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With a grin: Meet the Metro Girls Nordic Skier of the Year

It doesn't take a lot of snow to bring a smile to Linnea Ousdigian's face. This winter served as a testament.

"Every opportunity Linnea can get, regardless of weather or snow conditions, she wants to be out skiing," Mounds View coach Ian O'Neill said. "She loves to ski, looking for every opportunity to push herself and improve."

Ousdigian did just that from the outset of the season and became the first girls Nordic skiing state champion in program history. She has since won the under-16 mass start classic event at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Cross Country Junior Nationals in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Now she's the Star Tribune's Metro Girls Nordic Skier of the Year.

"What I find most impressive about Linnea is her poise under pressure," O'Neill said. "She gets excited by the opportunity to compete against the best, and no moment seems too big for her."

A freshman, Ousdigian won the pursuit individual state championship with a time of 27 minutes, 43.8 seconds over the 5K classic and 5K freestyle courses at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.

"With her level of technique and fitness, even at her young age, nothing Linnea does shocks me," O'Neill said. "For a long time I've known she's been capable of success like this."

Ousdigian sat in fourth place with a time of 14:55.3 after the 5K classic race in the morning. She trailed the leader by more than 17 seconds but won by nearly five seconds.

"I felt really good being in fourth place," Ousdigian said. "I am a lot better at the freestyle. I was excited and ready to go catch the people in front of me."

The state victory brought her season full circle. Ousdigian jump-started the year by winning the freestyle race in the Mesabi East Invitational at Giants Ridge.

"That gave me the confidence I could do really well at state," Ousdigian said. "My technique had improved a lot."

So much that Ousdigian could catch her breath as she neared the finish line.

"Watching her come down the final stretch in first is a moment I won't ever forget," O'Neill said. "Linnea always races hard all the way to the line, but that final stretch she took a brief moment to enjoy what she had accomplished."