BIWABIK, Minn. - Austin Danelski made history Wednesday afternoon at Giants Ridge, but his ski story began 75 miles to the south on the slopes of Spirit Mountain in Duluth.
That's where Danelski grew up, strapping on the ski boots when he was only 3 or 4 years old. By seventh grade, he was on Hermantown's varsity, dreaming of one day becoming a state champion.
On Wednesday, that dream became a reality.
Danelski, a senior, captured the Minnesota Alpine skiing championship with a dominating second run on the Helsinki course, charging across the finish line.
"The goal from when I started skiing in high school was to one day win state, so to finally do it, I'm really happy," Danelski said. "I'm pretty excited. This is awesome."
Danelski is the first boys skier from northeastern Minnesota to capture a state Alpine title since Duluth East's John McGreevy in 1983. The last northeast Minnesota state champion was Danelski's cousin, Megan Danelski, who captured the girls title in 2012.
Danelski completed two runs in a combined 1 minute, 10.96 seconds, to finish about a second ahead of Eagan freshman Camden Palmquist.
Danelski was in third after clocking a 34.47 on the boys' first run of the day, on the Innsbruck course, with Mounds View junior Kaarl Damberg leading at 34.13.
Damberg fell on his second run of the day, but he probably wouldn't have held off Danelski anyway. Danelski blitzed the next closest competitor, Palmquist, by more than a second on the Helsinki course.
"The second course fit me a lot better than the first, just with the way they had it set up," Danelski said. "The first course was more wide open, so a lot easier, and the second one was a lot more technical, just tighter, with sharper turns. It was more challenging and suited me better. I'm just happy that I executed it well."
What's in a name? With the Danelskis, a lot. Another cousin, Maddy Danelski - Megan's sister - is a former state runner-up.
Austin Danelski finished fifth at the state meet as a sophomore and was in the running for a state title last year before falling.
One can't help but wonder when the Danelskis and Winbergs and Borashes are gone, graduating from the Hermantown pipeline, who's going to fill their ski boots?
The answer could be found at Spirit Mountain.
Once news of the win spread, it would just be a matter of time before Danelski's cell phone would be bombarded with calls and texts congratulating him. Wednesday's performance certainly would have made his coaches at Spirit Mountain proud.
"I'm haven't had a chance to talk to them yet," Danelski said, "but I'm looking forward to it."
Minnetonka edged Lakeville South for the boys team title.
Tough winter for Winbergs
With sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-40s - the warmest day of the year - the skiers and spectators encamped at the base of Giants Ridge couldn't have asked for a better day. The smell of fire pits wafted in the air. The ski community is close knit, with basically all of Section 7 gathering around one tent, adorned with banners from the likes of Hermantown and Duluth East and Cook County-Silver Bay.
"The conditions were perfect," Hermantown junior Ashley Winberg said.
Winberg was in third before falling on her second run. She was wearing the necklace of her twin sister, Kendra, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in early January while skiing at Winter Park, Colo.
"I was told to stop, and i saw her laying on the ground," Ashley said. "I could tell by the amount of pain she was in that something had to have been wrong, because she heard something pop."
Kendra was seventh at the state meet last year, while Ashley was ninth. Wednesday showed Ashley how close she can be.
"I was going for it, and I just tipped inside a little bit and went down," Winberg said. "I'm upset because I knew I could have done it, or at least came close, but I definitely improved leaps and bounds from last year."
Cook County-Silver Bay junior Reilly Wahlers was northeast Minnesota's top girls finisher in 1:20.06, good for 17th, while Eden Prairie junior Becca Divine won in 1:15.44.
While Winberg was the second skier out for the second run, Wahlers didn't come out till sixth, and she took advantage.
"I was at the top of the hill, so I couldn't see, but I got a course report from my coach (Charles Lamb)," Wahlers said. "He told me to watch out in the same area where Ashley fell, but you can't fault her. She was really going for it."
Stillwater Area edged Mankato West by a point for the girls team title.
Minnesota Alpine Skiing Championships
At Giants Ridge, Biwabik
1. Minnetonka, 157; 2. Lakeville South, 147; 3. Edina, 136; 4. Hastings, 134; 5. St. Thomas Academy, 130; 6. Stillwater Area, 107; 7. White Bear Lake Area, 89; 8. Orono, 83.
1. Austin Danelski, Hermantown, 34.47-36.49-1:10.96; 2. Camden Palmquist, Eagan, 34.23-37.66-1:11.89; 3. Sam Shideman, Breck, 35.61-38.13-1:13.74; 4. Jaidan Rollings, Mankato West, 35.65-38.38-1:14.03; 5. Jackson Zilverberg, Orono, 35.70-38.81-1:14.51; 6. Jacob Peine, Hastings, 35.31-39.22-1:14.53; 7. Jack Folkman, STA, 36.33-39.39-1:15.62; 8. Nate Hilbert, St. Cloud Area, 36.38-39.34-1:15.72; 9. Jordan Risk, Mankato East/Loyola, 35.97-39.84-1:15.81; 10. Christopher Reichling, Edina, 36.26-39.92-1:16.18; 22. Will Hanson, Duluth Marshall, 36.92-41.35-1:18.27; 43. Thomas Borash, Herm., 35.38-46.50-1:21.88; 76. Ryan Johnston, Duluth East, 37.41-DNF; 85. Bren Elleson, DE, DSQ.
1. Stillwater Area, 148; 2. Mankato West, 147; 3. Minnetonka, 141; 4. Orono, 140; 5. Lakeville North, 129; 6. Hastings, 116; 7. Chisago Lakes Area, 108; 8. Minneapolis Southwest, 84.
1. Becca Divine, Eden Prairie, 35.49-39.95-1:15.44; 2. Meredith Swirtz, Minnetonka, 36.14-39.65-1:15.79; 3. Kathryn Kossack, LN, 36.09-40.53-1:16.62; 4. Peyton Servais, LN, 36.89-40.63- 1:17.52; 5. Kathrine Brust, Northfield, 36.67-40.92-1:17.59; 6. Briggs Carlson, MW, 36.79-41.07-1:17.86; 7. Bailey Donovan, St. Paul Academy and Summit School, 37.04-41.13-1:18.17; 8. Deirdre O'Neill, Breck, 37.05-41.22-1:18.27; 9. Maggie Raedeke, SA, 36.92-41.50-1:18.42; 10. Delia Sherwood, Orono, 36.27-42.20-1:18.47; 17. Reilly Wahlers, Cook County-Silver Bay, 37.73-42.33-1:20.06; 51. Sela Backstrom CCSB, 41.55-45.50-1:27.05; 77. Lauren Carlson, Duluth Marshall, 57.91-43.64-1:41.55; 85. Ashley Winberg, Hermantown, 35.87-DNF.