Irondale Nordic teams fare well up north

Irondale High School senior Mary Heinks competes in the classic race at the Mesabi East Invitational on Jan. 10 at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
Irondale High School senior Mary Heinks competes in the classic race at the Mesabi East Invitational on Jan. 10 at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. (photo courtesy of Pam Axberg)
Irondale High School junior Marcus Schultz competes in the freestyle race at the Mesabi East Invitational on Jan. 10 at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
Irondale High School junior Marcus Schultz competes in the freestyle race at the Mesabi East Invitational on Jan. 10 at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. (photo courtesy of Pam Axberg)

The Irondale High School Nordic ski racing teams are usually in the hunt when it comes to berths in the state meet. The Knights' teams were ranked in the top 16 in the state back in late December.

As one of those top teams, Irondale takes part in the bigger regular-season meets and one of those, the Mesabi East Invitational, was last Saturday at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. That's the site of the state meet, the goal for all Minnesota prep Nordic teams.

The Knights performed admirably in frigid conditions (the temperature was around 0 degrees at race time) with top-10 finishes by both the boys and girls varsity teams.

Irondale's girls team finished ninth out of 59 teams. 

Individually, Claire DuBois turned in the Knights' top performance as she finished 21st in the freestyle race with a time of 21:34.9. Lili Tapper also finished in the top 30 with a 28th-place finish in the freestyle event with a time of 21:56.2. Also competing for the girls squad were Mary Heinks, Hanna Boleman, Liz Axberg and Holly Peterson.

Stillwater, which finished third at state last year, won the Mesabi East girls team title.

On the boys' side, Irondale finished 10th out of 60 teams. 

Tim Axberg and Joey Jankowski turned in a pair of top-25 performances in the classic race. Axberg took 22nd with a time of 17:24.6 and Jankowski was 24th in 17:24.8. Also competing for boys team were McEwan Rodefeld, Corey Momsen, Marcus Schultz and Josh Tillman.

St. Louis Park, the state runner-up a year ago, won the team title on Saturday.

Also last week, Irondale competed in a six-team meet involving schools from the Northwest Suburban Conference. That meet, on Jan. 6 at Elm Creek Park, was a classical race and the Knights were second for both genders.

The boys team finished runner-up to Andover, which is also a top-16 team in the state. For the girls, second-ranked Robbinsdale Armstrong was the only team better that the Knights.

Individually, Lili Tapper paced the Irondale girls team with a ninth-place finish. Dubois ended up 11th, Liz Axberg was 13th and Mary Heinks wound up in 15th place.

Jankowski led the way for the boys team with a fifth-place performance while Tim Axberg tied for sixth. Rodefeld ended up 12th and Momsen was right behind him in 13th place.

On the schedule this week for the Knights is another Northwest Suburban Conference race on Thursday at Bunker Hills Golf Course. There are also two other smaller conference events on the schedule before the conference and section championships.

The conference championship meet is Jan. 28 at Theodore Wirth Golf Course in Minneapolis. The Section 5 state qualifier is Feb. 4 also at Wirth.

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com or 651-748-7819. Follow him on Twitter @BMeyersNews.

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