Conditions have been less than desirable for Nordic skiing this winter.
November was almost snow-free. In December, the Brainerd lakes area received some snow, but trail conditions remain less than optimal. In addition, in recent weeks, temperatures have plunged well below zero.
Brainerd Warrior junior Evan Storbakken hasn't let lack of snow or teeth-chattering temps affect him. Tuesday he repeated as champion in the Fergus Falls Invite at Spidahl Ski Gaard resort in Ottertail County.
"It was very windy," Storbakken said of Tuesday's race. "Snow was whipping sideways across (the trail). It was more just get out of a mass start so you don't get stuck. Then it just kind of happened from there."
Storbakken finished second in the Brainerd Invite Dec. 29 at Northland Arboretum, where temperatures were barely warmer than what is permissible for conducting a Minnesota State High School League-sanctioned event. Storbakken completed the 11-kilometer course in 34 minutes, 36 seconds, helping the Warrior boys team to first place in the nine-team invite.
"It was pretty cold," he said. "We barely pulled off the meet within MSHSL rules. I was looking forward to it because I like longer distances. 11K is more my type of race."
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- Sport: Nordic skiing
- Year: Junior
- Age: 17
- Height: 5-7
- Career highlight: Skiing in last two state meets
- Other sports: Cross country, baseball
- Grade-point average: 3.8
- Favorite class: Triathlon in second semester
- Favorite food: Grandma Sue Storbakken's blueberry pie
- Favorite movie: "Remember the Titans"
- Favorite restaurant: Sammy's Pizza
- Future plans: Hopes to attend College of St. Scholastica, ski, enter a medical field
- Favorite athlete: Norwegian cross-country skier and double Olympic champion Petter Nuthug
- Parents: Eric and Trudi Storbakken
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Storbakken won the season-opening Detroit Lakes Invite at Andes Tower Hills near Kensington Dec. 12. It was a shorter race that he completed in 7:33.
"That race was short because it was on the base of a ski hill," Storbakken said. "It's mentally hard to keep doing loops."
Warriors co-head coach Mary Claire Ryan pointed out Storbakken joined the Nordic ski program as a fifth-grader. He has progressed from a junior-high skier to a member of two section-championship varsity teams. As a sophomore, he won two races. This season, the junior is one of the varsity captains.
"Evan has benefited from being part of a boys team that has had a winning tradition," Ryan said. "His strength is his drive and mental toughness. He doesn't let variables such as weather or course conditions affect him.
"As a coach, I ask him to ski 40K at day-long training sessions over the Christmas break and he will come back and ski 50K. He has a passion for skiing and is a great athlete to coach."
Warriors co-head coach Chris Hanson considers Storbakken a fluid, efficient skier.
"His good technique combined with the fitness of a multisport athlete are making him a top competitor in our conference and section," Hanson said. "One of his teammates (Tuesday) commented on Evan's persistence-a simple, but critical quality he brings to every practice and race. As coaches, we love to have athletes like Evan for others to emulate.
"Evan has been blessed to have been surrounded by a supportive family and to have experienced success with older skiers and teams in recent years. He has quietly, but quickly, taken to the leadership position so often expected of a top performer."
The Warriors have had two additional meets. Dec. 14 at the St. Cloud Apollo Relays, Storbakken skied on the Warriors' top finishing foursome with Maxim Osborne, Nick Whiteman and Andrew Wasniewski. A week later, he finished 10th at the Mora Invite, which was a sprint race featuring 1-kilometer heats.
Storbakken hopes the Warrior boys team makes its third straight trip to state next month. In 2017, he finished 68th and the Warriors placed 11th. He was 96th in 2016, while Brainerd was 14th.
"It's going to take a couple of our younger guys to step up and jump into the next four to five slots to make it back there as a team," Storbakken said.
Other notable efforts:
• Olivia King, girls hockey, recorded 26 saves in a shutout vs. Stillwater.
• Jack Evans, boys hockey, scored a hat trick vs. Bemidji.
• Wyatt Andres, boys hockey, scored three goals and collected three assists in three games at the Duluth Marshall Tournament.
• Michael Bylander, swimming, won two events and swam on a winning relay vs. Sauk Rapids.
• Cheyenne Abear, girls hockey, scored two goals and had an assist vs. Alexandria.