TRAVERSE CITY — More than 80 high school skiers will compete this weekend in the state Nordic championships on the Vasa Pathway.
The races will take place at the trailhead off Bunker Hill Road.
There will be a 1K classic sprint Friday, starting at 2 p.m. All skiers will take part in time trials with the top finishers moving on to heats. The field will eventually be whittled down to the semifinals and finals competition between 4-5 p.m. with a plaque awarded to the overall boys and girls winners.
On Saturday, there will be a pursuit, starting with a 5.5K freestyle at 9 a.m. and ending with a 5.5K classic at 2 p.m. Individual and team champions will be crowned afterwards.
Seven teams are expected to compete, including four from Traverse City — Central, West, St. Francis and the Vasa Ski Club. The Vasa Ski Club is comprised of area skiers who do not attend Central, West and St. Francis. Skiers from the Houghton, Marquette and Petoskey areas will also vie for titles.
The sprints rotate on a yearly basis between skate and classic. This year it’s the classic.
“We built a new course for the sprints behind the Vasa warming hut,” said John Kostrzewa, coach for the host schools, Central and West. “There was a field back there that was not being used, at least not in the winter.”
The land was cleared and prepped “before our second big batch of snow,” Kostrzewa said.
“It’s set up for 30-foot wide start and finish lanes,” Kostrzewa added. “It makes for good viewing. Plus, you get a real fair start and a real fair finish. Six will go out at a time in the sprints. You want it wide and you want it long so there’s a nice battle to the corner and it’s not like you can block someone right away and they can’t get by you the rest of the race.
“We had a couple local hotshots out here skiing with the kids (Tuesday). They really liked the course. They said it’s real technical. You’re busy all the time. You have to keep moving your feet, setting up for each corner or you’re going to have trouble. It’s an exciting course, it’s up and down. We have a big herringbone hill in it — a place where you can make your move.”
Saturday’s 5.5K races will be challenging, too. Part of those races will be on the sprint course.
“There will be shorter, but steeper hills,” said Central junior Erin Lipp, comparing this course to last weekend’s Vasa. “There’s not a whole lot of flat.”
Lipp, who won the Vasa women’s 6K classic Sunday and finished second in the 6K freestyle Saturday, will be one of the top skiers this weekend, especially in the classic races.
“This year I’ve been stronger in classic,” she said. “It’s changed because I use to be better in skating.
“I’m excited about the sprints. We did classic sprints in Marquette (two weeks ago) and I was second there. I’m hoping this home course will be to my advantage and that my work in the transitions will take time off. But I know I have a really big competitor in Marquette’s Abby Potts. She’s a beast in classic sprints. She pushes it.”
Petoskey’s Sarah Goble, who won the Vasa 6K freestyle, is looking to contend in the pursuit.
“I’m better at skating than classic,” she said. “I’d like to do well in the pursuit.”
Heidi Schwab of the Vasa Ski Club was second to Lipp in the Vasa 6K classic. Central’s Hannah Davis and Niki Roxbury have also had strong seasons. Roxbury recently won a Junior National qualifier in a U16 5K skate race and took second in a 1.3K classic sprint.
On the boys’ side, Interlochen’s Ian Durand swept the Vasa 6K freestyle and 6K classic. Central’s Kyle Dotterrer was second in the 6K classic, while Central’s Clay Darling was second in the 6K freestyle and fifth in the 16K classic. St. Francis’ Nathan Tafelsky won the Vasa 12K freestyle.