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Warriors Boys Alpine Ski: Linnerooth recovers to defeat rival

EAST GULL LAKE – Thor Linnerooth finished 16th while his rival, Wolfgang Brink, won Friday’s dual meet between the Brainerd Warriors and Lakes Area Alpine at Andes Tower Hills near Alexandria.

Linnerooth was determined not to let his rival win Monday at Ski Gull, the Warriors’ home hill. The Brainerd senior rebounded from a third-place first run and screamed down the course on his second to finish with a total time of 50:02 to Brink’s 50.42.

“Those guys have been racing together since seventh grade,” Warriors coach Jim Ruttger said. “They’re good friends. They had a few friendly words with each other last Friday night, that that wasn’t going to happen here.

“Thor was sitting in third place after the first run and he was a ways back. That’s as good a run as I’ve ever seen him ski in his second run. He just nailed it. You could just tell when he came down it was going to be hard to beat. His second run he was ahead of Wolfgang by over a second. On a small hill like this, in a good field, that doesn’t happen very often. Thor really smoked today.”

Linnerooth believed the win was the first of his varsity career. He finished his first run in 25.67, trailing Brink (24.88) and Mike Hilbert of St. Cloud (23.99). Linnerooth went 24.35 on his second and Brink went 25.54 while Hilbert did not finish.

“The first run was a little less than I expected,” Linnerooth said. “I just kind of messed up at the bottom on the under gate so I lost a lot of speed there. The second run, my grandma and grandpa were here from the (Twin) Cities so I kind of wanted to prove to them I could race fast. So I just had determintion and moved my skis pretty quick through the course and it turned out good for me.”

With the Section 5 race Feb. 9 at Afton Alps, Linnerooth appears to be peaking just in time. He was runner-up Jan. 26 in the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Invite at Spirit Mountain in Duluth.

“That kind of boosted my morale,” he said of his Spirit Mountain finish. “I had a rough start in the beginning three or four races, but it’s definitely a plus getting better at the end of the season toward sections because that will keep my mind away from falling at the beginning of the season.”

At state last year, Linnerooth was disqualified and he’s hoping to make amends this winter.

“He has the opportunity to be only the second Warrior boy to ever qualify as an individual twice for state,” Ruttger said. “You have to go back to Andy Rangen a number of years ago to find a boy that’s a two-time qualifier.

“Thor can do it. Ski racing’s fickle. Anything can happen at a race, but he certainly has the talent to get there again.”

Monday, the Warriors finished third with 118 points. Freshman Ben Thoele in 11th place and eighth-grader Garett Lee in 13th were Brainerd’s next highest finshers.

“Taylor Finger struggled on his first run,” Ruttger said. “he’s kind of been in our No. 2 position. From Taylor down, we’re young. We’re seventh- and eighth-graders primarily, and a few ninth-graders. We’ve got a lot of building ahead of us.”

Boys team scores: 1-St. Cloud 145, 2-Lakes Area Alpine 129, 3-Brainerd 118, 4-Annandale 47

Individual winner: Thor Linnerooth (Brd) 50.02

Brainerd results: 11-Ben Thoele 59.99, 13-Garett Lee 1:03.24, 21-Grant Madison 1:11.81,25-Taylor Finger 1:14.96, 27-Gabe Gibson 1:16.14, 29-Grant

Anderson 1:31.25, 30-Calvin Johnson 1:54.68