The first winter high school state tournament will be held today as Giant's Ridge near Biwabik hosts the Nordic ski competition and Bemidji will have three representatives in the day's activities.
Senior Bailey Drewes will make a return trip to the state meet in the girls division as will Tony Sagedahl and Adam Holter in the boys competition. A year ago Drewes placed 74th while Sagedahl was 93rd and Holter 95th.
All three skiers hope to improve upon those finishes.
The state format includes a 5-kilometer skating run in the morning and a 5-kilometer classical race in the afternoon. The girls will hit the skate course at 10 a.m. and stage their classical leg at 1:30 p.m. The boys begin at 11 a.m. with the skate and close the day at 2:30 p.m. with the classical.
"The meet features the 120 best skiers in the state," said BHS coach Mark Walters. "Bailey, Tony and Adam have been here before and have the experience. Their goals are to improve upon last year's finishes and, hopefully, crack the top 50."
"My job is to place higher than last year's 74th and I hope to get close to the top 25," Drewes said. "Skating is my strong suit so I want to have a strong morning run. In the afternoon classical race my job is to not lose any ground."
Holter believes that the experience gained last year will be an ally today.
"What I learned from being here last year is that it is important to calm the nerves and not get too worried about things," he said. "The skate course has lots of hills and it is important to hit them hard.
"Hopefully I'll do better than last year and I would like to finish in the top 50," Holter added.
Sagedahl is looking forward to the race and plans on enjoying the experience.
"The hard race is the section where you have to qualify for state," he said. "Now that I am at state I'm going to try and do my best and whatever happens will happen."
Today's weather forecast calls for temperatures in the low 30s for the morning races and the upper 30s for the afternoon competition. The varying conditions will challenge the skiers and all who help them prepare their equipment.
"I'm worried about the snow conditions but I know that some of the smartest people in the state will be there to do what is best for the course," Drewes said. "And Mark (Walters) knows all about waxes so with him helping me I'm not too worried."
To no one's surprise the Bemidji boys hockey team was the unanimous choice as the Section 8AA top seed and the Lumberjacks will begin their run at a state tournament berth Wednesday in Bemidji.
BHS earned the minimum six points in the minds of the voters. Moorhead (12) was the overwhelming choice for the second seed while Roseau (17) was ranked third and Brainerd (22) was rated fourth.
Completing the voting were St. Cloud Tech (27), Monticello-A-ML (32), Buffalo (37), River Lakes (42) and Becker-Big Lake (48).
The Section 8AA tournament begins Saturday when River Lakes hosts Becker-BL. That winner will head to Bemidji 7 p.m. Tuesday for a quarterfinal game at the Community Arena.
Tuesday's other upper-bracket contest sends Tech to Brainerd.
In the lower bracket Moorhead hosts Buffalo and Roseau entertains Monticello-A-ML.
Tuesday's winners advance to the semifinals which will be played Feb. 26 at the home of the higher seeds. If Bemidji wins its opener it will entertain either Brainerd or Tech at the BCA at 7 p.m.
The 8AA title game is 7 p.m. March 2 at a site yet to be determined.
The Lumberjacks finished 6-0-2 against section foes with both ties coming against Moorhead. The Spuds were 5-1-2, losing to Roseau which finished 4-4. Brainerd ended 3-5 against section teams while Tech was 5-4, Monticello 3-4, Buffalo 2-3, River Lakes 0-5 and Becker 0-2.
Tonight BHS will conclude its regular season at Thief River Falls. The game has no bearing on the section situation but could impact the Mariucci Conference picture.
The Lumberjacks, 20-2-2 overall, are 8-0-2 against league foes while TRF is 7-3. Moorhead owns a 5-1-2 mark while Warroad is 6-5, Roseau 3-7, Crookston 1-6-1 and East Grand Forks 1-9-1.
Boys Hockey Schedule
Game 1: Becker-Big Lake (No. 9) at River Lakes (No. 8), 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday's 7 p.m. Quarterfinals
Game 2: Game 1 winner at Bemidji (No. 1), BCA
Game 3: St. Cloud Tech (No. 5) and Brainerd (No. 4)
Game 4: Buffalo (No. 7) at Moorhead (No. 2)
Game 5: Monticello-A-MP (No. 6) at Roseau (No. 3)
Semifinals, Feb. 26
Game 6: Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 7 p.m. at higher seed
Game 7: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 7 p.m. at higher seed
Championship, March 2
Game 8: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 winner, 7 p.m. at site TBD