BIWABIK -- Bemidji High School skiers Mary Beth Mathews and Ella Simula capped an unusual season at the Girls Nordic Skiing State Meet on Thursday at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
Mathews, a junior, and Simula, a sophomore, qualified as individuals for the meet thanks to their times at last week’s Section 8 meet.
“They did wonderful today,” head coach Mark Walters said. “Both girls had a really strong classical ski earlier this afternoon. They felt really good about it.”
Instead of using a true pursuit format, the meet included what were essentially time trials with classic and skate races being held back-to-back Thursday afternoon. Each race was four kilometers long, instead of the usual five kilometers.
Competing in her third consecutive state meet, Mathews put together her best performance yet by finishing 49th with a combined time of 27:55. She clocked times of 15:19.5 in the classic race and 12:35.5 in the skate race. Mathews bettered her finishes of 134th as a freshman and 102nd as a sophomore last season.
“Mary Beth Mathews came back with an absolutely marvelous skate,” Walters said. “She was in 69th place after the classic, and then finished 49th overall. She was the number two girl out of our section today.”
Making her first state appearance, Simula placed 96th with a combined time of 29:42.7 following classic and skate times of 16:15.1 and 13:27.6, respectively.
“We just told (Simula) this was a good year for a benchmark,” Walters said. “Just put something out there, try not to get stressed out about it, and I think she handled it super well.”
St. Paul Highland Park junior Molly Moening repeated as individual state champion with a combined time of 23:53.4. Forest Lake claimed the team title and dethroned defending champion St. Paul Highland Park, which finished runner-up.
Nearly 10 inches of fresh snow fell on the course overnight, just in the nick of time following a week of mild temperatures.
“The workers at Giants Ridge did a great job of packing this down starting this morning with some pretty heavy duty grooming equipment,” Walters said. “I was amazed at how nice it was. A little nervous about how warm it was going to get, but it packed down so nicely.”
The Bemidji boys will take to the Giants Ridge course as the Section 8 team champion on Friday, March 12, for the Boys Nordic Skiing State Meet. Skiing is set to begin at 1 p.m.