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State Alpine Skiing: With state title Tuesday, Anthony Petkov proud to win one for Irondale

Irondale senior Anthony Petkov entered the state Alpine skiing meet Tuesday with the expectation to ski as best as he could and see where that took him.

But he also knew in the back of his mind that the best he could was really, really good.

“I had a pretty good week of probably my fastest skiing so far,” Petkov said by phone Tuesday. “So I was pretty confident going into it.”

For good reason.

Petkov won the state title at Giants Ridge in Biwabik with a two-run time of 1 minute, 15.69 seconds, putting a bow on a dominant high school campaign.

Petkov won four out of five conference meets this winter before winning sections and state.

Irondale coach Erik Saari marveled at Petkov’s strength, hand movement and ability to “put his skis where they needed to be at the right time.”

“I mean, he’s dialed in. He has trained hard and long for many years, and this season has been special for him,” Saari said. “There was a handful of skiers out there that are state championship contenders. What made this race special is Anthony was one of them. We didn’t need like half the field to fall or we didn’t need some miracle to get him there. He was an absolute contender the whole time, and he put together two good runs and made it happen.”

Petkov has always had speed. But he hit new levels this week, he said, by minimizing mistakes. That’s crucial, particularly at the sport’s biggest stages. Saari said the pitch – the steep part of the hill – on the second run was challenging Tuesday due to the big offsets between turns.

“He skied that pretty clean,” Saari said. “When he got into the flat, he got a little late. But he was able to pull it together and finish clean and fast.”

When Petkov reached the bottom of the run, he heard his time announced over the speaker, as well as the information that it was the fastest two-run time yet. But Petkov entered the second run in second place, trailing Hastings’ Jackson Reents.

Reents came down the hill immediately after Petkov, but late bobbles caused the senior to straddle a couple of gates to end his title hopes.

“I know his goal the entire year was to win state and become a state champion, and when I saw him go out, I felt bad, because I know he really wanted it,” Petkov said. “But that’s sometimes how ski racing goes. One little mistake and you’re out like that.”

No one knows that better than Petkov, who could’ve been a championship contender a year ago. But Saari said the skier got loose at the wrong time and couldn’t execute a hairpin turn, which ended his first run.

Petkov was able to keep that experience out of his mind Tuesday.

“In the world of ski racing, you fall a lot. And over so many years of ski racing, you learn to forget about your mistakes and to move on as fast as possible,” he said. “So when I came here, when I went to race today, I didn’t really have that (in my mind). It’s in the back of your head, but you really try to stay out of it. I really just tried to focus on today, my tactics and how I’m going to ski today.”

Stillwater’s Cash Jaeger finished in second place for the second consecutive year – a remarkable achievement in its own right. He was one of two Ponies to finish in the top 10, alongside teammate Ethan Stabenow, who finished ninth.

St. Thomas Academy’s Toren Piltingsrud finished fifth, while Hill-Murray’s Austin Mjanger was sixth. Woodbury’s Bennett LeVander rounded out the top 10.

Mjanger and Owen Wendorf – who finished 12th overall – led the way for a Hill-Murray team that finished third in an incredibly tight team competition.

Minneapolis Washburn finished with 154 points to claim the team title, ending Minnetonka’s two-year run on top.

The Skippers and Pioneers both finished with 151 points, with Minnetonka taking second place on a tiebreaker. Rosemount placed sixth.

Petkov plans to ski for Northern Michigan next year. But he was thrilled to go out on top in his last race representing Irondale.

“It’s more about the school, really. Because Irondale doesn’t get many wins in anything, especially for sports. So I really love to bring Irondale (pride) and get it out there. … Just to make my school proud, I guess,” Petkov said. “I love my school very much. They all support me very much.”

After Petkov won, Irondale athletic director Chris Fink looked over at Saari with a massive smile and asked, “Can you believe this?”

“I said, ‘A little bit, I can,’ because I was secretly expecting this,” Saari said. “I think it just shows the student body there that anything is possible there, no matter what the sport. You put your time and mind to it, and you can be a great competitor.”

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