With a victory at the Mesabi East Invitational meet on Saturday, the St. Louis Park boys' Nordic ski team established itself as the favorite for the state meet in February.
The Orioles, who finished second to No. 1-ranked Forest Lake in the 2014 state meet, got first-place finishes from seniors Sean Cork in the classic-style race and Liam Schmelzle, who pulled off a mild upset in defeating Forest Lake's Leo Hipp in the freestyle race.
"Liam has had a great season," coach Doug Peterson said. "A guy like Sean, we expect big races from him. But Liam hasn't lost this season since the last time he raced Sean."
The meet took place at Giants Ridge in Biwabik on the same course used for the state meet, an encouraging sign, Peterson said.
"The Mesabi is the premier high school race in the country," he said. "The lineup of teams is unmatched. You get to ski on the state meet course, which motivates the kids highly. Forest Lake deserves a lot of credit for being awfully tough, but I think we're pretty powerful right now, too."
Knights reach new heights
It has been a remarkably successful season for the St. Michael-Albertville boys' swimming and diving team under first-year coach Kelli Nadeau.
The Knights, No. 10 in Class 2A in the state coaches association dual-meet rankings, had a terrific week last week, defeating perennial power Wayzata 98.5-87.5 in a dual meet on Jan. 6 and breaking five pool records in a 96-88 victory at Buffalo on Friday.
Max Lezer broke pool records in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle, as did Grant Moser in the 100 butterfly. The 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay teams also set pool records in the meet.
"Beating Wayzata was our most exciting meet," Nadeau said. "But our meet … against Buffalo was definitely our most successful."
• Minneapolis North boys' basketball coach Larry McKenzie won his 300th career game Friday with a 92-67 victory over his former team, Minneapolis Henry. McKenzie coached Henry to four consecutive Class 3A state championships from 2000 through 2003.
• Bloomington Jefferson junior Zak Ketterson, the defending boys' Nordic skiing state champion, was selected as one of six members of the U.S. National Under-18 team.
Jim Paulsen • 612-673-7737