Once again this year, the Hastings boys and girls nordic ski teams have battled poor weather for racing, though hopefully the recent snowfall helps.
"It's been a rollercoaster season," head coach John Dewall said. "It's been frustrating with no snow, and then you're scrambling to go to man-made snow. We typically go over to Hyland Park Reserve in Bloomington. You need to be skiing, so a lot of practices have been there. And then along with that, we've had just brutal cold. So between the combination of no snow and brutal cold, I think it's a tougher year than last year."
Despite those obstacles, the season has progressed and the Raiders are off to a good start behind their three top skiers: freshmen Emma Bratvold and Linnea Urban, and sophomore Trevor Caflisch.
"Emma Bratvold and Linnea Urban have been our top-two performers, they flip-flop back and forth in every meet," Dewall explained. "They're definitely the top of the Metro East Conference, there are no girls who have even come close to those two in the whole MEC. Abby Bratvold, she's a seventh-grader, she has done really well for us. Some new skiers, Molly Caturia, a seventh-grader, has been doing really well."
"For the boys, Trevor Caflisch has been finishing in the top-two in the conference pretty much all year with a Henry Sibley kid," Dewall continued. "He's won a couple and been beat a couple, but this Sibley kid has been flip-flopping back and forth with him. Isaac Huntington has really come along, he's never skied before but he's a great athlete and a great runner. He's going to be a really good skier as time goes on. Ben Bratvold has been skiing well, new skier Sam Rabaey has really picked it up, he has a great engine and has really been doing well. Kyle Stolz has really learned the sport and picked it up well, Mason Price also. It has been cool to see the kids learn it, you have to learn both disciplines."
Another challenge, which is a side-effect of the lack of snow or other activities, is the Raiders are battling a lack of skiers. A total of 17 skiers for both teams are listed on Hastings MSHSL varsity rosters.
"We're always looking for more skiers," Dewall said. "We're short of skiers. It's a hard sport and you get some lousy snow years, (and) the numbers take a hit. We need new skiers and we just need more participation. A lot of our skiers, we have them and then they go into winter soccer, it just kills us. It seems like so much emphasis now is put onto the single-sport athlete and a lot of these kids are pulled from high school teams to club teams and we've lost a lot of our kids to that, to year-round training for specific sports. And that's the same in track and every sport."
Dewall finished by saying that while they have some great, top-end talent, there is still too much of a drop-off to the next tier of skiers.
"We have three of the top kids in the conference and then it drops off dramatically," he explained. "It's hard,. If you had a couple more kids to backup the kids who are sitting at the top, you can win every meet. So that's the catch, you need more kids to fill in the third-fourth-fifth spots."