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Alpine skiing: Girls program record may be in jeopardy

Is this the year Katie Majka’s program record falls?

The Brainerd Warriors’ delegation in the state Alpine skiing meet will find out Wednesday at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. If Savannah Stone can stand on her two runs, the junior has a shot to top Majka’s seventh-place finish in the 2001 girls meet.

A top-flight competitor on the USSA and FIS circuits this winter and in the past, Stone has been bothered by a high ankle sprain in recent weeks. She competed in the Section 5 meet Feb. 9 and in USSA races last weekend so Warriors coach Jim Ruttger believes the injury is becoming less of a concern.

“At her level, it’s not only the pain part of it, it’s just working through the mental side of it,” he said. “You can’t be holding back and being tentative. That will be critical to her success. She just needs to be confident in her abilities and do what she can do.

“She was on track last year for top five (at state) before she clipped a gate. We know she can be in a pretty elite category, but anything can happen on Wednesday.”

This will be the fourth trip to state for Stone, who won two races during the regular season. She finished 64th at state last year, 17th in 2010 and 72nd in 2009.

“It helps from the mental side that this is her fourth state appearance in the last four years,” Ruttger said. “She’s been in that starting gate a number of times, and that will certainly help her.

“The whole mental side, we saw that at section. She wasn’t content to be seventh after the first run. She came out so much more aggressive on her second run, and posted the third-fastest time. We know the skills are there. At this level it’s just being prepared mentally.”

Warriors joining Stone at state are senior Mara Williams and seventh-grader Alex Stone in the girls meet and by Thor Linnerooth in the boys meet.

Williams has enjoyed a splendid season. She won three races, was third in a big meet at Lutsen and finished 16th in the section.

“She’s just got such great momentum going right now,” Ruttger said of Williams. “She’s had a phenomenal season. Her consistency this year has been something we can count on.

“She’s been getting points for us. There hasn’t been anyone on the team that has gotten more points than Mara. She just needs to keep that momentum. It’s her first state appearance, and she’s certainly capable of doing very well.”

Ruttger believes Williams may be one of the few, if not the only, qualifier from Section 5 who does not compete in USSA and FIS.

“That’s a pretty good accomplishment for a kid from Ski Gull who only races and trains here, to achieve that level of skill because our section, boys and girls, is deep,” Ruttger said. “Minnetonka’s six girls were all in the top 17, they’re all FIS and USSA racers. For Mara to be in that group is phenomenal.”

Alex Stone, Savannah’s sister, will make her first state trip. She’s the youngest Warrior, girl or boy, to ever qualify for state.

“As a seventh-grader, she has all the skill sets for slalom that many of our skiers will never achieve in six years in our program,” Ruttger said. “She skis an incredible line, she keeps pouring it on down the hill. She just goes.

“She’s hurt a little bit by her size, but she will get bigger and stronger the next 2-3 years and she will be formidable.”

Alex Stone is an aspiration to her young teammates.

“We’ve got about 61 kids in our feeder program,” Ruttger said. “Some of them are only a year away (from varsity). They’re looking to her and seeing what she’s accomplished as a seventh-grader. She sets the bar pretty high for those kids. She’s someone to look up to.”

Linnerooth, who won the Warriors Invite at Ski Gull, is hoping to better his state finish last year when he was disqualified for skiing off the course. In past meets at Giants Ridge, however, he’s skied well.

“He’s done very well at Helsinki, the hill we race on,” Ruttger said. “We were up there in January and he posted the third-fastest time on Helsinki in a big meet. Then we went to Innsbruck and he clipped a gate.

“Thor’s got incredibly great balance and quick feet. You hold your breath when Thor goes down the hill because he’s on the edge of chaos. If he makes it, he’s blistering fast.”