Richards skis for State silver to cap prep career
It was an appropriate ending to a stellar high school skiing career, as Detroit Lakes senior Jake Richards elevated himself to being recognized as one of the best Nordic skiers in the state.
The last month has produced more than enough evidence to support that claim, as Richards earned a spot on the National Junior Olympic team, then backed that up with a State Nordic Skiing runner-up finish Thursday at Giant's Ridge in Biwabik.
"This is the best possible ending I could have had," Richards said of his second-place state finish. "This is everything I wanted to do, I am extremely happy with how it turned out."
Winning the state meet would have been a very tough task, as Lakeville North senior Ben Saxton repeated as state champion, while Richards secured second by racing 26.2 seconds behind him.
It was the morning's freestyle event which set Richards up for his silver position, after he marked a time of 14:15 that put him 1:02 behind Saxton, just one second ahead of Jan Ketterson of Bloomington Jefferson and five seconds ahead of Duluth East's Ryan Davis.
"I set a good pace at the start, which is important because the course is very hilly," Richards said. "I was able to stick with Ben (Saxton), which I was happy to stay with him.
"Everyone was close (in the top 10)."
The afternoon Classic event started just as well for Richards, who skied with two other good skiers to help him keep a fast pace.
But Richards also had another advantage, which he credited for being a huge aspect for his race.
"(DL head coach) Dan Josephson did a phenomenal job waxing my skies before the Classic and that played a big part when I was hitting the downhill part of the trails," Richards said.
"I was just super happy I did as well as I did."
Josephson gained some valuable advice from some of the ski wax representatives who attended the meet and went with it.
"Jake had put a base layer of wax on his skis and I just took it a step further," the DL coach said. "I felt a little more pressure after he finished second in the freestyle.
"But it's more important what is on top of the skis, than on the bottom."
Richards was the talk of the meet, after he improved 35 spots from his 2011 finish of 37th.
The Laker senior, who is leaning toward skiing for the St. Scholastica College men's team next season, added he was grateful for his families' support during the state meet.
"I think I had the biggest showing of fans at the meet," Richards laughed.
"It was fun."
Josephson, who coached Richards since his sixth grade year, appreciates what the DL senior has done for the program.
"It was a wonderful experience and through the years, he really has worked so hard," Josephson said.
"The young kids already know they have big shoes to fill, but things will be looking up for us in the future."
Roseville won the team title by three points over Hopkins 370-367.
State Nordic skiing meet at Giant's Ridge in Biwabik, Thursday, Feb. 16.
Boys team results -- Roseville 370, Hopkins 367, Duluth East 362, Forest Lake 351, Minnetonka 342, Brainerd/Pequot Lakes 285, Eagan 282, St. Paul Central 264.
Top 10 boys' finishers (freestyle-classic-pursuit) -- 1. Ben Saxton (Lakeville North) 13:43-15:09.2-28:52.2; 2. Jake Richards (DL) 14:15-15:27.6-29:42.6; 3. Ryan Davis (Duluth East) 14:20-15:29.6-29:52.6; 4. Jan Ketterson (Bloomington Jefferson) 14:16-15:36.6-29:52.6; 5. Harris Dirnberger (Hopkins) 14:34-15:18.9-29:52.9; 6. Samuel Elfstrom (Roseville) 14:37-15:25.6-30:02.6; 7. Jakob Ellingson (Hopkins) 14:34-15:28.7-30:02.7; 8. Luke Brown (Minnehaha Academy) 14:37-15:29.9-30:06.9; 9. Eric Slater (Henry Sibley) 14:59-15:18.8-30:17.8; 10. Michael Cork (St. Louis Park) 14:31-15:49.9-30:20.9.
DL results -- 2. Jake Richards (DL) 14:15-15:27.6-29:42.6.