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Laker duo helps put Detroit Lakes Nordic skiing on map

Jake Richards and Dylan Ramstad Skoyles

If it has been considered that the Detroit Lakes Nordic skiing program has been under construction the last three to four years, dub sophomore Dylan Ramstad Skoyles and freshman Jake Richards the head carpenters.

The Laker duo pulled off history last Wednesday after both qualified for the State Nordic skiing meet, the first time that two DL boys have earned state berths in the same year.

The Nordic State meet will be Friday at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, with the boys' classical race starting at 11 a.m. and the freestyle at 2:30 p.m.

"It's great being the first two to do that," Ramstad Skoyles said of the feat. "It's cool doing it as young as we are, too."

Richards and Ramstad Skoyles were not just close teammates, they were close competitors throughout the season.

Each pushed the other during meets, with both consistently finishing in the top 10 during the season.

"I didn't like losing to someone younger than I was, so that pushed me," Ramstad Skoyles said. "But (Richards) does live at Maplelag, so he probably should beat me."

Richards has an advantage most skiers don't have, in that he can walk out his front door at home and almost instantly be on some of the best Nordic ski trails in the state.

His family owns Maplelag Resort, which features miles of top groomed Nordic ski trails.

Although Richards' favorite sport is mountain biking, Nordic skiing is his top high school activity -- and it showed.

Last year, he was just three seconds shy of qualifying for state. This year, he made sure it wasn't going to be that close.

"I wasn't too nervous (for the sections), I just thought of it as another meet," said Richards, who was a favorite to make state. "I finished fourth in my classic race. (Section champion) Conrad Roberts passed me early and I just followed him and tried to save some energy for the skate race."

After finishing fourth in the classic portion of the pursuit event, Richards all but sealed his ticket to state.

He finished fifth in the skate and fourth overall.

For Ramstad Skoyles, his berth wasn't as secured heading into the section meet.

"I was extremely nervous," Ramstad Skoyles said of the section meet. "My goal was to just finish 10th or above in the classic and then build up during my skate race. So I pushed myself way harder in the classic."

That extra effort landed Ramstad Skoyles in seventh after the classic race, putting him in great position to secure his state spot.

"After I found out I was seventh, I didn't want to say I was in, but I was in," the Laker sophomore said.

Since the skate is Ramstad Skoyles' strongest suit, he was able to be a little bit more conservative, as he placed ninth there and ninth overall in pursuit --  while being the sixth skier to nab a state slot.

"After I crossed the finish line, (DL head coach) Dan Josephson told me I took ninth and I was in," Ramstad Skoyles said. "My dad thought I finished 11th (state qualifiers are the top eight, not including the winning team), so he said he avoided me after the race.

"I was ecstatic when I found him."

The fact that DL Nordic skiing is back on the map after two boy skiers qualified for state is a huge boost to the program, Josephson said.

"It's big, because there is a large number of younger kids behind them who can see with a little extra work and training, the door is open for them," the DL coach said. "Having two (state qualifiers) instead of one makes it easier to build, because hopefully we can have three next year and possibly win the section the year after."

That's exactly what Richards and Ramstad Skoyles want to see happen -- team success.

"There are a lot of eighth graders on the team who skied in section and did well," Richards said. "We are a very young team and doing great."

Ramstad Skoyles is setting the goals higher for the 2010 season. "If everyone keeps working hard, I think we have a good shot making it to state as a team," he said.

But that's not to overlook this year, which includes hopefully the first of many trips to state for the duo.

Each will use this trip as a learning experience.

"I don't have any expectations," Richards said.

Added Ramstad Skoyles, "Hopefully this will get rid of any nervous jitters if we can make it again someday."

Josephson, who was in his first year of being the Nordic head coach when Laker Chris Ziegler made state, wants Richards and Ramstad Skoyles to also soak in the experience.

"They need to get the entire thing in and hopefully next year if they make it back, they won't be wide-eyed," Josephson stated.

The building goes on for the DL Nordic skiing program, but with two Lakers making state, the hard work is starting to bear some sweet fruit.