LAKE SHORE — Brandon Neifert stayed relaxed Tuesday, Jan. 26.
The Warriors’ senior captain finished first in the first and second run at Mount Ski Gull to win the boys’ title in the Ski Gull Invitational in 45.68.
“He won by a pretty good margin for a short course,” Warriors coach Jim Ruttger said. “He just gets in the course and is really good about keeping his skis in line and pointing down the hill and letting gravity do its work. He’s getting good at it.”
Neifert said the key to him skiing so well was staying relaxed. He takes a deep breath at the top of the hill to calm his nerves.
“I’ve discovered that if I’m really anxious or really hyped up I actually perform worse,” Neifert said. “I just focus on relaxing and skiing.”
Neifert’s victory helped the Warriors finish first as a team over both Annandale and St. Cloud who tied.
“Obviously, with three teams as opposed to 17, it’s hard to gauge where we are with other teams,” Neifert said. “But it’s good we did well against (St. Cloud) because they are one of our competitors in the section.”
The Warrior girls also placed first as a team with Calia Chaney being Brainerd’s top finisher in second.
Annandale’s Emma Wolf took the individual title for the girls in 49.83, but Annandale finished third as a team behind Brainerd and St. Cloud.
Chaney placed second in the first run and third in the second run for a combined time of 50.84. She was surprised with how well she performed as Brainerd’s fourth skier.
“After my first run,I definitely felt a lot more confident,” Chaney said. “I did a lot better than I thought I would, to be honest.”
Ruttger said it’s fun to see Chaney up there in the results as a freshman.
“It’s really fun to see her as she gets bigger and stronger,” Ruttger said. “She’s going to be a very valuable part of our team here.”
Brainerd’s top skier usually on the girls is All-State performer Lauren Kalenberg. The freshman fell on her first run and finished 25th in 35.03.
However, Kalenberg rallied back and won the second run in 25.67, but finished 17th overall in 1:00.70.
“She has such a great attitude,” Ruttger said. “I went up to her after her first run and she was like ‘I fell and still got a 35.’ She was pleased with the time she got even when falling. And you could see the fire in her eyes in that second run.”
Girls’ captains Alli Krantz and Erin Hoelzel both finished in the top five for Brainerd with senior Maddie Pederson finishing seventh.
“Our three seniors really rounded out the top seven,” Ruttger said. “They all looked good to me. I’m really pleased with the way everyone ran tonight.”
In the boys' win, sophomore Gavin Hoelzel placed third in 46.57 with third-place finishes in both the first and second runs.
“He’s still one of the strongest sophomores that we’ve ever had on the team,” Ruttger said. “As his skills improve he’s going to be All-State material.”
Sean Baumann finished fourth in 48.32 and improved his place in the second run with a fifth-place 24.31.
“I love to see Sean break into that top five,” Ruttger said. “He’s one of our alternates on the section team last year and just is having a very solid season for us.”
Logan Omberg was the fourth-best Warriors skier with a 12th-place 56.29.
“It’s fun to see Logan there,” Ruttger said. “He’s been one of our JV solids all the way through and things are starting to click for him.”
Ruttger said the depth from both sides is what helped Brainerd sweep its first competition.
“Our depth is outstanding this year and it’ll be fun to watch us in more meets,” Ruttger said. “We have guys we didn’t even count on tonight that are still in the mix. We are six, seven skiers deep on both sides and that’s a nice team to have.”
The same teams will compete a week from Tuesday at Powder Ridge. Ruttger is becoming optimistic about a new meet in Duluth on the horizon. He’s also been in talks with teams in the Twin Cities to find a meet for his team.
“We have a good reputation,” Ruttger said. “Teams know we have a solid program and are competitive. So some teams in the cities have been reaching out to us to try and compete.”
Boys team scores: 1-Brainerd 136, T2-Annandale 127, T2-St. Cloud 127
Individual winner: Brandon Neifert (Brd) 45.68
Brainerd results: 1-Neifert 45.68, 3-Gavin Hoelzel 46.57, 4-Sean Baumann 48.32, 12-Logan Omberg 56.29, 18-Parker Linn 1:00.44, 19-Micah Wood 1:00.46, 21-Ethan Hiebert 1:00.86, 22-Jagger Klecatsky 1:01.85, 23-Derek Halbur 1:02.19, 27-Emmett Johnson 1:07.23, 29-Drew Cline 1:08.66, 31-Esten Hiebert 1:27.34
Girls team scores: 1-Brainerd 130, 2-St. Cloud 121, 3-Annandale 98
Individual winner: Emma Wolf (Annandale) 49.83
Brainerd results: 2-Calia Chaney 50.84, 4-Alli Krantz 51.48, 5-Erin Hoelzel 52.02, 7-Maddie Pederson 53.96, 9-Carsyn Krassas 54.50, 12-Anna Krieger 56.42, 15-Aubrey Wixzek 59.25, 17-Lauren Kalenberg 1:00.70, 20-Amanda Trusty 1:02.45, 22-Franny Stewart 1:07.19, 28-Teagan Hartwig 1:19.30, 30-Hannah Taylor 1:23.70, 31-Morgan Krieger 1:51.94
Ski Gull Invitational
Team winners: Brainerd wins boys and girls
Boys highlights: Brandon Neifert won in 45.68 while Gavin Hoelzel and Sean Baumann each get top-five finishes.
Girls individual winner: Calia Chaney was Brainerd’s top finisher in second place. Captains Alli Krantz and Erin Hoelzel finished in the top five.
Next: Brainerd at Powder Ridge 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2.
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.