Raiders qualify four for state ski meet
Hastings High School was represented by four athletes at Wednesday's state Alpine ski meet at Giant's Ridge in Biwabik.
Two boys and two girls placed in the top 10 of the section meet and earned the opportunity to compete at the state's biggest meet.
"The meet went very well," coach Jim Peine said. "We were hoping for two or three qualifiers, and we got four."
On the girls side, Gabriella Sorg and Rosie Pechous each qualified. For the boys, it was Stephen O'Connor and Adam Peine.
Of the four, the only senior is Peine.
Sorg qualified as an eighth-grader and is now back as a junior.
"She's always been a good skier," Peine said. "Now, we have her working harder and finishing through her turns. That made a huge difference. Now that she's got that, she's more confident in her skiing."
Sorg finished her first run in 33.2 seconds, which put her in sixth-place. Her time on the second run of 34.15 was the 12th-fastest time, and she ended up placing 10th. Her combined time was 1:07.35.
Pechous, meanwhile, had a very close call. The HHS freshman placed 15th. Once the skiers from the two teams that qualified for the state meet were taken out of the 10 individual state qualifiers, there was Pechous in 10th. In other words, she earned the final qualifying spot.
"I didn't go into the meet expecting her to qualify, but she's been skiing very well," Peine said.
Pechous had a time of 34.42 on the first run (14th) and 34.80 on the second (15th). She had a combined time of 1:09.22.
"She had some very good, consistent runs there," Peine said. "She's comfortable on that hill and she's been really working hard."
Just two years ago, Pechous placed 47th at the section tournament.
Peine had come close to qualifying for the state meet in the past, but he had been too conservative on his first runs at the section meet.
"It was basically his first run that he seemed too conservative on," said Peine, his father. "He knew this year, for him to make it, he had to lay down a very good first run, which he did."
Peine finished his first run in 30.09 seconds, good for eighth place. In his second run, he had a time of 32.32, which also placed him eighth. His combined time was 1:02.41, earning him seventh place.
It wasn't the easiest of seasons for Peine, who had back-to-back cases of strep throat and the flu, missing about three weeks' worth of practices.
O'Connor flew down the hill in his first run, finishing in 29.87 for sixth place. In the second run, he had a time of 33.06, which was the 17th fastest time. He finished in ninth with a combined time of 1:02.93.
"He really came on later in the season," Peine said. "He went from placing anywhere from 10th to 15th in our races up to fifth or sixth. He really turned it on in the last few races."
Minneapolis Southwest won the girls competition with 438 points. Hastings finished fifth with 431.
Ellie Peine placed 28th overall in 1:12.79.
Sara Juelfs took 48th in 1:19.10.
Sarah Kieffer took 53rd in 1:21.32.
Shannon O'Connor placed 68th in 1:28.07.
For the boys, Stillwater won the team meet with 513 points.
Hastings was fourth with 446.
Jake Gartzke had a strong race, placing 44th in 1:10.96.
Nate Strauss was 50th in 1:12.91.
Joe Wright took 55th in 1:13.70.
Sam McKinney took 60th in 1:14.82.