Twenty years ago, Jon Andersen was an assistant coach with the Mankato high school ski programs and went to state when the Mankato West boys and girls teams qualified out of their section meets.
On Wednesday, Andersen (now the head coach) is returning to state with another team. The girls from West qualified again with a second-place team finish at Tuesday’s Section 6 meet at Buck Hill in Burnsville.
Although Andersen has coached numerous individuals at the state meet over the last two decades, it marks the first time since 1993 that Andersen is taking a full team to state. The qualification of the Scarlets did not catch the coach completely by the surprise.
“We knew the West girls were going to be very young but we also knew they had a lot of potential,” he said. “I could tell by how hard they were working during dryland training that they were a focused group.”
Senior Kelsey Klingel has consistently been West’s top skier throughout the season. She finished seventh at the section meet with a two-run time of 50.92 and is the only upperclassman on the team.
“Kelsey was our captain this year and really set the tempo in the preseason,” Andersen said. “You could tell she really wanted to go to state.”
Eighth-graders Lauren Colway and Dana Bohks have also finished high consistently for West. Colway was 15th at the sectional (53.83) and Bohks was 20th (54.59).
Rounding out the top six are seventh-grader Briggs Carlson, freshman Gretta Schwickert and seventh-grader Shanalyn Just. Carlson was 29th (57.57) at the section meet, Schwickert was 35th (59.03) and Just was 65th (1:06.61).
“I would say, Lauren and Dana made huge jumps from last year,” Andersen said. “We weren’t sure what to expect from the seventh-graders (Carlson and Just) but they came in and got better every day. You always wonder how they’ll adjust to the high school level but they’ve done just fine.”
Joining the West girls at state this year will be East/Loyola’s Caitlin Clause (13th in section, 52.45) and West’s David Huggins (12th, 48.63).
“They’ve both been there before and they’ve finished in the top 30s,” Andersen said. “I think they can both crack the top 20 this year.”
This year’s state meet takes place Wednesday at Biwabik. Judging by all the youth on his West girls team, Andersen could be making a regular appearance over the next few years.
Accolade for Juberien
Waseca girls hockey player Taryn Juberien was announced as KEYC’s Athlete of the Week Award winner during Wednesday’s 10 p.m. broadcast.
Juberien leads the Bluejays with 36 goals and 18 assists. She is listed as the 10th leading scorer in the state on hockey hub (www.mngirlshockeyhub.com).
Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. To contact him, call 344-6381 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.