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Benning, Peterson qualify for state ski meet

One familiar face and one new face will represent Hastings at the state Nordic ski meet on Thursday in Biwabik.

Rachel Peterson, who qualified last season, qualified again this year.

For the boys, first-year skier Zack Benning has qualified.

For Peterson, a sophomore, earning a trip back to the state meet caps off a year full of hard work. Her goal since last February was to get back to the state meet.

"That's a huge deal, making it back to state," Dewall said. "Every year, you try to go for a better place at state. That's where she's at. There's no pressure - she just has to go out and have a fantastic race."

Peterson placed 11th in both the classical and the freestyle races.

In the classic, she had a time of 20:41. In the freestyle, her time was 17:48.

About halfway through the afternoon's freestyle leg of the race, Peterson passed the last skier she had to in order to qualify.

"It came down to (Rachel) wanting to go to the state meet," Dewall said. "She knew she had to pass that one girl. She took her down and skied really well into the finish."

The girls meet was won by Sonja Hedblom of Eagan, who had a time of 34:13. Peterson's combined time was 38:29, 10 seconds ahead of the skier she had passed during the freestyle leg.

For Benning, there was just as much drama.

After a strong ski in the morning, he was still left with some ground to make up in order to qualify. In fact, his fellow Raider, Joe Rabaey, was sitting a few spots ahead of him. Near the end of the race, Benning passed Rabaey, but neither skier knew exactly where they were in terms of placing. Once Benning passed Rabaey, he saw another skier just ahead, and chased after him.

Benning ended up passing that skier about 200 meters before the end of the race, and that turned out to be the final qualifying spot in the race. Benning ended up beating that skier by nine seconds.

This is the first season that Benning skied.

"To have a kid come out for his first year, who had never skied before, and learn two disciplines, I actually wouldn't have thought it was possible for him to qualify," Dewall said. "I thought it would take two years to get to the state meet. He is in phenomenal shape and he picked it up unbelievably fast."

Right around Christmas, Dewall was seeing things in Benning that made him think qualifying for the state meet would be a possibility. That's when Dewall asked him: "How does qualifying for three state meets this year sound?"

Benning had qualified for the state cross country meet his fall and is expected to qualify in track this spring.

"I think he started to believe it," Dewall said. "After some of his early races in January, he really started to focus on that being the goal. He's setting high goals, and he's going after it."

In the morning race, Benning was hampered by a broken pole. About 1K into the 5K race, he broke the pole and had to go the rest of the way with the damaged gear.

"He pretty much skied one-armed," Dewall said. "He still ends up 14th. That's just crazy."

Benning finished 12th overall with a combined time of 33 minutes and 19 seconds.

His classic race of 17:57 placed him 14th, while his freestyle leg of 15:22 placed him 12th.

Nick Acton of Eagan won the meet in 30:23.

Meanwhile, HHS senior Joe Rabaey just missed going to the state meet by two spots.

"We certainly wanted to get both Joe and Zack to the state meet," Dewall said. "Joe was pretty amazing out there. He had the best race of his life out there. That guy put together two great races. It's great to see Joe ending his season with such a great performance."

Rabaey placed 14th in 33:27.

He was in 10th after classic 17:43 and his 15:44 in freestyle was 15th.

As a team, the Raiders took sixth out of 12 teams with 297 points.

Eagan won the meet and Winona/Cotter was second.

Alex Kane was 37th in 37:48. He is a senior.

"We'd love to have him for a few more years," Dewall said. "He's just been getting better and better."

James Harper placed 44th in 39:14.

Forrest Close placed 45th in 40:02.

Garrett Tuin was 52nd in 42:47.

Nick Johnson placed 54th in 43:10.

On the girls side, the Raiders placed eighth out of 11 teams.

Makaila England placed 42nd in 46:33.

Vic Zeyen was 48th in 50:33.

Valya Tipler took 56th 55:58.

Lakeville North won the meet and Eastview was second.