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Cross-Country: Both Warrior squads could see extended seasons

The Brainerd Warriors will open their season by hosting the Run for the Melon Friday, Sept. 3.

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Brainerd Warrior cross country girls practice Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, near Kiwanis Park in Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Try as he might, Dave Herath couldn’t contain his optimism for both Brainerd Warriors cross-country teams.

With most of the head coaches’ top runners from last season returning, and the Warriors situated in a new section and new class, Herath couldn’t help but think both team’s goals should be to sneak into the state meet.

“I say this every year, but we have some hardworking kids,” Herath said. “This is a group that if we stay healthy and keep doing what we have been doing, I think really good things could happen at the end of the year. Plus, the uniqueness of being in a new class with new teams is going to be really fun to see where we stand.”

On the boys’ side Adam Cady, Thomas Ruhl and Baden Bastian all return from Brainerd’s third-place Section 8-2A team.

“Last year’s team was third in the section, but we have a whole new section,” Herath said. “I think we’ll be competitive and the coaches have set their goals high for this year’s team. I really want them to be thinking about a state berth. That would be cool to be in the first 3A state meet. I’m very confident we are a good team, but where that puts us against other teams I’m not sure.”

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Cady placed 15th at last year’s section meet with a time of 17:28.

“Adam had a really good summer of training, which was hard to do with all the heat and the fires and everything,” Herath said. “He has come into the season in very good shape. He set very high goals for himself and every day in practice he’s working toward those goals.

“We’re a fairly senior-laden team, but he’s a standout leader for the team. He’s leading the charge in everything. Not just as a runner, but as a go-to guy for the team in general.”

Ruhl collected wins at Brainerd’s second triangular and at the Fergus Falls Invite last season. He placed 28th in the section meet with a 17:46.3.

“He had a great season last year and then had a fantastic swim season and had an excellent first year in track,” Herath said. “We talk a lot with the kids about how each season builds on the next so he’s got some momentum going. His plan is to keep that going. He’s looked terrific in practice. He’s put down some terrific times in practice.

“This is an interesting sport in that it’s an individual sport with a team aspect to it. If you don’t have guys putting themselves out there, then the bar is lower. Thomas is not afraid to get the ball rolling for the team. It’s very advantageous to have a front-runner like that. Kids key off of him. He’s not afraid to get dirty a little bit.”

Bastian finished 34th at sections with an 18:01.5 and is fresh off a state meet appearance in track last spring.

“Baden is back and he’s looked very good,” Herath said. “He splits his time between us and the mountain biking team so his deal is we don’t want to overtrain him. We always monitor him. He was on our state 4x8 relay team in track and we hope that success continues over into the fall.”

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The return of past varsity letterwinner Michael Kuehn from injury will be a boon to the roster, as will the continued improvement of senior classmates like Braden and Bennet Capelle and Noah Schaeffer.

“Michael had an injury all last year and just this late summer got clearance to start running again and he’s looked fantastic,” Herath said. “He’s done all the cross-training he would care to do in his life and he’s just chomping at the bit to get back in a race. As a freshman, he was our No. 1 runner at the section meet. Sophomore year he was our No. 2 runner. He has a strong desire to make up for the lost season. What I’m seeing so far, he’s going to be one of our top guys.”

Junior Steven Selisker earned varsity time last season and first-year runner Nolan Thiesse has impressed Herath, as has sophomore Leif Hoffman.

“Our freshmen group trained with us last year with the COVID stuff and they are now veterans,” Herath said. “That is a really strong group of runners. Our roster is seniors and freshmen. Our numbers in the juniors and sophomores are a little low.”

On the girls’ side, Bridget Collins was Brainerd’s top runner for all but the final two events last season. The varsity veteran is battling injuries in the early part of the season, but Herath is confident she’ll be ready at the end of the season.

Collins finished 44th in the section meet last season with a 21:51.

“She had some medical stuff this summer and wasn’t able to train so she is just getting into shape,” Herath said. “She’s just a great kid who every day is working toward getting a little bit closer to the fitness level she wants to be. She will not be a big factor for us early on, but we sure hope by the end of the season she’ll be helping us out more and more.”

Senior Lily Schaeffer is as healthy as she’s been in a while, said Herath. She finished 52nd at sections last season.

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“Lily is a gamer,” Herath said. “She ran for us last fall. She had a great ski season last winter and a very good track season. She’s come into the season in really good shape and more importantly pain-free. She’s a grinder and when she can run and put it all out there without being in pain she will be a force.”

Junior Julia Rademacher impressed Herath during last year’s track season and she’s shown improved confidence in her running this fall. Seniors Payton Lillo and Abby Johnson also return.

Brooke Wenz was the top Warrior runner at the section meet. She posted a 34th-place time of 21:18.9.

Madelyn Miller placed 46th at sections with a 21:53.5. The meet before, Miller placed second at the Fergus Falls Invite, which Brainerd won.

“Brooke and Madelyn were on our section team as eighth-graders last year,” Herath said. “Madelyn had a really nice summer of training. She’s looked really good.”

Brainerd secured a surprise newcomer in Hannah Drietz.

“She may be our top runner at the end of the season,” Herath said. “She’s looked fantastic in practice, but she lacks experience.

“We have a small roster, but they are sneaky good. The last time I had that feeling was 2016 when the girls went to state. This group has potential.”

Cross-country running

Head coach: Dave Herath, 29th season.

2020 girls finish: 9th in Section 8-2A.

2020 boys finish: 3rd in Section 8-2A.

Returning state participant: No state meet last year.

Assistant coaches: Owen Trout, Casey Miller.

Volunteer assistant: Brady Rutman.

Warrior schedule

Friday, Sept. 3: Run for the Melon at Forestview, 10 a.m.

Sept. 9: Greenway Invite, 4 p.m.

Sept. 13: Elk River Invite, 4 p.m.

Sept. 16: Lucky Lindy at Little Falls Golf Course, 4 p.m.

Sept. 20: Pierz Stampede at Pierz Golf Course, 4:15 p.m.

Sept. 24: Maroon and Gold Invite at University of Minnesota, 9 a.m.

Oct. 7: Roger Twigg Invite at Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge, 3:30 p.m.

Oct. 12: St. Cloud Invite at Boulder Ridge, 4 p.m.

Oct. 19: Central Lakes Conference Championship at Cold Spring, 4 p.m.

Oct. 28: Section 8-3A meet at Elk River, 3:30 p.m.

Nov. 6: State Meet at St. Olaf College, 2 p.m.

Warrior boys roster

Senior: Baden Bastian, Reed Boeckermann, Adam Cady, Bennet Capelle, Braden Capelle, Matthew Erholtz, Benjamin Guida, Benjamin Karlgaard, Michael Kuehn, Mitchell Neumann, Thomas Ruhl, Noah Schaeffer, Zachary Schaeffer.

Junior: Elijah Hallgren, Mason Kuepers, Steven Selisker.

Sophomore: Benjamin Beasley, Leif Hoffman, Gavin Jacobson, Elias Knapp, James Rabasco, Nolan Thiesse.

Freshmen: Kyler Carlson, Nathan Chaussee, Gabriel Hallgren, David Herath, Joseph Neumann, Silas Osborne, Benjamin Stadum, Axton Svir.

Warrior girls roster

Senior: Madeleine Almquist, Abby Johnson, Payton Lillo, Lily Schaeffer.

Junior: Emily Bastian, Hannah Drietz, Katelyn Kennedy, Julia Rademacher.

Sophomore: Bridget Collins, Annika Gearey, Lillian McDermott, Anja Storbakken.

Freshmen: Madelyn Miller, Brooke Wenz.

Eighth-grader: Annelise Baird.

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

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