Biwabik, Minn. - It took awhile, but Chanhassen freshman Louis Nguyen finally admitted to being nervous about competing at the Alpine skiing state meet. But just a bit.
Handling the pressure like a seasoned veteran, Nguyen won the boys’ individual title with a time of 1 minute, 6.97 seconds. Cretin-Derham Hall senior Keillen O’Brien placed second in 1:07.22.
Nguyen had the best first run of the boys’ meet, then ho-hummed his way through the break between runs.
“It’s no different than any other race,” he said after his first trip down the Giants Ridge Innsbruck course.
His matter-of-fact attitude is a big reason for his success, Chanhassen coach Josh Kleve said, adding: “It doesn’t matter to him how big the race is. He approaches every race the same.”
Almost every race.
When Nguyen got to the top of the hill for his second run, held on the adjacent Helsinki course, the nature of the opportunity in front of him became a reality.
“I got a little nervous,” he said. “I was first to go. The best skiers in the state are here. You don’t want to mess up in front of them.”
He need not have worried, bombing a 32.54 on the run.
Nguyen’s older brother Vy, a senior who finished 39th in the meet, was effusive about Louis’ performance.
“He’s been kicking butt,” Vy said. “There’s no stopping that machine.”
Normally, it’s the older brother who is the inspiration for the younger. But in their case, Vy said, it’s the other way around.
“We began skiing at the same time,” he said. “He’s been taking it a lot more seriously, and it shows. If anyone’s following in any footsteps, I’m following in his.”
Best friends, skiers, team
Minnetonka seniors Megan Greiner and Erin Olejnik are not only teammates but best friends. Together, they have taken turns at the top of the Skippers’ lineup. When one finishes first, the other is usually right behind.
For example, Olejnik won the Section 5 title last week with Greiner taking second.
The pattern followed suit Wednesday, with Greiner winning the girls’ Alpine skiing individual championship in 1:18.58. Olejnik was the runner-up in 1:18.59.
“We’re so close to each other, that’s usually the way it goes,” Greiner said.
Greiner made things tough on the rest of the field with a blazing first run down the Innsbruck course, posting a time of 35.76. She was the only racer in the first rotation to ski under 36 seconds.
“I was so happy for Megan,” Olejnik said. “She just killed it.”
With a huge lead going into the second run and the team competition to worry about, Greiner would not have been faulted for playing it safe. She didn’t, clinching the championship in 42.52, the third-best run of the day on the much tougher Helsinki course.
“I’ve been skiing really well all year,” Greiner said. “Erin and I have been going back and forth all season. It all depends on who is skiing better that day.”
Their combined 1-2 finish paced Minnetonka to its second consecutive team championship. Marlee Gartner finished 15th and Allison Haworth 17 to give the Skippers 161 team points. Blake was second with 151 and Minneapolis Southwest third with 136.
“This is a great way to end our careers,” Greiner said. “We’re all so close that winning the team championship again is the best.”
A nagging back injury had kept Zach Dekko off the hill since helping Blake win the Section 4 title last week.
With a boys’ team championship to defend, there was no way Dekko, an eighth-grader, was going to remain sidelined any longer.
He ignored the pain, saying, “My doctor said I couldn’t hurt it any more if I raced.” Dekko skied well enough to finish among Blake’s top four, helping the Bears to their second consecutive boys’ team championship.
“Zach really came through for us today,” said Bears’ captain Teddy Ankeny, who finished fifth in the individual race. “He’s been fighting a back injury, but he skied great today.”
Dekko shrugged his shoulders and smiled when asked about Wednesday’s effort.
“It was tough, but it wasn’t like getting out of my death bed,” he said. “It meant a lot to the team.”