February 18, 2010 at 9:33 a.m.
After winning their section tournament two weeks ago, the Chisago Lakes boys alpine ski team had loftier goals in mind.
Only a group of private school Tommies could deny them those lofty goals last week at Giants Ridge.
The Wildcats skied well, but St. Thomas Academy just had an amazing day as they wouldn't be denied the team championship.
After Dylan Thomas and Madison Whalen of St. Thomas finished first and fourth, respectively, in the individual standings, it became a race to see who could grab second place.
The Wildcats seized the opportunity on the back of two seniors skiers who close out their career with a phenomenal finish.
Mark Sandgren waited to peak until the end of the year, and it paid off for him. After scoring a high finish in sections the week before, he skied two great runs at Giants Ridge to finish in fifth place overall in the meet. (Finishes are noted in the team competition. Sandgren finished eighth among all individual skiers, but three of the skiers in front of him had qualified as individuals, not as part of the team competition.
After Sandgren's first run on the red course, he was in sixth place at 35.86 seconds. He stayed consistent and finished in seventh place on the blue course with a time of 35.81 seconds, and while others faltered around him, he jumped up a spot to fifth place overall with his combined time of 1:11.67.
After Sandgren's impressive finish, Steve Wagner finished in 14th with a combined time of 1:16.05.
He had a very strong first run on the red course, finishing in 13th place with a run of 37.93 seconds. He didn't get quite the run he hoped for on the blue course, though. A majority of the skiers saw their time drop on the blue course, but Wagner finished the second course in 38.12 seconds, slightly above his red run time.
Enough of the other skiers had trouble around him, however, as the 22nd place finish on the blue course only moved him down one place to 14th overall.
Hogan Haas and Jake Sandgren did all they could as the third and fourth skiers that counted for scores toward the 'Cats total.
Haas finished the red run in 26th place with a time of 40.23 seconds. Jake Sandgren was right behind him after the first run, finishing in 40.47 seconds in 27th place.
Both of them had solid times in their blue run. Haas shaved over a second off his red run time and finished with a 38.99 second run, which put him in 30th place on that run. His combined time of 1:19.22 was good enough for 22nd overall.
Jake Sandgren had a 39.23 second run on the blue course, and that put him in 31st place for that run. His combined time of 1:19.70 left him right behind Haas in 23rd place. Sandgren was always just a slight step behind Haas.
The finish was still tough for the 'Cats to stomach, as two of their better skiers, Joe Cartier and Corbin Peterson both had some problems in the first run that prevented them from contributing to the Wildcats final score. After putting up a 45.62 second run on the red course, Cartier, who finished in 16th place overall in the state tournament last year, skied the 12th best time on the blue run with a time of 36.61 seconds. Peterson had the 27th best time on the tough blue course too, but his 55.84 second run on the red course prevented him from counting towards the final score.
Although those two had their struggles, the four that did count did just enough to grab their second place trophy. Although they were over 30 points behind St. Thomas, who scored 164 points, the Wildcats just narrowly edged out two other teams for second. Chisago Lakes scored 131.5 points at the tournament, and right behind them, Academy of Holy Angels scored 131 points, and just a fraction behind them was Lakeville North, who scored 130.5 points. Just one place in the team race was the difference between second and fourth.
The Wildcats actually scored a half-point less than their 132 point total from last year's state tournament, but the competition was more top-heavy last year as the 'Cats only finished in fifth place last year.
"Things didn't go quite as planned but we've been training hard all season which allowed us to ski well enough for a second place finish," Wagner said.
Although they didn't earn the coveted championship they wanted, second place is nothing to be ashamed of for this young group. "They are very focused and knew they could accomplish just about anything as a team," said assistant coach Shelly Sprain.
On the girls side, Sheila Stephani qualified as an individual after the team just missed out at sections. Stephani had a disastrous run on the red course, finishing in 1:06.28 after a stumble.
She was able to recover nicely in the second run on the blue course. She finishing in 42.46 seconds, which put her in 21st place overall for that run, but it just wasn't enough to do any major damage in the standings after her fall. She moved up from 82nd place to 76th place in the event.