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Boys Alpine Skiing: Warrior team hopes to move up section ladder

A Brainerd Warriors team that had no seniors on its roster last season gained considerable varsity experience in 2013-14. With the return of five members of a Section 5 team that finished seventh last winter, the Warriors hope to move up the sect...

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Brainerd’s Cal Johnson takes a quick run on the Brainerd High School sledding hill before Alpine ski practice. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)

A Brainerd Warriors team that had no seniors on its roster last season gained considerable varsity experience in 2013-14.

With the return of five members of a Section 5 team that finished seventh last winter, the Warriors hope to move up the section ladder this winter.

Grant Kosobud finished 23rd in the section, Ben Thoele 25th, Calvin Johnson 40th, Grant Madison 59th and Garett Lee 77th. Lee was the Warriors' top seed in the section, but fell on his first run.

Thoele and Johnson are now senior captains, Lee is now a junior and Kosobud and Madison are sophomores. Kosobud was voted the team's most valuable skier as a freshman.

In addition, the Warriors welcome back freshman Tristan Elsenpeter, who skied for Brainerd as a seventh-grader and moved away last year before returning this season.

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"We have a good core of six skiers," Warriors coach Jim Ruttger said. "These guys, because of our numbers (last year), have gotten those varsity starts. We're expecting that it will start to pay off for them and we hope to see a lot better results.

"Tristan was a varsity level skier for us as a seventh-grader. He's going to be a strong force in our lineup."

The Warriors have 21 boys in the program this season, many of whom have been members of the Mount Ski Gull Alpine Club, which has been a pipeline to the varsity.

"Our numbers are starting to climb thanks to the Alpine ski club," Ruttger said. "It's providing some great opportunities for our young kids to train a couple days a week on a slalom course.

"It's attracting a lot of kids. We have a large number of kids in seventh grade and a huge number of sixth-graders coming in next year. I wouldn't be surprised if we're close to the mid-50s or 60s where we were a few years back."

Ruttger said former Warrior skier Chelsea Williams Gilsrud is leading the Alpine ski club.

"They have their own group of coaches," he said. "They're working kids on a slalom course and giving them more opportunities to train. We're starting to reap the benefits of that now."

The Warriors, who have been working out since Nov. 10, were scheduled to practice on snow for the first time Dec. 5. Twelve Warrior boys were also part of a six-day training camp at Loveland, Colo., over Thanksgiving break.

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"We've had a lot of cold weather and they've made a lot of snow (at Mount Ski Gull)," Ruttger said. "They've made a base of pretty durable snow that won't deteriorate very fast if the temperatures begin to warm up. We really appreciate the fact that Ski Gull has put in the time in making sure a training hill is available for us right away. That's important for our success."

Warriors roster

Seniors: Calvin Johnson, Ben Thoele, Nathan Young

Juniors: Garett Lee, Austin Domino

Sophomores: Grant Anderson, Collin Heidmann, Grant Kosobud, Connor Marichalar, Grant Madison, Logan Waidelich

Freshmen: Tristan Elsenpeter, Nick Krantz, Matthew Sherman, Zach Strong

Eighth-graders: Kevin Chrisinger, Clay Jambor

Seventh-graders: Lon Buehler, Caleb Daniels, Max Darkow, Cal Madison

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MIKE BIALKA may be reached at mike.bialka@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark .

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