BIWABIK, MINN. - The Nordic skiers followed the lead of the Alpine group the previous day -- four new state champions.
Jakob Ellingson of Hopkins and Anna Kubek of Duluth East won the boys' and girls' individual titles Thursday at a blustery Giants Ridge. The state meet consists of a 5K freestyle and 5K classical race to determine the overall pursuit champion.
Eden Prairie and Wayzata garnered the boys' and girls' team championships, respectively. It gave the Lake Conference three of the four titles for the day.
"It shows how much depth one conference can have," Wayzata junior Alayna Sonnesyn said. "We have a lot of great skiers in our conference."
Ellingson thought he was in pretty good position following the 5K freestyle event on the silver course in the morning. He had a five-second lead over conference foe Thomas Bye of Eden Prairie.
"It's hard to come from behind in the classical race," said Ellingson, who posted a winning overall time of 29 minutes, 24.4 seconds. "I was in a good spot."
That was until Bye passed him at the 3K mark of the classical race.
"It turned into a cat-and-mouse battle the rest of the way," said Bye, who clocked in at 29:25.6. "He just was better than me today."
There were 15 skiers who went out within one minute of each other in the afternoon race on the gold course.
"There are a lot of great boys' skiers," Ellingson said. "I knew it was going to be a close race."
Twist of fate
The gymnastics state meet is a week away. Kubek would have loved to be there as a participant. Instead, she concludes her prep career as a Nordic state champion.
"I miss gymnastics, but this is great," said Kubek, who gave up the sport three years ago because of numerous injuries. She had been a gymnast since she was 4. "I'm on cloud nine right now."
The Greyhounds senior posted a winning time of 33:58.9. She built a 17-second lead over Nicolette Reker of Roseville in the morning 5K freestyle event on the silver course.
"I came into today pretty confident," Kubek said. "After the morning race, I just had to focus on what I was doing and not worry about anybody else."
An aspiring Olympian in the biathlon, Kubek didn't ski with the Greyhounds a year ago. She was competing in the biathlon in the initial Youth Olympic Games in Austria and Junior World Championships in Finland. The sport combines Nordic skiing and rifle marksmanship.
"My goal is to be in the 2014 Olympics," Kubek said. She was persuaded to give the biathlon a shot by teammate Carolyn Lucca during the summer of 2010. "I would've never thought I would be skiing or doing the biathlon right now."
Kubek ended her world tour to rejoin the Greyhounds for one final season. She helped Duluth East win the team title in 2011 by taking 17th place in the state meet.
"Being that this was my last high school race, this is great," said Kubek, who will fly to Bulgaria on Saturday to once again compete on the international biathlon circuit.
Burnsville junior Vivian Hett wound up passing Reker to take second place. Hett finished with a time of 34:21.0. Reker dropped down to fourth.
"I went hard to catch [Reker]," Hett said. "I didn't know if I would be able to catch Anna or not with the lead she had. I couldn't chase her down."
Once again, the overall strength of the Lake Conference was on display with Eden Prairie (boys) and Wayzata (girls) sweeping the team titles.
The Eagles were disappointed to not make the state meet a year ago and were out to make amends. Their senior-dominated roster accumulated 378 points, 20 more than runner-up Ely.
"We were disappointed last year," Bye said. "We pushed each other all year. We came back with our horses blazing."
Wayzata ended Duluth East's two-year reign as the girls' champion, beating the runner-up Greyhounds by three points. A year ago, Duluth East edged the Trojans by one point for the crown.
"I'm really proud of everyone on the team," said Sonnesyn, who led the Trojans with a sixth-place finish. "This is so cool."