Alpine Skiing: Brainerd's McGuire, Neifert ski into state meet

AFTON--Senior Grace McGuire and freshman Brandon Neifert will represent the Brainerd Warriors in next week's state Alpine ski meet as the pair qualified in Thursday's Section 5 meet at Afton Alps.

Brandon Neifert, Grace McGuire

AFTON-Senior Grace McGuire and freshman Brandon Neifert will represent the Brainerd Warriors in next week's state Alpine ski meet as the pair qualified in Thursday's Section 5 meet at Afton Alps.

McGuire scored a sixth-place time of 1:07.65 to lead the Warrior girls to third place in the team standings.

Neifert secured 17th place with his time of 1:04.63 to pace the Brainerd boys, who finished sixth.

"I was in 16th after the first run and so I had to be aggressive on the second run because I was sort of on the bubble for state," Neifert said. "I went super hard on the second run so I could qualify.

"I played it safe on the first run just so I could go all out on the second run."


The Brainerd boys were hoping for a state team birth to break the 11-year drought.

"With the record that we had this year it was one of the best seasons we've ever had," Warrior head coach Jim Ruttger said. "Their expectations were a lot higher than what we finished with today.

"Nick had a fall in his second run and that made a little bit of a difference, but it wouldn't have made that big of a difference to even climb up a couple of places. We were just up against some good teams. A couple of these teams we've never been up against before. Breck and Orono we don't see during the year."

The top two teams and the top 10 individuals not on those teams advance to state. McGuire was sitting in ninth place after her first run, but felt confident to be aggressive on her second run.

"I think my second run I was a lot more aggressive," McGuire said. "It was faster than my first run by far. Usually I know I can ski a lot faster on my second runs. On my first run, I usually ski cautious because I want to get it out of the way and my second run I usually just go all out."

This will be McGuire's fourth state trip. She finished 46th at last year's event and was a member on Brainerd's 2015 state championship team.

"I knew if I just skied well and had two solid runs I would hopefully make it to state," McGuire said. "That's what happened. I knew I had to have two really good runs because our section is pretty tough, but I was happy with how I skied."

McGuire said this was the first event every Warrior girl completed both runs and it resulted in the third-place finish.


Emma Heibert just missed advancing to state as she placed 23rd. The top 20 girls qualified. Maddie Kalenberg was 30th and Payge Fitterer was 35th.

"All of our girls had amazing runs," McGuire said. "We all skied to the best of our abilities. I think we kind of knew that there were other teams that we were really close to and we really had to go out there and compete.

"Everyone skied nice, clean runs. They probably didn't go all out because we wanted to stand and we all did. This was the first meet all year where we had all of our top skiers stand so that was good."

McGuire said having state experience will be a benefit to her. Neifert won't have that luxury as this will be his first state appearance. It's the second straight year Brainerd has advanced a freshman to state. Teammate Cal Madison went last year. The sophomore finished 25th Thursday. He was followed by Max Darkow in 27th and Tristan Elsenpeter in 28th.

"I'm pretty nervous for state," Neifert said. "I have one week to prepare so you have to go all out. Cal said it was fun and he wants me to get better than his record last year, which was 41st.

"It's super exciting to know that I have three more years to aspire to and get even higher than I am now."

Boys team scores: 1-Minnetonka 300.5, 2-Orono 273, 3-St. Cloud 265, 4-Breck 245, 5-Hopkins 243.5, 6-Brainerd 235, 7-Blake 226, 8-Wayzata 209, 9-Benilde-St. Margaret's 190, 10-Westonka 168, 11-Northwest Alpine 146, 12-Annandale 136, 13-Robbinsdale Armstrong 94,

Individual winner: Jackson Zilverberg (Orono) 1:00.24


Brainerd results: 17-Brandon Neifert 1:04.63, 25-Cal Madison 1:06.17, 27-Max Darkow 1:07.06, 28-Tristan Elsenpeter 1:07.49, 32-Anthony Elsenpeter 1:08.60, 37-Nick Kranz 1:08.66

Girls team scores: 1-Minnetonka 341, 2-Orono 319, 3-Brainerd 274, 4-Annandale 272, 5-Wayzata 269, 6-St. Cloud 244, 7-Breck 232, 8-Blake 227, 9-Benilde-St. Margaret's 221, 10-Northwest Alpine 181, 11-Westonka 173, 12-Hopkins 159, 13-Lakes Area 155, 14-Robbinsdale Armstrong 101

Individual winner: Meredith Swirtz (Minnetonka) 1:02.00

Brainerd results: 6-Grace McGuire 1:07.65, 23-Emma Heibert 1:09.70, 30-Maddie Kalenberg 1:11.26, 35-Payge Fitterer 1:12.35, 42-Alli Krantz 1:14.26, 48-Maddie Pederson 1:15.74

Next: Brainerd in state meet, Giants Ridge, Biwabik, first run 10 a.m., second run 1 p.m. Wednesday.

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