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Cross-country: It’s a youth movement for Warrior runners

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Brainerd Warrior cross country captains Atticus Osborne, (left), Logan Severson, Nick Porisch, Emma Storbakken, A.J. Thompson, Ellie Selisker and Ethan Klisch practice Tuesday, Aug. 27, at Brainerd High School. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

There’s a youthful excitement surrounding both Brainerd Warriors teams heading into the Friday, Aug. 30, Run for the Melon season opener at Forestview Middle School.

On the boys side, The Warriors return their top two runners from last year’s Section 8-2A meet where they finished 10th. Both happen to be sophomores in Thomas Ruhl and Michael Kuehn. Also returning from that section squad is senior Nick Porisch.

On the girls side, eighth-grader Bridget Collins leads a group of five returners into the season.

“Last year, just to have freshmen guys on your varsity is fairly rare,” Brainerd head coach Dave Herath said. “Just physically, they’re generally not ready for that training to get you up to that varsity level. So to have two guys leading your section team who are freshmen, you get kind of excited about that. They’ve come back and your sophomore year you’re so much more comfortable in the system. You know what to expect practice wise. They are always in that lead group. They’re doing the top workouts and they’ve adjusted to the point where there is no mental or physical breakdowns. They are just powering through and doing a great job.”

Last season, Collins placed 40th in the section meet to lead the girls to 9th place. Behind her were sophomores Payton Lillo and Abby Dahl in 53rd and 63rd. Senior Ellie Selisker placed 71st and junior Emma Storbakken was 67th.

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In the Central Lakes Conference meet Collins was 24th, Lillo 39th, Dahl 42nd, Selisker 44th and Storbakken 46th to land the Warriors in sixth.

“For Bridget, she is a naturally gifted runner,” Herath said. “She has grown up so much from last fall. She’s really working on consistency in practices. Everyday you see growth in that area. That’s what we’re looking for from her is that consistency. Not in effort, because she’s always giving, but just being able to get after it and feeling good after she’s done. The meets will take care of themselves.

“Bridget has a natural engine and she isn’t afraid to go for it. She’s still learning pace. She came a long way last spring and for a lot of new runners that’s the biggest deal. She’s fearless.”

Herath said Lilo and Dahl enjoyed solid freshmen seasons and he’s hoping they build on that and become more consistent in practice and in meets.

Selisker is coming off the Class 2A State track and field meet and competed in the Class 2A State individual gymnastics tournament. Storbakken competed in last winter’s state Nordic ski meet.

“Elle is looking real good in practice so far,” Herath said. “Emma and her are really leading by example. They are just good well-rounded athletes and that is key. They don’t get rattled. That big meet mentality and ability is really going to help their teammates.”

Ruhl led the Warriors with a 57th place finish in the section meet and led the boys to seventh in the CLC with a 33rd-place finish. Porisch was 37th in the conference and Kuehn placed 48th.

“Thomas and Michael are just sophomores so we’re not looking toward them for leadership, but they sure do work their tails off in practice and that’s definitely some leadership there,” Herath said. “Nick has done a fantastic job organizing things throughout the summer. He’s always pushing the pace in practice and has done a great job. He and A.J. Thompson have really stepped up.”

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Porisch and Thompson, along with Logan Severson and junior Atticus Osborne, have taken on the captain duties for the Warriors.

“It will be interesting seeing who are varsity ends up being,” Herath said. “We added Ethan Klisch, who was a move in last spring. He was our top miler and 800-meter runner last spring in track. We added a junior in Gus Duininck. Gus has been a track athlete for us since ninth grade. He is a naturally gifted runner -- just beautiful form. So as he rounds into shape he’ll be a factor. Braden Capelle has really stepped up and is leaps and bounds better than he was last fall. Then we have an exchange student in Cristian Litra. Cristian is working himself into shape. He started a week late, but has flashed a lot of ability as well.”

Last year, Moorhead and Bemidji represented Section 8 at state. Bemidji opened its season with a win at the Perham Invite. Herath believes the Warriors have an outside shot of making a move.

“(Wednesday) in our team meeting we talked at length about goal setting,” Herath said. “The thing about our sport is you can’t set place goals very easily until you see some of these teams. You never know what other teams have, especially in a loaded section.

“So we didn’t talk places, but times. We talked a lot about goals as a time thing and not an overall place thing. These guys are already looking so much better than last year and they were pretty fair last year so, as a team, I would be disappointed if we weren’t in the top half of the section. I can see us being an outside state meet threat if everything falls into place.”

Willmar and Alexandria represented Section 8 on the girls side at state. For this year’s girls team Herath is taking the wait-and-see approach.

“In all honesty, I don’t know,” Herath said. “We have so many new girls. Our big thing is building consistency. We’ve got several really talented freshmen who have joined us. They are all in the hunt to possibly being on the varsity. We’ve got a couple of older kids who have been successful in other sports that are joining us. I have no idea.

“We’re probably in a tougher girls section than guys section and that’s saying something. I know we’re going to get faster in the end and that’s about all we can control right now.”

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Cross country running

Head coach: Dave Herath, 27th season

2018 girls finish: 6th in CLC, 9th in Section 8-2A

2018 boys finish: 7th in CLC, 10th in Section 8-2A

Girls captains: Elizabeth Selisker, Emma Storbakken

Boys captains: Logan Severson, A.J. Thompson, Nicholas Porisch, Atticus Osborne

Assistant coaches: Carl Schirmer, Owen Trout, Brady Rutman

Warriors roster

Seniors: Alejandro Thompson, Charles Beasley, Cristian Litra, Jacob Aanes, Logan Severson, Nick Porisch

Juniors: Atticus Osborne, Cade Young, Gabriel Mauer, Gabriel Qualley, Gustaf Duininck, Ethan Klisch, Haden Kruse, Jackson Callian, Jackson Dwyer, Joseph Figliuzzi

Sophomores: Bennet Capelle, Braden Capelle, Michael Kuehn, MItchell Neumann, Noah Schaeffer, Reed Boeckerman, Thomas Ruhl, Trenton Norlin, Zachary Schaeffer

Freshmen: Mason Kuepers, Max Holstrom, Steve Selisker

Warrior roster

Seniors: Amber Maki, Elizabeth Selisker, Georgi Aus, Lindsey Booth

Juniors: Emma Storbakken, Sara Schiller

Sophomores: Abby Dahl, Abby Johnson, Katelyn Kennedy, Payton Lillo

Freshmen: Emily Bastian, Julia Rademacher

Eighth-grader: Bridget Collins

Warrior schedule

Friday, Aug. 30: hosts Run for the Melon Invite at Forestview 10 a.m.

Sept. 5: at Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin Invite 4 p.m.

Sept. 12: at Lucky Lindy in Little Falls 3:50 p.m.

Sept. 16: at Pierz Stampede 4:15 p.m.

Sept. 19: at Rocori Invite at River Oaks Golf Course 4:15 p.m.

Sept. 28: at U of M Invite 9 a.m.

Oct. 3: at Ranger Invite at Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge 3 p.m.

Oct. 8: at St. Cloud Invite at Boulder Ridge 4 p.m.

Oct. 15: Central Lakes Conference championship at Alexandria 4 p.m.

Oct. 24: Section 8-2A at River Oaks in Cold Spring 3:30 p.m.

Nov. 2: State Meet at St. Olaf College 2 p.m.

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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