This article was posted on Monday, March 19th, 2012
A day that looked more fit for biking than skiing- youth skiers decked out in shorts, sunscreen and sunglasses skied out under blue skies daring the spring sun to dampen their skiing spirits. With Mother Nature careening into spring- the Nordic Ski Foundation was again working with a fleeting carpet of snow as race weekend approached. Much like the Loppet, alterations to previous laid plans seemed inevitable. Anticipating a melting course, the two day event folded into one. What resulted was a Super Saturday of youth skiing, and a celebration marking the end of the 2012 season.
In its third year, the Midwest Junior Championships is more than just another race. “There are youth races attached to most citizen races- but the Midwest Junior Championships are a little different because it is the capstone to the season,” said Nordic Ski Program Coach Allie Rykken. “It is an event that stands alone and focuses solely on kids”.
Over the years the event has grown to draw over 100 youth from around the Twin Cities to compete in both classic and skate events, relay races, obstacle courses and a ski-ball tournament (ski-ball is played similar to ultimate frisbee with teams passing a soccer ball to one another on skis while moving toward an end zone). Kids in the Minnesota Youth Ski League (MYSL) Ski Werx program and members of the Foundation run Nellie Stone and Anwatin Middle School Ski Teams joined young skiers from around the metro area for the event.
“The Midwest Jr. Championships began as a way to keep kids skiing longer,” said Rykken who co-directed the event this year with Amy Chichanowski, director of MYSL. “The high school season, and even the citizen racing season end, more or less, by mid or late February. Placing a race in March was a way to encourage participation in the sport”.
Rykken has watched the Anwatin Ski Team grow and develop over the course of the year and noticed that each kid approaches racing differently. “Some need a race to feel motivated- and some just love to practice but could care less about competing,” she observed. Mike Xiong, an Anwatin Ski Team alumni who raced for Henry High School this year, finished second among J2 boys earning his spot on the podium in an exciting sprint finish. Raequan Wilson and Jezeir Bradley just missed making the podium by finishing fourth overall in the classic relay.
While every kid did not take home a medal- they all walked away with a balloon tied to a cookie which had a snowflake design decisively stamped into its surface. “We definitely squeezed every last drop out of winter,” said Rykken who will begin mountain biking with the Anwatin Ski Team soon. Anwatin did come away with perhaps the biggest blue ribbon on them all: the Skiball Championship. Currently the traveling trophy is displayed proudly in the Anwatin Middle School office for the staff and faculty to see.