Nordic ski team finds success at Peter Westra Memorial Sprints, commemorate Westra’s legacy

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Photo submitted by Mickey Scott

The first eight finishers of the 11th Annual Peter Westra Memorial Sprints pose with their cookie prizes, including first place Spartan finisher ski captain Ellen McCarthy and fourth place finisher freshman Val Hart. “I wasn’t expecting to win anything, so it was really motivating to get fourth place," Hart said.

The Spartan nordic ski team competed successfully in the 11th Annual Peter Westra Memorial Sprints, with senior captain Ellen McCarthy taking first place out of 50 girls overall, and freshman Val Hart finishing in fourth place. Sophomore captain Lexi Hilton, senior captain Mike Destache, and eighth grader Peter Moore also finished in the top 25 overall. For their finishes both Hart and McCarthy were awarded giant cookies donated from Bonnie Alton’s Great Harvest Bakery.

The event consists of a one kilometer sprint race, in which the St. Paul Academy and Summit School team competes in annually. This year it took place on Jan. 4. Although the event was opened for skiers of all schools this year for the first time, the turnout for the event was still relatively low due to the poor snow conditions and cold weather.

“It was very windy. At the finishing straight it was difficult because the wind was blowing you back pretty hard,” Hart said.

McCarthy agrees, adding, “This year it was incredibly cold out, but despite the negative windchill, the entire team worked hard and produced impressive results.”

I coach the ski team because 21 years ago, [Peter Westra] walked into my office and asked me to because they needed a coach and he’d heard I skied.”

— Nordic ski coach, Mickey Scott

As the race is only one kilometer, substantially shorter than the typical high school race, it is especially exciting for both competitors and spectators.

“It was really fun to see my teammates race; because the races are only 1 kilometer long, it’s much easier to watch and cheer during their races,” McCarthy said. “The energy level is always really high, and people get really excited, which makes it fun to race.”

The addition of students from other schools also added to the experience of the race this year.

“I really enjoyed skiing with people of difference conferences. There were some better skiers there, which helped push me to go faster,” Hart said. “I wasn’t expecting to win anything, so it was really motivating to get fourth place.”

The event commemorates the life of Peter Westra ‘95, a member of the Nordic ski team during his time at SPA, who died tragically in New Jersey in July 2001. Westra won the bronze medal in the team relay event in the 1995 Minnesota State High School Nordic Ski Racing Championships. Nordic ski coach Mickey Scott, who coached Westra during his time at SPA, helps organize the event every year.

“Because it’s a sprint, it’s a really exciting event to watch,” Scott said. “The spectators were great, they always are. It’s an event that the whole team looks forward to each year.” Scott feels the event is a good way to honor Westra, who contributed substantially to the Nordic ski team during his time at SPA.

“I coach the ski team because 21 years ago, [Peter Westra] walked into my office and asked me to because they needed a coach and he’d heard I skied,” Scott said. “I have Peter’s old medal that he won during his time on the ski team, and I wear it every year for the race.”