Nordic Skiing: Team Championship and Boys Pursuit Recap
Posted: Thursday, February 16, 2023 - 5:24 PM
In the finishing chute of the Minnesota State High School League’s Boys Nordic Skiing Pursuit championship at Giants Ridge, there was an extended moment with a thought shared by all that witnessed an astonishing duel: “Who just won?”
Even after Eden Prairie senior Benon Brattebo and Blaine senior Ben Lewis shared a hug and congratulated one another on a great race, the mystery still lingered. Brattebo was asked if he had won, and his answer spoke volumes as he smiled with a toothy grin.
“It came down to the bootstraps at the end,” Brattebo said moments later.
Actually, it came down to his left toe.
In a photo-finish that will not easily be forgotten, Brattebo’s left toe crossed the finish line just a micro-second ahead of the right foot of Lewis, a paper-thin margin that gave Brattebo a come-from-behind victory. Brattebo and Lewis finished the two-race Pursuit chase with identical times of 26 minutes, 00.9 seconds. By virtue of his stride length and left toe, Brattebo captured the blue-ribboned gold medal.
“It took every inch of the course for me to come back and grab it at the end,” he said. “The goal was to catch him at the finish, and fortunately, that happened.”
Earlier in the day, Brattebo was second fastest in the 5K Classic behind Prior Lake/New Prague junior Tommy Simmonds. Lewis was third. By virtue of his time in the Classic race, Simmonds had a 13-second head start for the Freestyle. In the chase for the Pursuit championship, Brattebo said he wasn’t overly exhausted from the earlier race and was confident he could make up the time differential.
It became a two-skier race with about one kilometer remaining when Lewis made his move. Brattebo moved with him and was right on the right shoulder of Lewis. Coming into the final turn and into the stadium finish, it was too close to call. Brattebo’s final surge was completed when he pushed his left ski and boot over the finish line just ahead of Lewis.
“There wasn’t a magic moment when I had to make a move or felt like I was going to win,” said Brattebo, who was sixth overall in 2022. “When I was able to catch him in the final stretch, I figured I had one last burst to get there.”
Edina’s Andrew Defor was third in 26:08.01, followed by Simmonds in 26:24.1. Wayzata’s Daniel McCollar was fifth in 26:33.3.
Duluth East completed a sweep of team championships by the school. The Greyhounds compiled 381 points to outdistance runner-up Wayzata, which was second with 339. St. Paul Highland Park was third at 338.
The Sprint Relay duo of Colin Willemsen and James Kyes accounted for 159 team points when they capture the title in that event on Wednesday. Also scoring for the Greyhounds were Oliver Miatke, Aiden Van Straten and Carl Morse. It is Duluth East’s first championship since 2011 and seventh overall.