Brainerd’s Liliana Schaeffer got a taste.
Little Falls’ Jackson Grant destroyed his goal.
And the majority of area skiers felt good about their results during a topsy-turvy, crazy day at the State Nordic ski meet Friday, Feb. 14, at Giants Ridge Resort in Biwabik.
Whether conditions pushed back the start of the meet a few hours after it had already been delayed a day because of cold temperatures.
That didn’t stop Schaeffer from busting out a 22nd-place time of 17:58 during the opening skate race. Schaeffer tried, but couldn’t maintain the top 25 place through the classic portion of the event and finished 32nd overall.
“I was definitely not expecting to be in 22nd place,” Schaeffer said. “My goal was top 50. The skate race, my goal was just to catch every person in front of me. If I saw a person I would go until I caught them and then I would recover a little bit on the downhills. Then I’d chase down another person, which worked apparently so that was pretty exciting.”
Schaeffer wanted to hold her spot to earn All-state Honors, which is the top 25 finishers. She said she was nervous going into the classic. Shaeffer did improve her finish from last year by 38 spots.
“My original gameplan was to just to stick with people, but (co-head coach) Mary Clair (Ryan) told me I needed to ski like a bandit, which is ski as hard as you can and hope for the best,” Schaeffer said. “Near the top of the trail, my kick wax started to slip and I couldn't hold my spot and I just started dropping. It’s unfortunate, but it’s all right.
“Thirty second is good, but it’s just a taste of what I wanted. Going into the race I wanted top 50, which I did achieve, but just a taste of all-state makes we want to try harder all summer and be there next year.”
Schaeffer posted an 18:36.7 in the classic to finish with a 36:34.7 and lead the Warrior girls team to 14th place.
“The team definitely was a big help,” Schaeffer said. “We all stayed in this one room because that’s all the coaches had at this point. All day we were together. We were talking and strategizing. We all ate snakes together. It was super fun. The team is the best part of skiing. I’m super sad that the seniors are leaving because they’re all very close with us. We’ll miss them a lot next year.”
Jackson Grant opened state with a 10th-place freestyle time of 14.29 and then maintained his spot with a 14:52.2 classic time to earn All-State honors and a medal. His 29:21.2 bettered 11th-place finisher, Ethan Erickson of Forest Lake, by .4 seconds.
“Going back to sections, he really got a confidence boost knowing he could stay close to the top-ranked boys,” Flyers head coach Mattia Hendrickson said. “He went out right away because the people that got third in sections went out right away. He didn’t have to worry about trying to pass anyone. He just skied his own race. He just did what he needed to do and he skied really well.
“I think he shocked himself and surprised some people. I’ve been waiting for this breakthrough to happen so it was exciting to see.”
Hendrickson said Grant’s goal heading into the classic was to stay in the top 25. Hendrickson told the junior not to short himself.
“I just said, ‘I think you can do a little bit better than that. You’re already in the top 10,’” Hendrickson said. “He knew there were a lot of fast people out there. It’s the best in the state. Being in that 10th spot there are a lot of people fighting to get that spot because the top 10 medals. Luckily for him, the top 10 started close together and they all finished close together. He didn’t finish that far off from the leader.”
Mounds Park Academy’s Henry Snider won the individual title with 28:24.2.
The Flyers’ Cormac Shanoff finished 72nd in 32:09. John Stockard placed 92, which was 60 places better than he did last year. Ethan Yorek placed 97th leading to the Flyers’ 12th-place 277 points.
Forest Lake needed a tie-breaker to top Minneapolis Southwest and claim the team title.
Brainerd’s Nole Robertson opened in 84th place and stayed right there with a combined time of 32:34.4 in his first state appearance.
“I didn’t really have a goal placement wise and no idea of how I was going to place so I was just focused on skiers that I’ve been skiing against all season long,” Robertson said. “I did pretty well compared to them. I would have liked to have placed higher maybe, but these are the best skiers from all around the state so I’m just happy I got inside the top 100.”
The state course is set up similar to the Mesabi East Invite Brainerd competes in during the regular season, but Robertson said it’s a whole new feeling for state.
“It’s so different,” he said. “The amount of nerves you have going into the race is unbelievable compared to at Mesabi. Then the level of ability from every single skier there -- there is no give mes. Every single place you have to fight for.”
Robertson said his goal entering the classic was to move up into the top 75, but the depth of talent was too much.
“Again, I was kind of naive and didn’t realize just how good all these skiers are,” he said. “I ended up getting passed by a few skiers, but I also passed some, too, and held my 84th position.”
The Warrior girls struggled with sickness leading up to and during the state meet. Elle Juranek finished 57th with a 37:35.7. Freshman Ellie Brown posted a 117th-place 39:58.0 followed by Sarah Nesheim in 119th place for Brainerd’s 245 points.
St. Paul Highland Park, which rostered the individual state champion, Molly Moening, won the team title with 408 points. Section 8 champion Moorhead finished 12th.
“We’ve never been totally healthy since before sections,” Ryan said. “Gina is still recovering from being sick and Sarah isn’t feeling good today. When you get to this type of competition and you’re not all 100%, it’s very difficult.”
Team scores: 1-Forest Lake 401, 2-Minneapolis Southwest 401, 3-St. Paul Highland Park 357, 4-Ely 335, 5-Maple Grove 330, 6-Sartell-St. Cloud Cathedral 328, 7-Prior Lake 327, 8-Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 296, 9-Robbinsdale-Armstrong 286, 10-Champlin Park 282, 11-Stillwater 280, 12-Little Falls 277, 13-Minneapolis Washburn 274, 14-Eagan 259, 15-Wayzata 239, 16-Minnehaha Academy 224
Individual winner: Henry Snider (Mounds Park Academy) 28:24.2
Brainerd results: 84-Nole Robertson 32:34.4
Little Falls results: 10-Jackson Grant 29:21.2, 72-Cormac Shanoff 32:09.0, 92-John Stockard 32:47.5, 97-Ethan Yorek 32:50.6, 121-Connor Grant 33:53.8, 138-Eli Segler 34:40.1, 143-Thomas Zupko 35:14.3
Team scores: 1-St. Paul Highland Park 408, 2-Forest Lake 396, 3-Stillwater 361, 4-Duluth East 356, 5-Edina 349, 6-Maple Grove 326, 7-Wayzata 323, 8-Rosemount 288, 9-Ely 277, 10-Eastview 274, 11-Eden Prairie 273, 12-Moorhead 256, 13-Hopkins 251, 14-Brainerd 245, 15-Elk River/Zimmerman 241, 16-St. Paul Central 153
Individual winner: 1-Molly Moening (St. Paul Highland Park) 32:16.1
Brainerd results: 32-Liliana Schaeffer 36:34.7, 57-Elle Juranek 37:35.7, 117-Ellie Brown 39:58.9, 119-Sarah Nesheim 40:06.5, 133-Emma Storbakken 41:04.0, 138-Gina Wasniewski 41:31.8, 140-Callie Knapp 41:43.3
State Nordic ski meet
Warriors: Liliana Schaeffer leads Brainerd girls to 14th, Nole Robertson 84th
Flyers: Jackson Grant earns all-state and leads Flyer boys to 12th