Boys Track and field: Warriors’ roster ready to go the distance

Low numbers shouldn't mean low results for the Brainerd Warriors.

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Boys track and field athletes do warm-ups Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at Don Adamson Field in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Rod Reuer was finally able to see his athletes face-to-face.

For more than a year he was sending emails, texts, group messages, perhaps even some smoke signals, to his athletes to stay in touch and help them through the COVID-19 pandemic that cost Minnesota schools last year’s spring athletic seasons.

On Monday, March 29, Reuer was finally able to talk to them in person.

“The first time we met as a team, I was looking out and I’m seeing all of these faces and I made the comment, ‘You guys really do exist,” Reuer said. “I’ve been emailing and seeing messages for the last year not knowing whether these guys were really out there or if I was just sending messages to the electronic world.

“These kids this year, they’ve been able to participate, but how many distractions have they had to deal with? They’ve been in and out of school. They’ve done distance learning, blended learning. They’ve gone back to school and then they went back to distance learning. Now they’re all actually back in school at one time. Seasons were cut short. Seasons started late. They've had to deal with so many disruptions over this past year that we just hope we can get through this spring and finish the year on a much more normal note.”


Normally Brainerd enjoys a roster of 60-65 athletes. This year, the Warriors will have 40 athletes to work with. Of those, 28 return with some varsity experience.

The lack of a season last spring and lower participation numbers this spring hasn’t put a damper on Reuer’s expectations for the season. There’s good reason for high optimism as the roster is filled with multi-sport athletes who found success earlier this year.

For instance, Gabe Wagner is coming off a third-place finish in the Class 3A state wrestling tournament. As a freshman, he placed 19th in the pole vault at the Section 8-2A meet with an 11-2 effort.

“Gabe had a really strong finish on the vault as a freshman,” Reuer said. “With a great finish to his wrestling season, he’s ready to go again this season. l think he’s got a chance to be a pretty good vaulter.”

Max Lelwica was a team captain on a successful soccer and basketball team. During his sophomore season, he went 40-11.5 in the triple jump at the Section 8-2A meet to place ninth. In 19th place was Andrew Albright with a 38-6. Albright was 16th in the section long jump at 18-11.5 and Lelwica was 20th with an 18-6.5.

“Max is a senior and he’s been with the program for a while,” Reuer said. “I’m expecting a really good year. He was part of a really good soccer team and a really good basketball team. He’s a three-sport kid and he’s looking forward to finishing the year off and having a really good track season. He might be thinking about doing track in college and maybe going into the decathlon. So we might throw him into different events like hurdling and throwing. He’s up for it. He’s a great kid and he’s going to be a great leader for us.”

Albright is a junior who along with jumping will be doing some sprints as well.

“Andrew finished 15th or 16th in the (Central Lakes Conference) in the long and triple,” Reuer said. “When you look at all the guys that were ahead of him back then, they’ve graduated so he’s probably in the top five.


“But how much do kids change from ninth grade to their junior years? In his case, for the better. He’s a big strong kid right now. You can’t go back and base anything on what they did two years ago because those are years they change so much you really don’t know and, for me, that’s fun and exciting. It’s a wide-open field.”

Where Brainerd is the deepest is with its distance crew. The Warrior cross-country team placed third in the Section 8-2A meet last fall. Two years ago, senior Ethan Klisch put down a fifth-place time of 4:39.44 in the 1600-meter run at sections.

Ryan Cady is coming off a memorable Nordic ski season. Atticus Osborne was a key component on both the cross-country and Nordic ski teams. Adam Cady came into his own during the cross-country season and Thomas Ruhl captured multiple victories in cross-country and went to state in four events in swimming.

“Our most veteran, returning crew will be our distance kids,” Reuer said. “They’ve had two cross-country seasons since their last track season. This particular group, we saw them coming and they’re finally juniors and seniors. They’re probably the most veteran group coming in.”

Aaron Strack was part of the 11th-place 4x800 relay, but might be looked at for more sprinting events this spring. Other new sprinters will be senior Brandt Patton and Marcus Yliniemi.

“We’re a pretty distance-heavy team this year,” Reuer said. “Gabe Wagner might be a sprinter for us in some respects. Our other sprinters are young and we knew that was coming.”

Where Brainerd is the most green will be in the throwing area with no athlete returning from the section meet. Newcomer Dante Bernal will be one of the earlier leaders.

“That’s going to be a brand new crew,” Reuer said. “We have a transfer student in Dante from Idaho. He was a thrower out there, but again, he lost his season, too. He’s probably got the most experience of any of our throwers coming into the season. We may have five throwers. Mitch Degen came out this year and he’s working in the discus area. We’ll look at getting him into some running events. Caden Jager, a junior, is probably one of our most veteran guys coming back, but again, the last time he threw he was a freshman.”


Actual track competitions will also be different.

“For meets, the reason all of our meets are duals, and this has been relaxed from the original plans, is that we can only have 250 athletes and coaches on site,” Reuer said. “As long as the total number of athletes and coaches doesn’t go over 250, we’re OK. That’s one reason the (Central Lakes) Conference has decided we’ll stick with duals. This way it allows all of our kids to participate in a meet. Obviously, the big invitational type meets are nonexistent this year.

“When we get down to the end of the season, True Team sections will be a dual meet and then you will send those results into the True Team association and they will do a virtual meet based on those results and then determine a section winner. Beyond that, they’re still working on some sort of plan to do an in-person state meet. That’s still to be determined.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

Boys track & field

Rod Reuer


Head coach: Rod Reuer, 40th year (three years head coach at Page, North Dakota, one year head coach at Napoleon, N.D., four years as a graduate assistant coach), 22 years head coach at Brainerd, eight years assistant at Brainerd, four years Brainerd junior high coach)
Boys 2019 finish: Third in CLC, third in Section 8-2A, 18th at Class 2A state
Assistant coaches: Kris Smith (long and triple jumps), Dave Herath (middle distance), Ashley Rutman (distance), Robb Kolodziej (pole vault), Landon Brainerd (high jump, horizontal jumps), Kelsi Brusehaver (hurdles, sprints), Travis Raske (sprint), Will Riley (throws), Tracy Riley (throws)

Warrior roster

Seniors: Dante Bernal (throws) Ryan Cady (distance), Tristan Dawson (sprints), Ethan Klisch (distance), Max Lelwica (jumps, sprints), Atticus Osborne (distance), Brandt Patton (sprints, jumps), Aaron Stark (sprints), Quintin Taylor (distance), Marcus Yliniemi (sprints, vault)

Juniors: Andrew Albright (jumps, throws), Baden Bastian (distance), Jacob Borgstrom (throws), Adam Cady (distance), Braden Capelle (distance), Bennet Capelle (distance), Mitchell Degen (throws, jumps, hurdles), Caden Jager (throws), Michael Kuehn (distance), Michael Olson (hurdles), Barrett Rezac (sprints), Thomas Ruhl (distance), Noah Schaeffer (distance), Gabe Wagner (vault, sprints)

Sophomores: (Marcello Getty (sprints, high jump), Gavin Hoelzel (Hurdles, sprints, vault), Landon Johnston (distance), Dillon MacLaughlan (sprints, jumps), Logan McKay (distance), Steve Selisker (distance), Nolan Thiesse (distance), Gus Wagner (sprints, pole vault)

Freshmen: Owen Brainerd (sprints, jumps), Dylan Gross (throws, sprints), Leif Hoffman, Jake Merseth (sprints), Sebastian Sawyer (sprints, jumps), Preston Siebolds (sprints, jumps), Brandon Stark (sprints, jumps), Mitch Wind.


Warrior schedule

April 12: at Bemidji 4 p.m.

April 23: hosts Willmar 4 p.m.

April 27: at Rocori 4 p.m.

May 6: hosts Sartell 4 pm.

May 13: at Sauk Rapids 5 p.m.

May 18: hosts St. Cloud Apollo 4 p.m.

May 26: at St. Cloud Tech 4 p.m.


June 1: Possible Central Lakes Conference meet

June 7-12: Section 8-2A meet

June 18-19: Class 2A state meet

Rod Reuer

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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