The Prior Lake Alpine ski teams have the potential to make some noise in Section 6 this winter.
Senior Jake Strait and ninth-grader Ashley George are back for the Lakers and they both represented the program at the state competition last season.
Senior Sophie Johnson is also back for the girls squad, giving the Lakers a strong one-two punch at the top of the lineup. Johnson's been a state qualifier two times (2014 and 2016), before missing out last year by .75 in the section race.
George qualified for state last year for a second straight year. For Strait, he made his first state appearance last winter for the boys team.
"We hope to return three or four individuals to the state meet this year," Lakers coach Dave Everson said. "We always aspire to have a team qualify for state, but the Section 6 competition is very strong and finishing in the top two in either [the boys or the girls team standings] is very difficult.
"We have 10 returning senior girls and four returning senior boys," Everson added.
Senior Michelle Iwen and Johnson are captains for the girls team, while senior Grant Maxfield and Will Schult are the boys' captains.
Everson said junior Alexis Jacobson will also be one to watch for the girls squad, while ninth-grader Josh Carlson could emerge for the boys.
"Both had great results last year and look to move up in the standings," Everson said.
Prior Lake will be on the slopes Jan. 11 in a meet at Buck Hill in Burnsville at 3:30 p.m. The annual Buck Hill Invitational is set for Jan. 19 starting at 8 a.m.
The Section 6 race is Feb. 6 at Buck Hill. The top two teams for both the boys and girls field make state, along with the top 10 individuals not on the advancing squads.
The Laker girls were fifth in the section team standings last year out of 15 schools with Mankato West winning and Lakeville North taking second. The Prior Lake boys were ninth at sections last winter with Mankato West winning and Edina taking second.
This year's state competition is Feb. 14 at its annual site, Giants Ridge in Biwabik. Minnetonka won the boys crown last year, while Chisago Lakes/St. Croix Falls took home the girls team championship.
George was 38th at state as a seventh-grader, but finished 80th last year. She didn't complete her second run after a strong first run where she was in 20th place. Strait ended up 49th overall at state last winer.
In Johnson's two state appearances, she was 70th as an eighth-grader and finished 29th as a sophomore. She missed most of her ninth-grade season with a knee injury.
Other teams in the Section 6 field: Apple Valley, Bloomington Jefferson, Bloomington Kennedy, Burnsville, Chanhassen, Chaska, Eagan, Eastview, Eden Prairie, Lakeville South, Rochester Century, Rochester Mayo, Rochester John Marshall, Rosemount, Shakopee, Northfield and Crystal Valley Area.
On the girls side, the last team from Section 6 to win a state team title was Lakeville South. The Cougars won three straight crowns from 2007 to 2009. The Edina boys won state team titles in 2015 and 2016, while Lakeville North won in 2008 and Eden Prairie won in 2005.