This wasn’t forced on Robbinsdale Cooper senior Ellie Evans.
She could have kept playing volleyball, and stayed indoors for her athletic endevors as a high school student.
She didn’t have to venture out in sub-zero weather, which she admitted last week she can’t stand.
She didn’t have to spend her weekends finding a place to ski, or get in some other sort of cardio exercise that, as it has turned out, could be on the verge of leading her to a place only one other girl from her high school has ever been.
Then again, she would have also missed out on the beauty that encompasses much of the ski trails she spends most of her afternoon.
And despite the cold, she was never going to give that up.
“I hate being cold, but then once you get wamred up and you are skiing, it is gorgeous out there,” Evans said last week. “I love the trees and the snow, just how it looks. It’s worth being a little cold I guess.”
There are other rewards that have been reaped on Evans from her work out on the ski trails, including a state meet appearance each of the past two winters.
Last week, she concluded her stay in the Twin Cities Nordic Ski Conference by placing second individually, earning all-conference recognition in the process.
Next week, she’ll head back out into the elements to compete in the Sectoin 6 finals Feb. 4 at Theodore Wirth Park, where a third trip to Biwabik and the girls state Nordic ski meet could hers.
If she accomplishes that goal, Evans will become just the second girl ever from Cooper to qualify for three state meets.
Alice Flanders was the other, and to Evans, that sounded like pretty good company.
“After doing it my first year that was really exciting, and then I did it again and now I just expect it of myself at this point,” said Evans. But to follow in Alice’s footsteps is a big honor, because she was a really good skier.”
Don’t blush to much Ellie, but so are you.
“She is such an athlete, and that does her a lot of good out there,” said head coach John Utter. “She has turned herself into a tremendous skiier. She’s got a great work ethic. Her dad tells me that on the weekends she is always out running or skiing. She loves the fitness part of it, and she loves to compete.”
That competitive fire will be needed next week, when the level of skiers takes a giant leap compared to much of what Evans has skiied against.
Hopkins and Minneapolis Southwest are considered the favorites, meaning one of those teams will qualify for state. The top-eight individuals not on the state qualifying team will also go.
There is a chance that means Evans will be forced to chase some to crack that top-eight, which is a position she’s not neccessarily accustomed too.
Take last week for example.
Irondale’s Mattie Watts set a blistering pace after the classic race portoin of the conference finals Jan. 25 at Elm Creek. Evans was in second after that race, but she started the freestyle over 90 seconds behing Watts.
There was no catching her, so Evans was most concernced with the six-second lead she started with over her closest competitor in the freestyle.
That left her, in essence, playing defense most of the afternoon.
“I was mostly trying to keep the girls behind me from catching me,” said Evans. “I wasn’t going to catch Mattie, so I just had to keep them off of me. I wanted second really bad, but I know the sectoin will be a lot different. I’ll have to keep my mindset that I have to keep working hard, but to be honest, it wouldn’t be as much fun if it wasn’t as hard as it is.”
Much like the cold, Evans embraces the challenge, and she hopes to continue doing so in college.
She said she is considering Michigan Tech University – which is where Flanders currenlty ski’s – as well as St. Scholastica and Gustavus.
Before then however, there is a state meet appearance to go get, and that is where the focus will be this coming week.
“I can tell she really wants is, and the thing with Ellie, is she knows how to compete,” said Utter. “It’s not going to be easy. That section is really difficult. But she has the ability and the desire, and that is good to see.”