DULUTH - After enduring a recent cold snap, the two Iron Range alpine ski teams headed to Duluth, Tuesday, where they enjoyed the January thaw by competing in the Gitchi Gummi Invitational.

Hibbing placed both its number one seeds in the top 10, with Hilda Knuckey finishing ninth and Adam Vinopal seventh.

“Hilda had a solid first run but skied her second run a bit tentatively,” said Bluejacket head coach Brice Walli. “Of course, she did ski her second run twice.”

Near the end of Knuckey’s second run she encountered a damaged gate, broken by the skier in front of her, which caused her to ski out. She then had to rush back to the top of the hill to ski her run again.

“She was a little tired and a little cold, but she stepped up and skied great!”

Hibbing’s second seed, Sylvie Wetzel, was on skis for the first time in two weeks at Spirit, but still managed a respectable 19th place finish in the competitive field.

She was a little rusty, jumping right back into a race after two weeks off, but it’s really good to have Sylvie back,” said Walli.

The remaining points-scorers for the Bluejacket girls were Abbie Helms who finished 24th and Luci Bretto in 31st.

“It feels like Abbie is just about to the point of taking it to the next level,” Walli said. She’s just about there. And Luci’s there with Chloe (Price) and Tayla (Damyanovich). They’re all right there competing, we wish they were maybe a few places higher but they’ll get there.”

On the boys’ side, Bluejacket top seed Adam Vinopal also made the top ten after a rerun, landing in seventh place for the second consecutive race and leading Hibbing to a third-place team finish behind Cook County-Silver Bay and Duluth Marshall.

“He did well,” said Walli. “A little off the top dogs from Cook County and Marshall but very respectable.”

WIthout second seed Carter Bungarden, the rest of the Bluejacket scoring came from Zander Cuffe in 17th, Edric Cordona, 18th, and Dainen Blight who finished 21st.

“Zander and Edric, those two are just trading blows right now,” said Walli. And they’re right on the heels of RRAST’s Caden Lundstrom. It’s great to have that competitiveness within your own team but even better to eyeball the competition, too.

Lundstrom ended up being the top Rock Ridge boys finisher in 16th place just four-hundredths of a second ahead of Cuffe.

“We had our two ninth-graders Caden and Blake (Larson) having two solid runs for us, today,” said Neff. “It’s good to see them step up after Travis (Bird) got dq’d.”

Larson’s 23rd place finish was joined in the scoring by Samuel Beukema in 19th and Eric Panyan in 26th.

On the girls’ side, Rock Ridge’s Eva Rourk continued her impressive season landing in seventh place.

“We’ve been working on a lot of things with Eca and I think a lot of those things are finally coming together,” said Neff. “We’ve always know that she’s a good skier and she continues to prove it.”

The Wolverine girls took third place as a team behind Duluth East and Cook County-Silver Bay despite top seed Mia Schuchard missing a gate and being disqualified on her first run. Azalea Ray in 13th, Abby Crum, 16th and Sophia Nemec in 18th rounded-out the Rock Ridge scoring.

“East is deep, Cook County is deep, but we are, too,” Neff noted. “We have a very competitive girls team. We still have some work to do but I am very positive and hopeful that we will continue to be.”

While both Rock Ridge and Hibbing will return home to Giants Ridge this weekend for the annual MLK Race, both coaching staffs appreciated being able to challenge their skiers on a different slope.

“Spirit Mountain is a different animal,” said Walli. “Not real steep but it's got an awful lot of bumps on it - little changes, a lot of off-camber pitch and really makes for some interesting races on a type of terrain that we never train on. It was good to see our kids be able to step up to that.”


BOYS: Cook County-Silver Bay, 171; Duluth Marshall, 155; Hibbing, 129; Duluth East, 119; Rock Ridge, 108

GIRLS: Duluth East, 122; Cook County-Silver Bay, 106; Rock Ridge, 94; Hibbing, 68; Duluth Marshall, 35


BOYS: (1) Carter Hegg, EAST, 1:18.12; (2) Ray Dressely, CCSB, 1:19.98, (3) Graham Oberholtzer, CCSB, 1:24.75; (4) Weston Heeren, MARSH, 1:25.42; (5) Grant Williams, MARSH, 1:25.64; (6) Elijah Blanck, CCSB, 1:25.84; (7) Adam Vinopal, HIB, 1:26.45; (8) Elijah Johnson, EAST, 1:27.85; (9) Toby Schunk, HERM, 1:28.80; (10) Finn Taylor, CCSB, 1:28.91; (16) Caden Lundstrom, RRAST, 1:32.19; (17) Zander Cuffe, HIB, 1:32.23; (18) Edric Cordona, HIB, 1:32.63; (19) Samuel Beukema, RRAST, 1:33.89; (21) Dainen Blight, HIB, 1:36.40; (23) Blake Larson, RRAST, 1:38.09; (24) Logan Maxwell, HIB, 1:38.12; (25) Sam Gabardi, HIB, 1:39.82; (26) Eric Panyan, RRAST, 1:40.21; (31) Mathias Frericks, RRAST, 1:43.81; (32) Jack Stella, RRAST, 1:43.91; (34) Nathan Nemec; RRAST, 1:45.88; (35) Jake Walli, HIB, 1:45.95; (38) Aiden Johnson, RRAST, 1:48.57; (41) AIden Nelson, HIB, 1:51.57; (42) Logan Hejda, RRAST, 1:52.26; (43) Sawyer Williams, RRAST, 1:52.82; (45) Braden Crotteau, RRAST, 1:56.28; (46) Travis Bird, RRAST, 2:01.66; (49) Simon Beukema, RRAST, 2:02.91; (52) Hollis Frost, RRAST, 2:12.10; (53) Joe Maxwell, HIB, 2:15.13; (58) Calvin Wetzel, HIB, 2:33.72

GIRLS: (1) Veronica McHenry, EAST, 1:23.73; (2) Emily Regas, CEC, 1:25.69; (3) Kalina Dimatrova, CCSB, 1:27.15; (4) Mia Arnold, EAST, 1:28.23; (5) Genevive Silence; CCSB, 1:29.18; (6) Abby Myers, EAST, 1:29.38; (7) Eva Roark, RRAST, 1:31.09; (8) Madysen Waters, CEC, 1:32.40; (9) Hilda Knuckey, HIB, 1:32.56; (10) Teagen Tessier, CEC, 1:33.72; (13) Azalea Ray, RRAST, 1:34.65; (16) Abby Crum, RRAST, 1:39.36; (18) Sophia Nemec, RRAST, 1:40.76; (19) Sylvie Wetzel, HIB, 1:40.76; (24) Abbie Helms, HIB, 1:47.55; (29) Maija Rantala, RRAST, 1:58.35; (30) Mya Jacobson, RRAST, 1:59.33; (31) Luci Bretto, HIB, 2:01.64; (32) Chloe Price, HIB, 2:03.04; (33) Tayla Damyanovich, HIB, 2:07.74; (38) Elisa Benito Olias, RRAST, 2:34.60


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