The wooden stairway that leads up to the veranda at the Lodge at Giants Ridge Ski Area seems pretty ordinary. To Xavier Mansfield, however, standing at the top of that stairway is something he’s dreamed of since he began skiing.
The Spring Lake Park/St. Anthony senior made up 20 seconds in the classic-style race on Thursday to win the pursuit championship – and thus win the boys’ individual title — at the Nordic skiing state meet.
Mansfield, who lives in northeast Minneapolis and attends St. Anthony High School, was in third place after the freestyle (skate) portion of the meet. He pulled ahead halfway through the classic race, the result of a winning combination of urgency and good wax.
“Being 20 seconds behind, I was a little worried, but chasing helped a little bit with motivation,” Mansfield said.
Mansfield went off in the classic race behind two close friends, Patrick Acton of Eagan and William Foss Kerker of Minneapolis Southwest. The three of them ski together for the three-time national champion Loppet Nordic Club. Mansfield caught Acton and Kerker at the top of the uphill portion of the 5K race and, with a slicker wax job on his skis, pulled away to win the overall title in a combined time of 28:23.2.
“Sometimes, it comes down to who works the hardest and who has the fastest skies coming down,” Mansfield said. “I had better glide.”
Mansfield’s move came with two kilometers to go. Both Acton, who finished second, and Kerker, who was third, knew the race was over right then.
“My skis had great kick going up but were a little slower than theirs coming down,” Foss Kerker said. “I couldn’t keep up with them.”
Acton won the freestyle portion of the competition but knew holding that lead would be tough. “I’m not that strong of a classic skier,” he said. “I hoped at some point I could catch them in the last 1K, but I’m very happy with my skate race. I value that more.”
Mansfield said winning the state championship was the culmination of something he’s thought of often.
“When you first start skiing, you see all the fast guys and think ‘That’ll never be me,’ ” Mansfield said. “But you just keep training and eventually you get there. It’s just a dream to be at the top of that staircase.”
Minneapolis Southwest won the boys’ team title for the second consecutive traight year. The Lakers had three top-10 finishers in Kerker, Torsten Brinkema (eighth) and Adlai Sinkler (ninthth) and finished with 421 team points. Wayzata was second with 405.