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GIRLS NORDIC SKIING: Warriors hope to move up in section race

With six members of its Section 8 team returning, including state entrants Allison Kosobud and Sarah Fairbanks, the Brainerd Warriors hope to move up from third place this winter.

Kosobud and Fairbanks, who are senior captains, also hope to help Brainerd repeat as Central Lakes Conference champion.

“They’re both just hard-workers,” Warriors co-head coach Mary Claire Ryan said. “They have great personalities. I couldn’t ask for better leadership.”

Ryan said the team wrote down its goals last week and many listed defending section champion Little Falls as their main competition, the team they’ve got to beat to go to state.

“As I told the girls, we have all the tools, all the skills, the effort to do it,” Ryan said. “Little Falls is one of those schools that’s their challenge, and our girls are going to go for it.”

Kosobud won the CLC classical race, finished eighth in the section and 83rd in her second trip to state.

“Alli had a very strong season last year, as well as last fall in cross country running,” Ryan said. “She missed going to state (in cross country), but she got through the disappointment well. She should return to state this season.”

Fairbanks finished 10th in the section and 106th in her second state meet.

“Sarah’s shooting to get admitted to West Point,” Ryan said. “She has a full plate, in addition to school and sports, but her determination is always there. She’s shown great leadership this fall, working with the newer skiers.”

Victoria Johnson, Sara Whiteman, Gabriella Haire and Anne Grabowski all were on the 2011-12 section team.

“I think the girl who’s going to surprise everyone is Tori Johnson,” Ryan said. “She’s been with us quite a while. She’s always been a really good technical skier. Last season, things fell into place for her.

“She’s working hard, she wants it, she’s very competitive. She’s an excellent skier. I expect to see her come on and be a big contributor.”

Ryan said junior Katie Mongtomery is currently battling health issues, but will serve as student manager for now.

“She’s hoping to get back into skiing, but time will tell,” Ryan said.

Junior Katie Pernula, Ryan said, begins her third season with the program.”

“She’s maybe not going to be the fastest on the team, but she’s definitely an improved skier, and she’s a hard-worker,” said Ryan, who added that the Warriors have a “strong and competitive group of sophomore girls.”

MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at