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Snow, driving wind just fine for Nordic ski champ Peter Moore's comeback

By Jim Paulsen, Star Tribune, 02/14/19, 5:21PM CST


The St. Paul Academy senior overcame an 18-second deficit to defeat the defending state champion. In the girls’ race, Wayzata senior Mara McCollor became the first repeat winner since Jessie Diggins.

Peter Moore of St. Paul Academy raced to the finish line in the boys’ classic 5K race Thursday in the Nordic skiing state meet at Giants Ridge Ski Resort. Photos: Carlos Gonzalez * cgonzalez@startribune.com

Peter Moore’s sixth-grade dream probably didn’t include a driving snow squall, but to the St. Paul Academy senior, the conditions for the decisive classic-style race at the Nordic skiing state meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik were perfect.

Moore overcame an 18-second deficit after the skate-style opening race Thursday, passing defending champion Garrett Beckrich of Grand Rapids about a kilometer into the boys’ classic race and holding on the win the pursuit championship. His time of 30:16.0 was a full second ahead of runner-up Alex Nemeth of Sartell-St. Stephen/St. Cloud Cathedral. Mora’s Cooper Lennox was third and Beckrich finished fourth.

“I’ve been thinking about this since sixth grade,” Moore said. “It’s every Minnesota high school skier’s dream to win this race. It’s incredible.”

Beckrich, who primarily trains as a biathlete and skied just five high school races before to the state meet, said he knew he was in trouble when he looked out of the window between races and saw the snow and wind start to pick up.

“I knew then it wasn’t a good thing for me,” he said. “I don’t practice classic enough.”

Moore was aware of that as well. He knew he was facing a big deficit, but his versatility and the worsening conditions were in his favor.

Mara McCollor of Wayzata and Lucinda Anderson of Armstrong raced for the finish line.

McCollor doubles up

Wayzata’s Mara McCollor stood right near the end of the race course, hugging everyone she could reach, following her second consecutive girls’ pursuit championship.

She was positively ecstatic after spending more than two kilometers dueling with Armstrong’s Luci Anderson before pulling away at the end. McCollor became the first girl skier to win consecutive titles since Jessie Diggins did it for Stillwater in 2007 and 2008. Diggins ended up winning a final championship in 2010 before going on to international and Olympic success.

“Going back-to-back is beyond anything I could imagine,” said McCollor, who finished in a time of 34:51.0, 1.2 seconds in front of Anderson. “It’s crazy.”

It certainly wasn’t easy. McCollor, a senior, trailed Anderson by 12 seconds after the Skate-style race, but her strength is in her Classic-style racing and she caught Anderson about a kilometer into the second race. The two dueled the remainder of the race.

“I caught her on the top of the golf course and we skied together a bunch,” McCollor said. “I put a little time on her at the top of the hill, but she caught me again and we skied together most of the way down. Every hill, we were battling it out, trying to see who could get to the top first.”

Anderson was happy with her lead after the first leg of the race but admittedly was never comfortable.

“I was confident, but I knew Mara was a really strong classic skier, so I was a little worried about the pressure from behind,” she said.

The two were neck-and-neck heading into the final 200 meters before McCollor gained an edge and never relinquished the lead.

“I don’t know if there was a moment where I could say I knew I was going to win,” McCollor recalled. “It was meter-to-meter. It was crazy.”

“She’s an amazing double-poler, so I was worried when we got to the end that she would zoom right by me, which happened,” Anderson said. “But it’s OK. I’m fine with it. I was really happy to be skiing with her.”

Anderson’s disappointment was tempered by her performance helping Armstrong win the girls’ team championship. The Falcons won with 412 points. St. Paul Highland Park was second with 384 and Stillwater third with 381.

“I’ve been skiing with these ladies for six years now, so winning the state meet just means a lot to us,” Anderson said.

Mara McCollor of Wayzata during the girls' classic 5K race at the Nordic skiing state meet at Giants Ridge.

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