TRAVERSE CITY — The Upper Peninsula was at the head of the class on the first day of the Michigan High School Nordic Skiing State Championships.
Copper Country’s David Jaszczak was the beneficiary of a crash among race leaders to claim the boys 1K sprint classic and Marquette’s Abby Potts cruised to a decisive victory in the girls 1K sprint classic Friday at the Vasa Trailhead.
Jaszczak, who edged Marquette’s Benjamin Wright and Mike Wiitala for first, was the leader of three Copper Country skiers who were in the top five — teammates Isaac Stone was fourth and Zebulon Featherly took fifth. Vasa Ski Club’s Ian Durand was sixth.
“I started the race and everyone double-poled further than I was at the turn,” said Jaszczak, who remained toward the back of the pack until late in the race. “Someone clipped a ski of another skier and everyone just tumbled down. I was just a little farther back that I could ski around them all up the hill and finish the race. I wasn’t expecting it at all. It’s all for the glory of God. I’m amazed.”
Jaszczak had the second best qualifying time for the boys, behind Wright, but ended up first when it mattered most, winning his heat — Wright and Stone were the other semifinal heat winners — then capturing the final six-man race.
Potts was dominant all day. Her qualifying time was 12.8 seconds ahead of Lake Michigan’s Sara Goble. She then won her semifinal heat, with Heidi Schwab of the Vasa Ski Club and Erin Lipp of Traverse City Central claiming the other heat victories, and was several lengths ahead of Lipp in the finals.
“At the start it was pretty even, but after the first corner I was ahead,” said Potts. “I was hoping I had it. I was a little worried because everyone cheers for you, then they cheer for the person behind you. You never know how close they are. Yeah, it was scary, but I guess it worked.”
Goble ended up placing third in the final, with Schwab fourth, Isabel Sharp of Copper Country fifth and Sarah Lyle of Copper Country sixth.
“We didn’t have a lot of top people in the sprints today,” said Traverse City coach John Kostrzewa. “We had a lot of girls that made it into (the semis), but the heats — the way they set them up — we had like five girls in one heat so you’re going to knock out your own skiers.
“The 5K race (today) should be much different than sprints. Hopefully we can do well in that and then we’ve got another classic 5K race.”
Kostrzewa didn’t see many surprises from the first day of competition.
“I knew Erin would be in there competing,” he said. “Her and Sara are often really close in races. They’re the closest together that ski in this area and they’re always 1 and 2 wherever they go. (Erin) had a good race. She raced against a real good skier. I know she’s had trouble with her earlier in Marquette. It was about the same result so they haven’t closed that gap yet. We’ll see what the longer race does tomorrow.”
The 5.5K freestyle starts today at 9 a.m., followed by a 5.5K classic at around 2 p.m.