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Boys Nordic Skiing: Warriors sixth at state meet

BIWABIK — Riley Nelsen was so close and Zean Baker was enjoying the view, too.

The two Brainerd Warriors flirted with all-state honors Thursday during the state Nordic ski meet at Giants Ridge Resort.

In the end, Nelsen finished 29th and Baker 63rd to help the Warriors team to a sixth-place finish.

Nelsen was 34th after the morning skate, or freestyle, race. He then attacked the classic course in 16:05.7 for a pursuit time of 31:35.7.

“I learned last year that there is usually a pack or a pocket of skiers 40th place and back where there is a ton of guys and so I really worked to get in front of that,” said Nelsen. “I was riding the wave you could say, so by being in front of that pack I was able to get space for me to work with. I wasn’t so crammed.”

Nelsen called the 34th position clutch. It allowed him to work into the top 20, but he couldn’t maintain the place for all-state honors, which goes to the top 25 finishers.

“I knew I could classic well because I did pretty well at the Mesabi East Invite earlier in the year at Giants Ridge,” said Nelsen. “I had a lot of confidence going into the classic. Last year, I had to fight my way through the pack. I didn’t have to do that this year so my day went according to plan.”

Baker was 26th going into the classic after an impressive skate time of 15:22. He said he just didn’t have the technique to move up in the standings.

“The classic just didn’t go so hot,” Baker said. “In the skate, I was running really well. I felt I had pretty good technique and it just went good. I felt smooth.

“I’m not a very good classic skier. It’s the weaker of my two techniques.”

Baker posted a classic time of 17:28.2 for a 32:50.2 pursuit time.

Gerrit Garberich finished with a 99th-place pursuit time of 34:50.2. Noah Baker placed 106. Matthew McDonald was 114th followed by Connor Gunsbury in 115th and Benjamin Hanson in 116th.

“I was hoping to be all-state, but this being my senior year, I was less concerned how I did individually,” said Nelsen. “I wanted to have the team finish well. I wanted to be on a team that went some where. I wanted to feel a part of something bigger. We were already winners by the time we got to state and stayed in the lodge.”

Preston Zimny of the Little Falls Flyers finished 51st with a time of 32:22.3. He was 50th after the skate race and posted a 32:22.3 pursuit time.

Boys team scores: 1-Roseville 370, 2-Hopkins 367, 3-Duluth East 362, 4-Forest Lake 351, 5-Minnetonka 342, 6-Brainerd 285, 7-Eagan 282, 8-St. Paul Central 264

Individual winner: Ben Saxon (Lakeville North) 28.52.2

Brainerd results: 26-Zean Baker 32:50.2, 34-Riley Nelsen 31:35.7, 99-Gerrit Garberich 34:50.2, 106-Noah Baker 35:52.0, 114-Matthew McDonald 38:06.0, 115-Connor Gunsbury 38:34.9, 116-Benjamin Hanson 39:27.2

Little Falls results: 51-Preston Zimny 32:22.3

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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