Alpine Skiing: Confidence, expectations both high for Warriors at state
Despite sending four skiers, the Brainerd Warriors girls can not win a state team title Wednesday, Feb. 12, at Giants Ridge Resort in Biwabik.
If all four girls post times it would be enough to score as a team, but only qualifying teams will earn team scores. That won’t stop the Warriors from doing a little math after the event.
“If all four finish that is the equivalent of a team so we’ll give them a score and see how they would have done,” Warriors head coach Jim Rutter said.
The Warriors are sending four girls and three boys to this year’s state meet with most owning state meet experience. On the girls’ side, Emma Hiebert, Erin Hoelzel and Maddie Kalenberg all skied at state last year. The newcomer is eighth-grader Lauren Kalenberg.
“Lauren is in pretty good company,” Ruttger said. “I think there have only been two other eighth-graders who have advanced to state from our program. And that would be the Stone sisters (Savannah and Alex). So that’s pretty darn good.
“It’s crazy when you look at what she’s done in the last month. There were races where she posted the fastest time of any of the girls on our team and practices where that happened as well. Anything can happen up there on Wednesday in terms of how our four girls finish. There is no solid prediction of how they’ll finish against each other.”
Emma Hiebert threw down two consistent runs with a 39.16 and a 39.35 for a 27th-place 1:18.51 at last year’s state meet.
“I’ve got to think that it definitely helps with the mental preparation side to know that you’ve been there before,” Ruttger said. “Also, just the fact that we typically get to ski Giants Ridge a number of times throughout the year. We missed out on two races there this year because of the weather. The one time we did race there this year, both the Kalenberg girls were gone on a family vacation and didn’t compete.”
Maddie Kalenberg posted runs of 41.0 and 42.40 for a 58th-place time of 1:23.40 last year. Erin Hoelzel finished 41st in 1:21.23. She was also consistent with a 40.30 first run and a 40.93 second.
“The dynamic at this tournament is different because you’re not skiing for a team,” Ruttger said. “You’re skiing for yourself as an individual qualifier. I think as a team sometimes you hold back or you’re a little more reserved because you’re just trying to have a safe run and contribute points. As an individual that element doesn’t factor in. You typically are going to go out there and give it 100% and hopefully ski to your potential both runs.
“If all seven did that, we could have seven all-state skiers or at least honorable mention all-state skiers because they are all capable.”
On the boys’ side, Cal Madison and Brandon Neifert return to state for a third-time each. Senior Max Darkow will make his state debut when the skiing starts at 10:30 a.m.
“Cal has been on the podium for us at No. 1 and Max has won this year and been in that No. 1 position for us,” Ruttger said. “I don’t think Brandon won a meet this year, but there were many practices and events where he was our top skier at least on one of the two runs. He’s certainly capable of putting together two fast runs together.
“On the girls’ side, Maddie has won a race. Emma has won a race. Erin has been right up there and Lauren. The first time Lauren really came on the radar for us was at Lutsen, the toughest slalom venue that we ski. She ended up having the fastest time for the girls.”
Madison finished 49th last season with a 1:21.10. He opened with a 38.78 and posted a 42.32 on his second run.
Neifert finished 76. He nailed his first run for a 36.06, but struggled on his second run for a 1:40.98.
“I think confidence level is definitely high,” Ruttger said. “It’s hard to understand that we’re disappointed that we have only seven going, but we really are. By the numbers, we so were expected to move on, really as two teams. That just didn’t happen. Still seven out of 12 is a pretty good end to the season. This was the best regular season the girls have had ever. To be through 10 events and we only lost once by two points and that was to Duluth East -- a team that qualified for state out of Section 7. To have won major events like the 25-team Wild Mountain invite and the 20-team Afton Invite and the 12-team won at Giants Ridge a week ago.
“The boys have been right on their heels all season. They’ve been on the podium at every single event, including those big ones.”
State Alpine ski meet
Who: Brainerd’s Maddie Kalenberg, Emma Hiebert, Erin Hoelzel, Lauren Kalenberg, Cal Madison, Brandon Neifert and Max Darkow
When: First run 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12; second run 1 p.m.
When: Giants Ridge Resort, Biwabik