COLERAINE — Brainerd’s boys team skied to a second-place finish along with the Warriors’ Riley Nelsen, in the Brainerd Invite on Friday at Mt. Itasca.
The Warriors finished just five points behind first-place Bemidji.
“I think the biggest thing was we closed the gap on Bemidji,” Warriors co-head coach Chris Hanson said. “We beat them last time in a pure skate race. Based on the classic race today they trounced us in classic skiing.
“But, overall, we were pleased to be that close. It comes down to the third and fourth skiers between Brainerd and Bemidji at this point in the season. The encouraging thing is I think our guys are showing improvement. I think they have the potential to improve in the next few weeks.”
Nelsen completed the 8-kilometer course (4km classic followed by 4km skate) in 26:05, trailing only seventh-ranked Jake Richards of Detroit Lakes. Brainerd’s Zean Baker was fourth.
“Riley and Zean both had solid races,” Hanson said. “Zean thought he might have missed on his wax a little bit. Riley was anxious to be going against a ranked skier. We didn’t have all the pieces fall into place for those guys but in talking to them afterward we were content with their effort. Both felt they have better races yet to come in them, which is an encouraging thing to hear. To be in the top three or four in this field of skiers is a very good result.”
In the girls race, Little Falls was runner-up and Brainerd third. First-place Grand Rapids had 390 points.
“Grand Rapids, according to the state, is on the cusp of being ranked,” Warriors co-head coach Mary Claire Ryan said. “The field of girls teams was strong here with a mix of Section 7 and 8 teams. It was good, stiff competition for the girls. Once again, we’re fighting to reel in Little Falls.”
Leading the Warriors were Allison Kosobud in seventh place and Sarah Fairbanks in 10th.
“Sarah was 10th despite fighting a bad cold and she still skied a fairly decent race,” Ryan said. “Allison got off to a strong start against stiff competition. Against good Little Falls and Grand Rapids girls she was right in there with them.
“Michaela Quast was our third skier just as she was Tuesday. She’s just a second-year skier who’s coming on. She’s working hard on technique and picking up speed.
“Serena Schreifels came through with the best race she’s had so far this year. She’s only a ninth-grader skiing varsity. She’s working hard and doing well. There’s still a learning curve. She’s learning to compete with some of the older girls.”
Little Falls girls finished second, led by Maria Hauer in second place, Chelsea Rutz in fifth and Mattia Hendrickson in eighth.
The Flyer boys placed fifth, paced by Preston Zimny in ninth place.
Approximately 370 skiers competed in a meet moved to Mt. Itasca due to limited snow in Brainerd.
“We’re thankful to a group from Grand Rapids that helped us set up the course,” Ryan said. “Without them there wouldn’t have been a race, along with many volunteers from Brainerd who helped with timing and setup. It was a tremendous effort by all teams and parents to pull this off with 370 skiers. There were lots of smiles on the faces of skiers from all over the state.”
Boys team scores (13 teams): 1-Bemidji 372, 2-Brainerd 367, 3-Mesabi East 359, 4-St. Cloud Tech 315, 5-Little Falls 312
Individual winner: Jake Richards (Detroit Lakes) 25:02
Brainerd results: 2-Riley Nelsen 26:05, 4-Zean Baker 26:42, 15-Noah Baker 29:13, 16-Gerrit Garberich 29:18, 22-Matt McDonald 30:42, 36-(tie) Connor Gunsbury and Benjamin Hanson 32:35
Little Falls results: 9-Preston Zimny 28:09, 20-Nathan Almen 30:14, 25-Brian McNamara 31:02, 35-Mathew Massmann 32:03, 44-John Gottwalt 33:08, 47-Michael Carrl 33:33, 48-Gunnar Kleinschmidt 33:36
Girls team scores (15 teams): 1-Grand Rapids 390, 2-Little Falls 375, 3-Brainerd 343, 4-Mora 312, 5-Bemidji 311
Individual winner: Solveig Viren (GR) 30:58
Brainerd results: 7-Allison Kosobud 33:18, 10-Sarah Fairbanks 34:25, 19-Michaela Quast 36:44, 25-Serena Schreifels 38:24, 37-Sara Whiteman 40:03, 50-Anne Grabowski 43:08
Little Falls results: 2-Maria Hauer 31:43, 5-Chelsea Rutz 32:44, 8-Mattia Hendrickson 33:56, 14-Kaitlin Geisenhof 35:19, 27-Sarah Andringa 38:41, 31-Chloe Houle 39:29, 32-Ingrid Floersheim 39:38
Next: Brainerd at Mesabi East Invite at Giants Ridge, Biwabik, 10 a.m. Saturday; Little Falls at Mora Invite 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.