Alpine Skiing: Podium finish 'within realm of possibility' for Warrior girls
Could there be a podium finish Wednesday for the Brainerd Warrior girls' team? With one of their most experienced girls teams returning to the state meet Wednesday, the Warriors appear to have a shot to stand on the podium with a top three finish...
Could there be a podium finish Wednesday for the Brainerd Warrior girls' team?
With one of their most experienced girls teams returning to the state meet Wednesday, the Warriors appear to have a shot to stand on the podium with a top three finish at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
Brainerd won seven of 10 races this season and was runner-up in another.
Sophomore Alex Stone already is a 2-time state qualifier. She finished 43rd as an eighth-grader and 55th as a seventh-grader. She didn't qualify in 2014 after a mishap at the Section 5 meet.
- Who: Brainerd Warrior girls team
- What: State meet
- Where: Giants Ridge, Biwabik
- When: First run 10 a.m. Wednesday, second run 1 p.m.
Last year at state, Ashley Fitterer placed 52nd at state, Payge Fitterer 65th, Emily Aga 68th, Grace McGuire 76th and Hannah Moen 82nd.
The Brainerd boys team, which finished fifth in 2007, set the standard for the program's highest state finish.
"I think the consensus with this team is it certainly has the potential to improve on that," Warriors coach Jim Ruttger said. "If I was setting a goal right now, we're shooting for the podium, a top three finish there. I think that's definitely within the realm of possibility."
Stone has been the Warriors' No. 1 skier virtually all season, winning the Orono Invite at Afton Alps and the Brainerd Invite at Mount Ski Gull. Aga paced the Lakes Area Invite at Andes Tower Hills in Kensington.
Stone finished fourth in the section meet last week. Moen placed fifth, Aga sixth, Ashley Fitterer eighth, McGuire 10th and Payge Fitterer 20th.
"Whenever Alex stands, we're always up there," Ruttger said. "We've kind of run her in that top position all year. She could do very well there.
"I think for her to get through the section and do well was important for her. There was an awful lot of weight on her shoulders, not wanting a repeat of what happened at the section last year. Her dad is one of our coaches - I'm sure that's some pressure - and she's following in big footsteps of her older sister (Savannah). I'm sure all those things were weighing on her. I know it was a big sigh of relief when she finished her second run and finished in the fourth position.
"Emily was right behind her then look at Ashley's and Hannah's races and they all skied very well. They ended the race being about a half-second apart. If they can do that Wednesday. ..."
Stone, Moen, Aga, Ashley Fitterer and McGuire will be among the first 40 skiers to make both of their runs Wednesday, which Ruttger considers a huge advantage. He believes Brainerd is the only team with five individuals skiing in the first 40 runs.
Another factor in the Warriors' favor is their familiarity with Giants Ridge. They have raced there twice this winter as well as about the same number of times the past few years. This group of girls likely has also spent time on their own skiing at the Ridge.
"These girls are real comfortable with that race venue and hopefully that calms the nerves," Ruttger said. "You can go to state with the attitude we made it here, let's have fun and enjoy it or you can go in with the attitude we're going to work really hard to make the appearance we're capable of. I think this group is not going to settle for anything less than going for it."
• Minnetonka defending champion
The two-time defending state champion Minnetonka Skippers were Section 5 runners-up behind Brainerd and are the highest returning team qualifier.
Junior Grace Robillard is the only Minnetonka skier with previous state meet experience.
In addition to Brainerd, the other returning team qualifiers, and their 2014 state finish include, Blake of Minneapolis (Section 4 champion), runner-up at state; Mankato West (Section 6 champion), fourth at state; and Mahtomedi (Section 5 champion), fifth at state.
The three other teams that qualified this year are Hastings (Section 4 runner-up); Eden Prairie (Section 6 runner-up); and Hermantown (Section 7 runner-up).
Senior Madison Danelski of Hermantown, who finished third last year, is the highest returning individual. Twelve additional top 20 finishers return.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark .