Girls state Nordic skiing: Forest Lake wins program’s first team title

Every now and then, at summer workouts, Forest Lake senior Amelea Hauer would just randomly shout it out.

“We’re training today for state!” she’d tell her teammates.

“We’d be doing these double-pole, uphill (workouts), and it’d be like, ‘This is for state!,’ ” Hauer said.

The idea was to give each workout a purpose, and also provide a reminder: A state title was the goal. The Rangers came so close last season, finishing runnerup to Highland Park. This time, they wanted to close the deal. And they did.

Forest Lake won the state meet with 588 points, 32 more than the second-place Scots. Not only is the team title the first in the Rangers girls’ program history, but coach Ryan Wright said it’s Forest Lake’s first girls team state title in school history.

“It’s something that we’ve been working towards, really for the history of the program, but more specifically, it’s been our target for the last two years, and that’s pretty much been our main focus for the entire time,” Wright said. “To see it kind of come to fruition, was just more than awesome. I still can’t quite put it into words.”

Wright has been speaking it into existence, so to speak, since the start of the season. Sophomore standout Jordan Parent recalls times throughout the season when Wright would tell the girls, “We need to beat Highland. You guys can do it, you guys can do it.”

Parent’s thoughts: “Yeah, maybe.”

It was tough to know for sure. There was no Mesabi Invite this season to compare the state’s best teams to one another. But Wright knew if his team showed up Thursday, it would prosper. It sure did.

“We went into the skate race, I don’t know — on something,” Parent said. “We really, really wanted it that bad, because it’s all we’ve been training for.”

Forest Lake’s four scorers all finished in the top 24 overall — Parent fifth, Hauer 11th, Ella Niznik 16th and Annabelle Stang 24th.

Domination.

“I saw their potential and I kind of knew all along, if they put in the work all year, and they put their best race together, like they did today, it wasn’t a doubt in my mind that they would come out on top,” Wright said. “I was trying to convey that to the kids all year long to get them to believe in themselves and believe in the process, and they did.”

Highland Park junior Molly Moening, who won her second straight individual state title Thursday, noted the team finish was “bittersweet” for the Scots. Second place is a feat, but they did have repeat hopes.

“But the Forest Lake girls are just a super strong team right now,” Moening said, “and we knew that coming in.”

Wright said Thursday’s result was a product of the team culture built in recent years. The Rangers are strong from Parent all the way through their alternates.

“These girls were pushing each other every day in practice, and summer training, and in the spring,” he said. “It pretty much has been six days a week, year-round, for the past two years.”

There were days Hauer admits she just wanted to “take the skis off and sit down.” But that work all was more than worthwhile after Thursday. No longer, Hauer joked, are the Rangers girls in the boys’ program’s shadow.

“All the pain, all the hard work, the sweat, missing out on certain social occasions,” she said, “it’s worth it to be a champion.”

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