When the state Nordic ski competitions are held at Giants Ridge in mid-February, it’s no surprise that the Highland Park High School girls’ team is expected to be right in the mix for another title.

The Scots have won nearly every meet they’ve been in this winter, including the recent Loppet Invitational on January 14 featuring 15 teams from throughout the metro area. The only time Highland wasn’t at the top of the podium was when it finished third in the massive Mesabi East Invitational on January 7. A large reason for this was the absence of one key skier.

Highland skiers
Training on the Highland Park 9-Hole Golf Course are Highland cross-country senior skiers, from left, Max Reemtsma, Ben Martin, Tad Forsman, Gavin Roberts and Delia Johnson. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Highland is a team of great talent, work ethic and self-discipline that does not beat itself. Last winter, the Scots won their second state title in three years by edging out Duluth East by three points. They also won state in 2020. Still, coach Brad Moening said  the best could be yet to come.

“This year’s girls may be a little bit better than last year’s,” he said. “We have a blend of experience and youth. Our sophomore class is strong.”

Moening said his squad joins Duluth East and Stillwater as having a viable chance at winning all the marbles at state this winter. The Scots can do it, but Moening said they have to be healthy. Some persistent illnesses have bitten several skiers this winter. But if that gets solved, his club has a good chance.

“This year’s girls may be a little bit better than last year’s,” coach Brad Moening said. “We have a blend of experience and youth. Our sophomore class is strong.”

Koch sisters lead the way for the Highland girls

The Scots’ potent lineup is headed by the Koch sisters. Sophomore Hanna and senior Chloe have traded off being the top finisher in several meets this winter, with Hanna winning the first two of the season and Chloe taking the third.

 

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Hanna also won the Twin Cities Meet on January 10 and had the top time in the skate race at the Loppet Invitational. She missed the Mesabi meet because she was competing in a senior nationals event in Michigan.

Moening said Hanna has a very laid-back personality “until the gun goes off” to start the race. “She’s just a real competitor,” he said. “By the time she’s a senior, she’s going to be way up there among others in the state. She’s so calm at the starting line, but we call her ‘The Beast’ because she takes such an aggressive approach.”

Chloe is a six-year veteran of the team, and is steady and determined. Moening said she is one of the best captains he’s had on his teams, which is saying a lot.

No lack of talent to go around

The sisters get plenty of help from their teammates. Sophomore Alexa Pundsack gets stronger every year, doing equally well in the skate and classic courses and generally being very well-rounded. Sophomore Amelie Isom is a four-year veteran and uses her experience well. She and sophomore Ellie Moore won the skate relay event at the Loppet.

The girls were set to compete in a classic race on January 18, followed by the Saint Paul City Conference meet on January 27 at Theodore Wirth Park. The Section 3 meet is set for February 7 at Battle Creek.

The Highland boys’ team also has won every meet it’s been in this year, with the exception of the Mesabi. That includes the Loppet, where the Scots outpaced second-place Eden Prairie by 10 points. Spearheading the winning effort were seniors Davis Isom, Ben Martin and Gavin Roberts. Isom won the skate event, and the team of Tim Tzeutschler and Tad Forsman finished first in the skate relay.

Moening said the Highland boys should also be within the top five of teams at state. However, when it comes to winning it all, the girls’ chances are even better.

“If our girls ski well, they’ve got a real shot,” he said. “It all comes down to what happens on a given day.”

— Bill Wagner

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