Zack Benning had a very short career at Hastings High School in Nordic skiing.

It was also a very successful career.

Last week, Benning raced at the state Nordic ski meet and placed 45th overall. He took up the sport prior to his junior year and qualified for the state meet last year, too. What he has accomplished in those two years has astounded his coaches.

“He skied phenomenally well,” coach John Dewall said. “We’re super proud. To accomplish what he has in two years is pretty incredible. To perfect (both techniques) to that extent is incredible.

“We’ve had a great time coaching him and working with him. He’s got a huge career ahead of him. He will be a fun one to watch in the future.”

Meanwhile, on the girls side of things, Hastings junior Rachel Peterson ended up placing 115th at the state meet.

This was the third time that Peterson raced at the state meet, qualifying first as a freshman.

“She’s a fantastic skier,” Dewall said. “I know she expected better results on the state course, but it’s kind of like, sometimes it’s your day and sometimes it isn’t your day. She’s a far better skier than the results show.

“I’m sure she will rebound and have some great races next season. She’ll be able to improve on that finish dramatically next year at state.

“We’re looking for great things from her in the future.”

Peterson finished the 5-kilometer freestyle leg of the race in 23 minutes and 54 seconds. She finished the classic race in 23:07 for a combined time of 47:01.

The girls meet was won by Mattie Watts of Irondale, who had a time of 37:14.6.


Benning finished the freestyle leg in 18 minutes and 38 seconds. In the afternoon, he completed the 5K classic race in 17:39.6 for a combined time of 36:17.6.

“He raced a really strong skate race,” Dewall said. “He said it was the hardest thing he’s ever done in his life. That coming from a guy who has run a lot of races.”

Benning is, first and foremost, a competitive distance runner. He was all-state in cross country again this fall and will likely be a big factor at the state track meet this spring. He will be competing collegiately at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The boys meet was won by Zak Ketterson, who had a combined time of 32:52.7. He’s from Bloomington Jefferson.