WARRIORS ATHLETE OF WEEK:State runner-up traveled USA to ski against the best
An Alpine skiing career that started on the slopes of Mt. Hood in Oregon ended on the podium as runner-up in the state meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
Savannah Stone estimates she started skiing as a 3-year-old at Mt. Hood where her father, Mike Stone, was an instructor. Her career progressed — with success — through the ranks of the United States Ski Association (USSA) and the Federation of International Skiing (FIS).
Mike and his wife, Kelly, took Savannah across the country, from Maine to Colorado to Oregon to Michigan to Canada so Savannah could race.
“My dad was like my personal coach, and my mom goes to all the races and cheers me on,” Savannah said. “They’re so supportive of everything. I couldn’t have done any of this without them.”
By the time she began competing with the Alpine Ski Club at Mount Ski Gull in Lake Shore, Stone was on the radar of Brainerd Warriors coach Jim Ruttger.
“It’s a unique set of circumstances with a family that had time in the winter to do the commitment that it needs to take ski racing to the next level,” Ruttger said. “Savannah started in USSA probably when she was 10 or 11. When she was 16, she was getting in the FIS rankings.”
A cross country runner and 2-time qualifier for the state golf tournament, Stone maintains a 3.95 grade-point average.
“She’s gone a lot,” Ruttger said. “The two sports that take you out of school the most are golf and skiing. The meets are midweek and all day long. On top of that, she had USSA and FIS races on the weekends. “She’s very disciplined academically, as well as athletically.”
Stone qualified for the state high school meet as an eighth-grader and finished 72nd. She placed 17th as a freshman, 64th as a sophomore and sixth as a junior.
“(As a sophomore) after my first run I was in sixth place, then I fell on my second run,” Stone said. “Last year, I was in third after the first run, then I messed up and moved down to sixth. Last year, (a state title) could have been possible if I had skied a clean second run.
“(A state title) was in the back of my mind pretty much all season, but I had to make it there first.”
Stone said her life-long goal was to stand on the podium at state, which signifies a top-three finish.
“If I won the whole thing, great,” she said. “To be second, I was just totally blown away by it. I couldn’t ask for anything better. The whole season I’ve been working really hard, trying to improve. I’ve been racing with a lot of the girls who were at the state meet. The whole year we’ve been all so close, pushing each other, seeing what each other could do. It was really cool.”
Ruttger said an elite athlete like Stone “coaches” the coaches and her teammates.
“It’s not so much she’s out there telling you how to do things, she’s teaching by example,” he said. “The line she can ski, working with kids on the different skills they need to develop. We would say, ‘Look at Savannah. She’s got that skill, that’s what we want you to do, the angles in turns, that kind of balance.’ She’s been a great person to reinforce what we’re trying to teach the rest of the team.”
Despite the success she’s enjoyed on the slopes, Stone plans to play golf next year at Concordia College in St. Paul. She has grown up playing Crosswoods Golf Course in Crosslake, which her family owns.
“It was really hard to choose between the two because I love both sports,” Stone said. “Golf had more opportunities within the state than skiing. There were a few (skiing opportunities) in Minnesota, but most are out of state. Colorado and Montana are the big ones (for skiing).
“A lot of golf coaches I’ve been in contact with over the summer. Concordia reached out to me, and gave me a pretty good offer. I’m still going to ski for fun. I will definitely watch a lot of races, maybe join a club team.”
Other notable efforts:
■ Ian Haug, boys basketball, scored 21 points against Willmar.
■ Zean Baker, Nordic skiing, earned all-state honors.
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.