Boys state Nordic skiing: Robbinsdale Armstrong’s Roger Anderson gets redemption with individual state title

Roger Anderson missed out on an individual Nordic skiing title in 2020 by six-tenths of a second.

“I was coming into the finish, and I was ahead of (St. Paul Academy’s Henry Snider), and he passed me right going into the finish line,” Anderson recalled. “I’ve been thinking about that this whole year.”

On Friday, redemption was earned. This time, it was Anderson, a Robbinsdale Armstrong senior, claiming the overall state title with a two-race time of 20 minutes, 11.1 seconds — four seconds faster than Wayzata’s Colin Freed.

“It’s what I’ve been wanting all year,” Anderson said. “I didn’t get it last year. I missed it by less than a second, and I’ve been looking forward to it, and that’s what I came out here to do. It’s what I wanted to do. It means a lot.”

With the reduced allowed pod sizes, there wasn’t a true pursuit this year at the state meet — instead, it was two separate classic and freestyle races — which meant no photo finishes. Armstrong coach Stephen Hopke would’ve loved to see a true pursuit this season, to watch the likes of Anderson, Freed, Minneapolis Southwest’s Cooper Camp, the third-place finisher, and more go head to head.

Instead, Friday, the racers were battling the clock. That meant Anderson, Hopke noted, had to “dig deep” and keep pushing to the very end. Anderson led by three seconds after the freestyle race — his strong suit — but knew there were some strong skate skiers close behind him heading into the second race.

“I was hurting, but I went as hard as I could,” Anderson said. “I was dying. There’s this massive hill, the last hill in the race, and I just went as hard as I could. And everywhere else, I was just pushing it. And I know that was a good race for me. Colin beat me (in the skate portion), but Colin is wicked fast.”

Not only did Anderson, who’s going to ski for the University of New Hampshire next year, take second in 2020, but his sister, Lucinda, finished second in the girls race in 2019. He admitted he “wanted to be the first one in my family to win.”

He’s also Robbinsdale Armstrong’s first individual boy to win an overall individual state title — Joe Sem won the freestyle title in 2004.

“It’s always a feather in the hat of a program,” Hopke said.

And while Anderson said finishing second by such a slim margin last year, “was tough,” he added “it makes it feel so good to do it this year.”

Anderson said that runner-up performance provided motivation, but Hopke isn’t sure he needed much more of that.

“His ability to take that in stride and just say, ‘OK,’ and he just keeps going,” Hopke said. “No doubt that was in his mind to come back, but he’s just a motivated kid. He just approaches every race with a lot of focus. … He just has that ability to compete. He digs down.”

After the meet, shortly after winning state, Hopke said Anderson was out skiing around the hills again. He never really stops.

“He’s just that type of kid,” he said.

SOUTHWEST WINS TEAM

A year after Forest Lake edged Minneapolis Southwest via tiebreaker for the team state title, Southwest got its vengeance, topping the Rangers by three points for the team crown.

All four of Southwest’s scorers finished in the top 21 of the individual standings, with Camp and Victor Sparks placing in the top six.

Forest Lake’s Noah Erickson placed 10th overall, while three of his teammates finished 15th, 17th and 18th, respectively.

The team title is Minneapolis Southwest’s third since 2016.

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