Preview: Nordic skiers on the lookout for snow
For a lot of people, weather is a big topic of conversation. You hear the conversations at the salon, at the coffee shop and around home. There aren't many people, though, who monitor the weather more closely than Hastings Nordic skiing coach John Dewall. For him, especially at this time of year, it almost becomes an obsession.
The last couple years, he has not liked what he has seen popping up on his computer monitor.
Warm temps. No snow.
This year has started no differently.
On Monday, temps hit the 50s and no snow is being forecast.
"We don't need any of those 50 degree temps," Dewall said.
Thankfully for the Raiders, there are some area hills and resorts that can make their own snow, but that is a less-than-ideal proposition. Hastings raced at one such ski hill, Trollhaugen, on Tuesday. That, though, is a hilly course more suited to Alpine skiing than Nordic skiing. The other option, Green Acres in Lake Elmo, is more suited to cross country skiing, but if the temperatures are in the 50s, that course turns into a muddy mess.
That scenario played itself out last year - there were races where Hastings athletes were racing on snow while wearing T-shirts.
"We need to get these kids on snow," Dewall said. "So many of them haven't skied before. We need to get them on snow and teach the technique so they can competently race."
Hastings has some talented individuals, but this year will be, for the most part, a rebuilding season. That said, there are some blocks upon which to build, including some strong underclassmen. There are about 30 athletes out for the team, up from recent seasons.
"Realistically, we are looking to get our kids competing on snow in both disciplines," Dewall said. "The key is for the kids to just keep improving on their technique and their conditioning."
Hastings has just four seniors on the roster for the boys team.
They are Joe Rabaey, James Harper, Al Ingrahm and Alex Kane.
Rabaey will lead the group. It is his third year on the team.
"He has really picked up both the techniques well," Dewall said. "He's obviously a good runner. He'll definitely perform well for us this year. He looks pretty good roller skiing on dry land. Hopefully, we'll get him on track and he'll have a good season for us on the snow."
Forrest Close, a sophomore, returns this year after a good season last year.
"He's in far better shape than he was last year," Dewall said. "We're definitely looking for Forrest to perform well. The biggest thing in Nordic is to be in good shape. Thinking about how much he improved in cross country running, I think that will make a huge difference for him."
Nick Johnson was on the cross country team, too.
"He was our most improved cross country runner," Dewall said. "He could really perform well for us in Nordic this year. "He's got the techniques down and he's in really good shape."
Zack Benning, an all-state cross country runner, is out for the Nordic ski team for the first time.
"He has picked up the techniques real fast," Dewall said. "It will take him a while to learn it all, but from what I've seen on dry land, he'll be a huge factor on our team this year. In his second day on roller skis, he did a 15-mile workout. I haven't seen that too many times before. It's exciting to see a person like Zack on the team."
Dan Eggert, Garrett Tuin, Tate Gahnz, James Harper, Jacob Rabaey, Jack Calkins and Sawyer Karas should all have big roles, too.
The girls team will be led by Rachel Peterson, who qualified for the state meet last season. She is a sophomore.
"She looks really good," Dewall said. "She had a good running season and is in far better shape than she was last year."
Peterson recently trained on snow for about 10 days at Yellowstone National Park, so she has a head start on the white stuff.
"She's not only looking to get back to the state meet, but to improve on her standing when she gets there," Dewall said. "She's got great technique and lots of potential."
Makaila England is the team's only senior.
Vic Zeyen is an eighth-grader who had a good season last year.
"She really picked it up last year," Dewall said. "She could definitely have a real good quality season for us."
Amelia Strauss also returns with some experience.
There are a number of new girls on the team, too.
"We have some middle schoolers who are new," Dewall said. "Hopefully they can pick up the technique, and hopefully we'll get some snow and they'll get out there and do it. That's the key - getting some snow and getting outside."
Dewall expects a strong and balanced Suburban East Conference this season.
"The whole conference - oh my gosh - it's loaded," Dewall said. "We're definitely going to have to work to have our kids compete in that conference. We have a few kids who will be able to do that. We just need more kids to pick up the technique."