BEMIDJI -- The weather is looking pretty brisk for Friday’s State Nordic Ski Meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, but the five qualifiers from Bemidji High School are used to it.
Nick Youso, Logan Jensen and Louis Morrissey of the boys squad, and Gwendoline Youso and Mary Beth Mathews of the girls team qualified for the meet as individuals.
The meet was originally scheduled for Thursday, but with the forecast calling for a high temperature of two degrees below zero, it was pushed back to Friday. The mercury is projected to only rise to 13 degrees that day but skiers have ways to handle the cold.
“The biggest challenge of course is the cold oxygen in your lungs,” BHS head coach Mark Walters said. “We just have to make sure that the kids have proper protection on so they can kind of preheat the air a little bit. All you’ve got to do is wear what’s called a Buff up over your mouth a little bit and that kind of helps slow down the intake, so to speak, of the really, really cold air.”
Skiers also wear skin protectors to help protect against the elements, and coaches will keep a close eye to make sure athletes are staying warm, dry and hydrated.
“It provides some little extra challenges, but it’s not like we haven’t been in a cold race this year,” Walter said.
Bemidji skiers suddenly find themselves with an extra day to gear up for the big event.
“We’ll just work on relaxing on our skis, trying to have a little more of an upbeat kind of a practice in that respect,” Walters said. “Anything that just kind of keeps everybody calm.”
The Lumberjacks are no strangers to Giants Ridge, having competed there last month for the Mesabi East Invitational, the largest high school Nordic ski meet in the country. And other than Morrissey, a freshman, every BHS skier enters Friday with previous experience at the state meet.
Senior Gwendoline Youso is making her fourth straight appearance, while juniors Nick Youso and Logan Jensen, as well as sophomore Mary Beth Mathews, will be making their second consecutive trips to state.
The group of five from Bemidji represents every class, senior on down, which goes to show how depth can be found within the program.
“As the season comes to an end down the road, we’re not losing too many seniors. Only a handful this year,” Walters said. “We should have some excellent retention back for next season.”
Though neither Lumberjack squad qualified as a team this season, the five individuals will look to make an impact on the state’s biggest stage.
“I know with Gwen, Logan and Mary Beth they’re looking to increase, as far as their personal-best (times), their placements,” Walters said. “With Louis, he’s going to obviously be just kind of putting a benchmark out there. I think Nick is probably shooting for All-State, which is top 25, and with the way that he’s skiing now, I think that’s very, very doable.”
The girls 5K freestyle race kicks off the festivities at 11:30 a.m. Friday, and the boys 5K freestyle will follow at 12:10 p.m. The girls 5K classical race is set for 2:30 p.m. with the boys 5K classical event beginning at 3:30 p.m.