It was a trying fall for Gina Wasniewski.

Injuries plagued the senior captain of the Brainerd Warriors girls soccer team and limited her action.

So she’s releasing her frustrations on the snow as one of the top Nordic skiers on the state-bound Warrior girls team.

The second-year captain of the Nordic team displayed her strengths by winning the Central Lakes Conference classic title with a time of 18:28.

“I enjoy the classic more, which makes it less challenging during a race,” Wasniewski said. “Kick wax for the conference meet was straight forward. Our kick wax techs are amazing and they always nail our kick wax and that was a very big bonus to our conference meet. That was just a lot of fun. It was a little bit of a challenging course, but it was fun.”

Wasniewski beat teammate Emma Storbakken, who was second, by 10 seconds and helped the Warriors win the conference title over second-place Alexandria.

“She’s a good classic skier because she took the time to figure it out,” Warriors co-head coach Mary Claire Ryan said. “It takes ability to become a good classic skier and once kids put the effort in and they get over that hump then they really start enjoying it. She got over that hurdle and has been going extremely well with it ever since.”

Wasniewski admitted she’s still working on her classic technique.

“Upper body strength and technique,” are the two components of a good classic skier, Wasniewski said. “It takes a long time and I’m still working on it. The way skiing works and the compression of your kick zone and just being able to get your body in the right position so the kick works are the most challenging parts.”

Wasniewski and teammate Sarah Nesheim teamed up to win the two-person sprint format at the Bemidji Invite Dec. 14.

The second-year captain was the top skier for Brainerd at the Fergus Falls Invite Dec. 19 and again paced the Warriors at the Mora Invite Dec. 21.

“She’s always been a competitor and her drive has not just been for herself, but she’s been looking at her teammates and wanting something special for this team,” Warrior co-head coach Chris Hanson said. “They got a taste of it last year and she’s been encouraging her team and leading by example.

“She has taken, to be honest, a load of responsibility off of her coaches and helping be organized and leading practices. She’s taken a lot on herself away from practice, too. That has been a big help to us.”

Wasniewski entered the season without an individual goal. It’s been team first for her all season and the mindset paid off as Brainerd advanced to its second straight state meet by finishing second Tuesday, Feb. 4, in the Section 8 meet at Detroit Lakes.

“As a team, our goal the entire season has been state,” Wasniewski said. “We were not expected to go to state at all last year. We were the third-place team in our section, but we ended up beating Alexandria by one point so when we were at the section meet and we found out we won by one point, it was an overwhelming joy. It was such an exciting and fun moment to realize you’re going to state. Then this year, at the beginning of the season after losing Grace Erhotlz, we weren’t sure how we would be, but we ended up being the top placing team for most meets. It’s been encouraging and exciting to see that we definitely had a strong possibility of going again.”

Brainerd’s strength has been the depth and Wasniewski’s consistency, said Ryan.

“With illnesses and everything, the girls have stepped it up and Gina has won the conference title and she and Sarah Nesheim won the sprints early in the season in Bemidji,” Ryan said. “She’s been on fire all year.

“Her determination has really fired up the girls to work as hard as they have this year. They really wanted to go back to state. They have put in the time and they put in the extra efforts. They’ve been to French Rapids umpteen times. They’ve done their core workouts. They just have a joint mission.”

Wasniewski said there were times where it was hard to keep a positive attitude during the soccer season as a foot injury kept her off the pitch. She attended practices and worked on what she could work without reinjuring herself.

But her fall experience and with what she learned at last year’s state Nordic meet, one can bet Wasniewski will do whatever it takes to help her team at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.

“You have to give it all you’ve got,” Wasniewski said. “You can’t leave anything out on the course. It’s all or nothing.”

Other notable performances

  • Ian Aadland, boys hockey, finished with two goals and an assist against Roseau.

  • Griffin Rushin, boys basketball, scored 20 points against Maple Grove.

  • Lindsey Booth, girls hockey, scored three goals against Willmar and another against Roseau.

  • Cade Rosenwald, swimming and diving, won two events against Sartell.

  • Myah Nelson, scored 30 points, in two games last week.

  • Connor Powers, boys basketball, scored 22 points against St. Cloud Apollo and added 16 points against Sauk Rapids.

  • Emma Heibert, Alpine skiing, won the Warrior Invite at Mount Ski Gull with a 51.05.

  • Matt Allord, floor hockey, scored three goals against Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka.

  • Tre’Von Otey, Floor hockey, finished with three goals and two assists against Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka.

  • Haden Kruse, boys hockey, finished with two goals and an assist against Centennial.

Gina Wasniewski

Sport: Nordic skiing

Year: Senior

Age: 18

Height: 5-foot-4

Career highlight: Competing in last year’s state Nordic ski meet

Other sports: Soccer, track and field

Grade-point average: 3.8

Favorite class: Strength and conditioning

Favorite food: Steak

Favorite TV show: “Hawaii Five-0”

Favorite restaurant: Olive Garden

Future plans: Major in physical education and play soccer at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Favorite athlete: Megan Rapinoe

Parents: Lance and Theri Wasniewski

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.