And here we go.
The winter state tournament season, which seemed so far away, and highly unlikely, six months ago, kicks off this week with Alpine and Nordic ski racing state meets Wednesday through Friday at Giants Ridge Ski Area in Biwabik and the dance team state meet Friday and Saturday at Edina High School.
The meets will look and feel different from in years past. The general public will not be allowed to attend the meets, and awards ceremonies have been cut.
The skiing state meet will be spread out over three days instead of the traditional two. The Alpine (slalom) skiing meet will go off Wednesday. The Nordic meet will take place over two days instead of the usual one, with the girls' portion being held Thursday and the boys' a day later.
Dance team competition has been moved out of the large arena venues such as Xcel Energy Center and Target Center and will be held at Edina High School, with the jazz competition taking place Friday and the high kick finals on Saturday. Attendance for the meet is capped at 250 spectators in the gymnasium at any time.
The meet will be livestreamed by prepspotlight.tv. Costs run from $9.99 for one day and one class of competition to $19.99 to view the entire meet.
The first round of the newly formatted wrestling state tournament gets underway Saturday. The preliminary rounds (read: quarterfinals) will take place Saturday at various venues across the state, four in each class. The winners will advance to the state tournament at St. Michael-Albertville March 25-27, with each class wrestling on a different day: Class 3A on March 25, 2A on March 26 and 1A on March 27.
The week ahead:
Wednesday: Minneapolis North (10-0) at Minnehaha Academy (12-1), 7 p.m. The No. 2, 2A Polars, fresh from a tight 55-53 win over DeLaSalle, put their undefeated record on the line at the No. 1, 3A Redhawks.
Friday: Hopkins (12-0) at Becker (13-0), 7 p.m. These two undefeated juggernauts were originally supposed to meet twice this season, once at Becker (No. 1, 3A) on Saturday and then in the regular-season finale for both at Hopkins (No. 1, 4A) on Friday. Saturday's game was canceled because Hopkins paused its season as a precautionary measure when COVID exposure hit its sophomore team. But Friday is still on, the only change being that the game has been moved to Becker. The delay only heightens the anticipation.
Tuesday: Hill-Murray (14-2) at St. Thomas Academy (10-2-3), 7 p.m. St. Thomas Academy (No. 7, 2A) won the first meeting, rallying from a two-goal, third-period deficit to win on Tommy Cronin's power-play goal at 4:12 in overtime. This one should be just as good.
Monday: Gentry Academy (13-2) at Chisago Lakes (14-1), 5 p.m. Huge test for No. 1, 1A Chisago Lakes.