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Flyers’ Rutz races to state


That should be the slogan for the Little Falls Flyers girls Nordic ski team which never seems to run out of quality skiers.

Case in point is Chelsea Rutz. The sophomore won the individual classical race in the Feb. 3 Central Lakes Conference meet at St. John’s University in Collegeville. Her win helped the Flyers win their fifth-straight conference title.

“Classic usually isn’t my strength,” said Rutz, who also runs cross country and track. “I was really happy with my outcome. My teammate, Kaitlin Geisenhof, also had a nice race.

“I just wanted to get a good lead because of the mass start and because the trails were narrow and it would have been hard to pass. I was first right away and just kind of maintained that position the whole time.”

Rutz won the 5-kilometer race in 21:59

“Chelsea has been our No. 1 or 2 skier all season,” said Flyers coach Terry Wasland. “She was our No. 1 until Manon (Gammon-Deering) got healthy again and we felt Manon would win the skate so we put Chelsea in the classic and she went on to win that, too. 

“She has been skiing really well all year and she showed that by finishing third at the sections.”

Rutz skied the third-fastest classic time at Wednesday’s Section 8 meet and the third-fastest freestyle time for the third-fastest pursuit time of 38:19. She clocked a 20:17 classical and 18:02 freestyle.

That helped Little Falls to its sixth straight state meet. 

“We were hoping to make it to state and then we landed five out of our seven girls in the top seven, that was really cool,” said Rutz. “Overall, it was a really good day. Everyone performed really well. 

“We’re excited to go back to state. We have some unfinished business up there and hopefully we can end the season with a great race.”

In her first state meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik last season, Rutz skied to 102nd place. She recorded a freestyle time of 19:23 and a classic time of 21:14 for a pursuit time of 40:37 to help the Flyers to eighth place.

At the Bemidji Invite Jan. 25, Rutz placed fourth in the pursuit with a time of 34:47.

“As a ninth-grader last year she was usually our No. 4 or 5 skier, but she has really picked it up this season,” said Wasland. “She spent more time on roller-skates this offseason and really got stronger and physically more fit. She has been the most improved skier for us this season.

“Certainly her technique has improved. I don’t know if she spent a lot of time lifting weights, but she did a lot of crunches and pushups and her core strength is really good. 

“If you look at her leg drive it’s really strong and that helps her on the tougher courses. She has not only improved her strength and technique, but she’s also matured with her mental approach.”

Rutz attended a ski camp last summer, which she called beneficial. She said her biggest improvement from last year has been her technique. That and she doesn’t want to let her teammates down.

“We’re not one of those sports that gets the recognition,” she said. “We really work hard and we motivate each other. We take pride in that and I think that’s what makes us a tight-knit team. We all get along and that’s what makes it fun.”

Other notable performances:

Basketball: Kelsey Grider, Lake Region, finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocked shots against First Baptist and added 18 points and 14 rebounds against Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig.

Mikayla Michaletz, Aitkin, finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds against Isle.

Shauna Maurer, Pillager, scored 24 points against Menahga.

Emily Lueck, Pequot Lakes, scored 24 points against Park Rapids.

Tatum Sheley, Pine River-Backus, scored 21 points against Nevis to surpass 1,000 for her career.

Hannah Lemberg, Pine River-Backus, scored 23 points against Nevis and 21 against Clearbrook-Gonvick.

Jana Anderson, Crosby-Ironton, scored 16 points against Hill City to surpass 1,000 for her career.

Lindsay Monson, Pierz, finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots against Eden Valley-Watkins.

Nordic skiing: Manon Gammon-Deering, Little Falls, won the Central Lakes Conference freestyle race in 15:02.

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at or 855-5856.