"It's a priority."
That's how Brainerd Warriors co-head coach Chris Hanson described Evan Storbakken's quest for an all-state finish at the state Nordic ski meet this season.
As a sophomore, Storbakken finished 68th at state in 31:34.9. Last season, he registered a 52nd-place time of 31:59.6. All-state honors go to the top 25 individuals at the state meet.
Storbakken starts his senior year with that in mind and yes, it's on his mind.
"He's watching all of the other top skiers in the state," Hanson said. "He knows who they are and what team they're on and he knows they're working hard, too. He's very well aware that someone somewhere is working hard and he's not going to let them outwork them."
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- Co-head coaches: Chris Hanson, Mary Claire Ryan
- 2017-18 girls finish: 3rd in CLC, 4th in Section 8
- 2017-18 boys finish: Won CLC, 3rd Section 8
- Returning state meet boys participants: Evan Storbakken, Maxim Osborne
- Girls captains: Grace Erholtz, Gina Wasniewski
- Boys captains: Storbakken, Osborne, Ben Renner
- Assistant coaches: Eric Storbakken, Clint Baker, Chris Hunter, Tiffany Knapp, Laura Hanson, Kent Montgomery (volunteer assistant), Leah Rasmussen
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Storbakken was named the team's most valuable skier last season after winning the Central Lakes Conference classic title and finishing sixth in the Section 8 meet with a time of 28:51.
"He's been consistent throughout his years as one of the hardest workers on the team," Hanson said. "This year, he's shown a dedication to returning to that state meet by working exceptionally hard this summer. He took a trip out West to find some snow. And, as a captain, along with Maxim (Osborne) and Ben Renner, he's taken on the duties and responsibilities of all those captain-like things."
Maxim Osborne is a two-time state participant who finished 133rd as a sophomore in 33:49.2, but vaulted into 70th place last season at 32:33.5.
"He's a big, strong kid," Hanson said of Osborne. "With him and Evan having state meet experience, we are looking at these guys to carry the team and set the standard early on. Maxim is a quiet leader. He is going to be out there as a consistent performer and example for us."
Osborne was second to Storbakken in the classic division of the CLC helping Brainerd win the conference title. He placed 14th at the section meet at 30:11.
Senior Ben Rener was 26th at sections in 31:59. He placed fifth in the freestyle portion of the CLC. Fellow senior David Dewey was ninth.
"It takes four skiers to score, and of course, more solid skiers or placers hurts other teams, but you need four," Hanson said. "We are going to rely on those boys along with our all-conference skier Nick Whiteman. We need them, but they also got together a lot this summer. I'm impressed with these guys working in the summer. Most of them are three-sport athletes. They are true multi-sport athletes."
Nick Whiteman placed fourth in the CLC freestyle for all-conference honors and backed it up with a 42nd-place time of 33:29 at the section meet.
"He is going gangbusters this fall," Hanson said of Whiteman. "He's also upgraded his equipment. Our scoring skiers, at this point in their career, they're pretty well matched with their equipment. Sometimes when they are younger and still growing, they'll kind of make due. He was in that situation last year. He was still doing really well. This year he's matched up."
Juniors Nick Porisch and Nick Renner are early candidates to fill out the varsity lineup along with sophomores Jacob Olson and Nole Robertson, but Hanson is leaving the door open for competition.
"Our group of freshmen boys, it wasn't too long ago we were relying on eighth- and sometimes seventh-graders to help round out our section team," Hanson said. "That is not the case anymore. Our freshmen group is our biggest group and every one of our freshmen have ski experience and they are all hard-workers."
The Warriors finished third in the section meet behind St. Cloud Cathedral, which appears to be the early season favorite to repeat. A strong surge from Brainerd's 3-6 skiers could give the Warriors shot at the second state qualifying position.
"It's going to be a challenge this year, maybe even harder than last year, because Cathedral is going to have a really good team," Hanson said. "They've got really strong guys. Then it's a fight for that next qualifying spot.
"You're always looking at those other teams and you have us, Bemidji, Alexandria all of those teams. You're looking at who can find their third and fourth guy in order to make it to the state meet."
Warrior boys roster
Seniors: Ben Renner, David Dewey, Evan Storbakken, Maxim Osborne, Mason Hill, Noah Rook
Juniors: Nicholas Porisch, Nicholas Renner, Nicholas Schneider, Nick Whiteman, A.J. Thompson, Charles Veasley, Jacob Aanes, Jason Lyons
Sophomores: Atticus Osborne, Jacob Olson, Nole Robertson, Ryan Cady, Treyton Miller
Freshmen: Mitchell Neumann, Ben Guida, Ben Karlgaard, Bennet Capelle, Braden Capelle, Elijah Hanson, Nick Moore, Noah Schaeffer, Zach Schaeffer, Zach Waln
Thursday, Dec. 6: Sartell/Cathedral Invite at Riverside 2 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 11: Detroit Lakes Invite at Maplelag 10 a.m.
Dec. 13: St. Cloud Apollo Invite at Riverside 2 p.m.
Dec. 15 Bemidji Invite at Montebello Trail
Dec. 20 Fergus Falls Invite at Spidal's Ski Resort
Dec. 21 Mora Sprint Invite at Mora Vasaloppet Nordic Center 4 p.m.
Dec. 22 Mora Pursuit Invite at Mora Vasaloppet Nordic Center
Dec. 29: Brainerd Invitational at Northland Arboretum 10 a.m.
Jan. 5: Giants Ridge Invite at Giants Ridge Ski Resort 10 a.m.
Jan. 10: Detroit Lakes Invite at Maplelag
Jan. 15: Alexandria Invite at Andes Tower Hills 2 p.m.
Jan. 19: Bemidji Invite at Buena Vista Ski Area 10 a.m.
Jan. 24: Camp Ripley Invite 10 a.m.
Jan. 29: Central Lakes Conference Championship at Spidal's Ski Resort Noon
Feb. 5: Section 8 at Camp Ripley 10 a.m.
Feb. 14: State Meet at Giants Ridge Ski Resort 10 a.m.