Copper Country Ski Tigers Shine at Jr. Birkie and Birkie HS Events
- By Blair Orr
(Cable WI) The Copper Country Ski Tigers traveled to the Junior Birkie in Cable, Wisconsin and once again came away with a successful day of racing. The Junior Birkie is the biggest event of the season for Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin skiers ages 15 and younger. Open race categories are for 10 to 12 year olds and 13 to 15 year olds. The Junior Birkie also includes the Central Cross Country Skiing championships for J3 (ages 12-13) and J4 (10-11) boys and girls. Elias Featherly won the J3 boys and was 4th overall. Alan Toczydlowski was 3rd in the J3 boys, 2nd in 10-12 boys, and 8th overall. Also skiing for the Copper Ski Tiger boys were Zeb Featherly (4th in J4, 12th in age divison, 35th overall), Mike Brandt (22nd age, 48th overall), and Dylan Jackman (30th age, 61st overall).
The girls were led by a strong contingent of four skiers in the top ten: Olivia Orr 1st, Rachel Toczydlowski 3rd, Ruth Oppliger 5th (2nd in J3 girls), and Louise Oppliger 6th (3rd in J3 girls). Isabel Sharp was 3rd in J4 girls and 45th overall. Madelyn Shoup finished 12th and Jane Gregg 21st overall.
The most exciting events of the day were the girls and boys 3 x 3km high school relays. For the girls Olivia Orr skied lead-off and a pack of five teams were bunched up at the first exchange zone, with the Copper Country in third. Duluth East (third place team in the 2006 Minnesota state championships) led, followed by Hayward (the 2006 Wisconsin state champions). Amber Young skied a tremendous second leg to pull the Copper Country into second, with Hayward now leading. Duluth East was anchored by Ingrid Fjeldheim, the number two freestyle skier in Minnesota, and the Copper Country by Michigan's state champion Christina Mishica. Eleven minutes after the final exchange Mishica entered the stadium alone with only 400 meters to go. The Copper Country captured the Midwest Girls relay in a time of 36:43.5. Duluth East edged Hayward for second. The Copper Country B team placed 9th and Copper Country C 10th.
In the boys relay Jay Woodbeck and Kai Sharp kept the Copper Country A within striking distance and Keith Helminen skied the anchor, bringing the Copper Country from 5th to 3rd with a strong finish. Hayward (2006 Wisconsin State Champions) edged Forest Lake (2006 Minnesota State Champions) for the title. Copper Country B finished 14th. Helminen also had a superb classic leg in the boys high school individual 6km pursuit championship to move up from 5th at the end of the freestyle leg to an easy victory over Chris Bowler of Wausau. Kai Sharp was 8th and Jay Woodbeck 9th for the Copper Country. In an interesting note, Illinois placed a skier in the top ten, an unusual outcome in a Nordic high school event. In the girls pursuit Christina Mishica was the top finisher for the Copper Country in 4th. Mariah Featherly was 7th and Amber Young 8th.
The next day Olivia Orr was the only Ski Tiger entered in Saturdays Korteloppet, the 23 kilometer race associated with the longer American Birkebeiner. Orr finished 38th in a field of 813 women in 1:31:57.3. The race was won by Russian skier Natasha Naryshkina in 1:12:07.2. Naryshkina is the current North American SuperTour Sprint leader.