20.58, and Hermantown senior Max Tusa, 10th in the boys race in 1:16.04.


Sienko has competed in four state meets, placing sixth as a sophomore and 12th as a junior, and was part of two state championship teams. Sixth-year coach Jason Baumgarth ranks her among a handful of his top racers. The East girls placed fifth among eight teams.

"This was my last state meet and I wanted to be in the top 10, and with the way things were [Thursday], I'm happy to be in the top 10," said Sienko, the Section 7 champion and an East soccer defender and A student.

Tusa was 10th in the state meet as a sophomore and fell during one of his state runs last year. He said he tried not to think about the poor conditions on the course.

There were 88 entrants in the boys race and 20 did not finish or were disqualified.

"If you made it down the hill, you had to be a little conservative," said Tusa, also an A student and soccer player. "I know I could've done a lot better."

That was the consensus of other Northeastern Minnesota entrants, including East sophomore Henry Roningen and senior teammate David Neustel, who placed 1-2 in the Section 7 meet at Giants Ridge. Both fell at about the same spot Thursday, a third of the way down the hill during their first run. Skiers are allowed to hike back up to the spot they fell and finish the course and gain a position for a second run.

Neustel said he started his run again, but hit another bad patch and skied off the course. Neither East skier finished the first run. Duluth Marshall junior star Elke Wood faced the same fate in the girls race.

"Those were some of the toughest ski conditions I've seen," Neustel said. "I was not expecting it to be that tough, and I spent too much time staring at the holes on the course. I didn't have the right focus."


In the girls team competition, defending champion Lakeville South and Edina tied for first, while East was fifth. St. Thomas Academy won the boys team title and East was eighth.

Hermantown eighth-grader Megan Danelski was 15th.

Prospects for better snow for today's state Nordic meet at Giants Ridge were good, race official John Filander said. Overnight snow was expected.

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