Alayna Sonnesyn is one of Minnesota's top girls' Nordic skiers. Her performances in the past month reflect someone trying to become a first-time state champion.
The Wayzata junior, the runner-up in last year's state meet, is among the favorites to win the Nordic state ski meet Thursday at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, Minn. The state meet consists of a 5K freestyle and 5K classical race to determine the pursuit champion.
"The past few weeks I feel I've been getting better each day," Sonnesyn said. "I need to keep my technique solid."
She did just that in winning her third consecutive Section 2 title at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. Her overall time of 32 minutes, 54 seconds was nearly one minute faster than the runner-up.
"I had an awesome kick and glide in both my races," Sonnesyn said. "I couldn't have asked for any more."
At the state meet, Sonnesyn will be challenged by the likes of seniors Sarah Benton of Hopkins, Amy Bianco of Ely and Niki Reker of Roseville, juniors Vivian Hett of Burnsville and Mattie Watts of Irondale, and sophomore Rocci Wohlk of Forest Lake.
"There is definitely a lot of competition," Sonnesyn said. "There is a lot of talent across the state, and there will be for a few years."
In all, 13 of the top 20 girls' are back from a year ago. From top to bottom, they were separated by slightly more than 2 minutes.
"Hopefully, everybody is on their A game," Sonnesyn said. "It's going to be a tough race."
In the boys' race, only four of last year's top-20 finishers did not graduate. The returnees are seniors Harris Dirnberger (fifth) and Jakob Ellingson (seventh) of Hopkins, Luke Brown (eighth) of Minnehaha Academy and Lucas Mason (13th) of Roseville.
Hopkins is the favorite to claim the team title. Defending champion Roseville failed to qualify for the state meet.
The race for the girls' team title, just like the individual event, is loaded with familiar names. The top seven teams from a year ago return to Giants Ridge. Defending state champion Duluth East edged runner-up Wayzata by one point for the crown a year ago.
"We were bummed out getting second as a team last year," Sonnesyn said. "I would really like to win the team title. To be a part of something like that would be amazing."
Eden Prairie senior Jack Post, the 2012 boys' state champion, will look to solve the Giants Ridge slopes one last time Wednesday. A new team champion will be crowned because defending state champion Minnetonka failed to qualify for the meet. Last year's runner-up, Edina, is back in the mix.
Hermantown senior Megan Danelski will defend her girls' individual title. A new team champion is assured after defending champion Hermantown failed to qualify. Minnetonka, which finished second last year, is the front-runner.