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Boys Nordic Ski: Warriors hoping to make state mark official

The Brainerd Warriors boys Nordic ski season will begin Tuesday, Nov. 30, in Detroit Lakes.

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Senior Nordic skiers at practice Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, at Forestview Middle School in Baxter. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Like the Brainerd Warriors cross-country team last fall, the Warrior boys Nordic team is saturated with seniors.

A lot of seniors.

And it’s not just quantity, but quality as the Warriors hope to right a wrong from last year.

After winning four invites and finishing runners-up in the two other regular-season meets, the Warrior boys fell victim to a COVID-19 forced format change at the Section 8 meet. The different timed runs prevented what should have been a section title or at least a state-qualifying finish. Instead, the Warriors finished third as a team. Brainerd still qualified five individual skiers for state and those five skiers, while not officially, would have placed eighth in the state meet and ahead of both Section 8 representatives -- Bemidji and Little Falls.

“Last year the boys won everything and it was strictly because of this format change and the temperature changed so drastically that the team should have been at state last year,” Warriors co-head coach Mary Claire Ryan said. “The boys were still ranked by Skinny Ski and they finished eighth at the state meet because we had five kids skiing and only four count toward a score.

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“Their comment to us coaches was that they’re excited to work hard and they feel they are state material. They also feel like there is a lot of young talent and there are slots that are open to see who steps up and takes over those positions that were vacated by our graduates.”

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Brainerd will reload a solid group of graduates in Ryan Cady, Nole Robertson, Jacob Olson and Atticus Osborne. Those four along with Mitchell Neumann, Eli Knapp and Braden Capelle comprised Brainerd’s section team.

Neumann and Knapp qualified for last year’s state meet and will look to lead another strong roster to state.

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“Both the boys and girls have had captain’s practices all summer long and they started them up again once the fall seasons ended,” Ryan said. “We also were able to have an overnight summer camp, which we couldn’t have last year because of COVID-19. They have been focused on training all summer long. Most were out for a fall sport so they are all coming into the season in good shape and in good roller-skiing shape. We’ve already had some time trials and we’re only a week and a half into practice.”

At state, Neumann placed 53rd in 22:50.3. He was the second Warrior to cross the finish line. The All-Central Lakes Conference skier finished 10th at sections.

“Mitchell is very focused and very organized and he’s a quiet, strong leader,” Ryan said. “Braden, who is our other captain, fits in right along with him.”

Knapp was the fourth Warrior to finish at state. He posted a 64th-place 23.98.1. He was also an all-conference skier who placed 13th at sections.

“Eli has looked great,” Ryan said. “He’s been on the section team since eighth grade. Now he’s a sophomore and I don’t doubt he’ll be there again. He’s a very strong and very technical skier.”

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Capelle finished 17th at sections, just missing a trip to state individually. He posted a 25.18.32 at Maplelag Resort, also the site of this year’s section meet. Along with being named a captain, Capelle was an all-conference honorable mention performer and is coming off a state cross-country appearance. Ryan is hoping for something similar with Nordic as what happened in cross-country, and that is the emergence of Cepelle’s brother Bennet.

“Bennet started a year or so later than his brother so he had some catching up to do,” Ryan said. “I think he’s right there. I think he’s caught up now so it will be exciting to see what the two of them do.”

Also on that state cross-country team was fellow senior Adam Cady, whose brother Ryan was Brainerd’s top skier all of last year, and skiing newcomer Michael Howe. Seniors Ben Karlgaard, Ben Guida, Noah Schaeffer and Zach Schaeffer were also out for cross-country this fall.

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“Stepping down a year, Karlton Anderson and Eli Hallgren along with Leif Hoffman and Lance Hastings were always pushing to make a jump up to that section level,” Ryan said. “Michael (Howe) has come out for skiing and is working hard and in great shape. I’ve had kids come out like this as a senior and I’m thinking, ‘Why didn’t you come out sooner?’ We’ll know a little bit more about how he’s going to fair once we get on snow.

“Some of these kids that are brand new to our program, it’s not unusual for this to happen, but they’ll be on skis for the first time at a race. We’ll see what happens, but Michael is a great addition to the team.”

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Senior Nordic skiers Bennet Capelle, left, Ben Guida, Braden Capelle, Eli Hanson, Zach Schaeffer, Lilly Shaeffer, Nick Moore, Allison Rice, Noah Schaeffer Ben Karlgaard, before practice Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, at Forestview Middle School. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

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The high number of upperclassmen might help with the new state format this season. Along with the normal pursuit aspect of sections and state, there will now be a sprint discipline.

“We were supposed to practice it last year, but that didn’t happen so it’s full steam ahead this year,” Ryan said. “The kids are excited about the combination of things. That’s what is happening at the World Cup level.

“Sprints, depending on the course, could be a lot of fun to watch. The new wrinkle is giving me some pause. With the old format, I know where we are all of the time. I know how many points we need and who needs to come in where. Over a two-day period, you’re going to have kids who should be rested if they manage that overnight time. That sprint position is going to take some more strategizing in terms of who we put where. In some respect, this is good because there are some kids who are very good at short bursts and shorter distances. Others have that good endurance and stamina. It will be challenging.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

Warrior roster
Seniors: Adam Cady, Bennet Capelle, Braden Capelle, Benjamin Guida, Elijah Hanson, Michael Howe, Benjamin Karlgaard, Nicholas Moore, Mitchell Neumann, Noah Schaeffer, Zachary Schaeffer
Juniors: Karlton Anderson, Elijah Hallgren, Ethan Nash, Jake Stockinger
Sophomores: Truman Dirks, Hayden Hagen, Lance Hastings, Leif Hoffman, Eli Knapp
Freshmen: Gabriel Hallgren, Hudson Juel, Alexander Lelwica, Joseph Neumann, Silas Osborne, Kyle Peterson, Jaret Soxman
Eighth-grader: Taite Knapp

Boys Nordic Skiing

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Mary Claire Ryan


Co-head coaches: Chris Hanson, Mary Claire Ryan

2020-21 boys finish: third in Section 8, unofficially 8th at state

Returning state meet participants: Mitchell Neumann, Eli Knapp

Boys captains: Neumann and Braden Capelle

Assistant coaches: Eric Storbakken, Mike Knapp, Kevin Robertson, Owen and Heather Baird (volunteer assistant)

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