The first two of the nine Bemidji High winter sports teams begin their post season today when the boys and girls Nordic ski teams head to Camp Ripley for the Section 8 meet.
Bemidji is given a good shot at the boys title and could press Little Falls for the girls crown with a good day.
The two teams have been making steady progress all winter aided by early snow and have been at or near the top of most of their meets.
The boys won titles at the Maplelag, Fergus Falls and North Star Conference meets, were second twice, fourth twice and fifth at the season opener at Ely.
They girls won titles at Maplelag and the North Star meet, were second at Deer River, Brainerd, Fergus Falls and third at Ely, Mt. Itasca, and Little Falls.
Other teams finished third last year with Grand Rapids and Little Falls preceding the boys and Little Falls and Grand Rapids ahead of the girls.
Both champions won by 20 points. Bemidji's boys were only three points out of third.
But the teams sent three to the state with Molly Manske represented the girls last winter while Zac Oelrich and Matt Lee qualified for the boys.
In skiing, only the winning team makes the state.
But the top eight finishers not on the winning teams also advance.
Oelrich was second to Conrad Roberts, Battle Lake's one-man ski team, in the boys division. Lee and Manske each finished 11 overall.
But both were seventh among the finishers no on the section champs.
At the state. Oelrich finished 24 to earn All-State honors. Lee was 93.
Manske finished 86 in the girls race.
The section and state formats are pursuit races. Today the boys classical will leave the starting line at 10 and the girls at 11.
The boys freestyle led starts at 1:30 and the girls at 2:30. Both divisions are 5k races.
With Addie Byrne of Grand Rapids taking the girls section title last year, neither champ will be back to defend. Jake Richards of Detroit Lakes, who was fourth, and Summer Ellefson of the Northwest Home School, who was third, are the top finishers back on the course.
Lee will be joined by Tony and Kyle Sagedahl, Adam Holter, Sam Dwyer, Lucas Brokl and Eli Rassler in the boys race with Carl Graefe and John Buckanaga as alternatesManske will join Bailey Drewes, Alicia Papke-Larson, Laura Yond and Tiffany Mason on the girls unit. Kim Truedson and Kristina Lengerhuis are the alternates.
The state meet will again be a Giants Ridge Feb. 11.
The previous day the Coaches Association will sponsor the Charlie Banks Relays, once a part of the state meet before the present format was adopted.
The 4 x 3 event sees teams entering four skiers, two skiing classical and two freestyle.
Last year Bemidji finished sixth in each division.
Should neither team reach the state, Bemidji's chances in the relays would appear extremely bright.
If they do gain the state, Coach Mark Walters would likely enter an underclass unit in the boys race. Lack of skiers would preclude entering a girls team.