This past season capped off an impressive Nordic ski career for Grand Rapids senior Garrett Beckrich. Considering Beckrich didn’t get into the sport until eighth grade, what he’s accomplished in his high school career, shows how much he committed to the sport.
As a sophomore Beckrich finished 13th at state, then skied to a state championship his junior season. This season he came within four seconds of repeating, finishing fourth for his third straight All-State finish.
Coming into the season, Beckrich wasn’t even sure if he would be able to compete at the high school level due to his involvement with biathlon where he is one of the top youth biathletes in the country.
Fortunately, the schedule worked out and he was able to get in his meets needed to qualify for the Section 7 meet where he won his second section title.
For his efforts this season, Beckich was named the Boys Nordic Skier of the Year by the Grand Rapids Herald-Review, Hibbing Daily Tribune and Mesabi Daily News.
With biathlon competitions scattered throughout the winter, Beckrich got his required three meets in early in the season to set him up for the section meet Feb. 7 at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
His opening freeskate race went well, putting him a minute in front of Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s Aidan Ripp.
Beckrich said that performance proved he was ready to compete against the state’s best.
“When I came back I won the skate race by a minute at sections against Aidan Ripp who was second, and I know he’s one of the best skate race skiers in the state, too.
“I knew (at state) I would have a good shot at that, that would be my strong (race).”
After winning the section meet by 38 seconds over Ripp, Beckrich later became sick, although went into state the following week feeling capable of repeating as state champ.
“I had some bronchial problems,” Beckrich said. “Tuesday and Wednesday I was feeling fine, but I wasn’t doing too much. You’re pretty much just resting for state.”
At the opening freeskate race at state, Beckrich came in with a time of 14:12 which was 18 seconds clear of second place.
“My skate race that day I thought was my best executed race of the season and actually was probably my best executed race I’ve had on that course and I’ve skied that course almost a dozen times since eighth grade,” Beckrich said.
Still, the classic race proved to be much more challenging with three competitors close behind.
“I knew that Peter Moore and Alex Lehman were behind me and were really good classic skiers, and Cooper Lennox,” Beckrich said of the classic race. “When Peter caught me about a (kilometer) into the (classic) race I pretty much knew it was over at that point. I still had to try to and hope that my skis were faster than they were. Then I would say with about a (kilometer) to the finish Peter had me by about five seconds and you can’t really lose or gain that much time any more.
“That was kind of a unique feeling because something you have been retaining all year and you knew it wasn’t going to happen.”
Beckrich ended up coming in with a combined time of 30:20, which was just four seconds behind Moore of St. Paul Academy (30:16), followed by Sartell’s Alex Nemeth (30:17) and Mora’s Lennox (30:17).
Looking back on his high school career Beckrich credits his mother for encouraging him to join the sport. His father Rick had skied in high school and ironically also finished fourth in state his senior year.
“He didn’t really encourage me to do it, but my mom had said, ‘no I think you should do it,’ and I’m glad that I did,” Beckrich said of his decision to join the sport.
He also had a close friend, Alex Kelling, who skied and taught him the basics of the sport.
“He (Kelling) helped me learn what it’s all about and how to operate the skis and stuff so I was really lucky to have him as a teammate.”
Fast forward to five years later and the sport has led him to find success not only at the high school level, but with biathlon as well. The past couple years Beckrich has traveled across the U.S. and to six European countries for international competitions.
“I’m so lucky to have my parents supporting me,” he said. “It’s not just because I’m good at it, I’ve had the support and the coaching to be able to perform at a high level.
Beckrich will continue to train this summer with the U.S. Biathlon team, then take a gap year to continue to compete in biathlon before making his college decision.
Additional skiers named to the All-Area team include: Sam Sertz from Grand Rapids; and Jasper Johnston, James Schwinghamer, Kjetil Midttun and Raif Olson from Ely.