Girls Nordic Skiing: A return state trip could be in the stars for Warriors

With a taste of state still lingering in the mouths of the Brainerd Warrior girls, expectations are nothing less than a return trip.

Last season, the Warriors pulled off a one-point defeat of Alexandria in the Section 8 meet to finish second behind Bemidji and advance to state. Brainerd finished 13th at the final meet at Giants Ridge and returns six of the seven skiers from that team.

But it won’t be easy.

“Last year, the girls pleasantly surprised themselves,” Warriors co-head coach Chris Hanson said. “We knew it was going to be close and when you beat Alexandria by one point, things really kind of aligned and the course was in our favor and we were healthy. It worked out well. Then they realized that was something they can do. That’s the goal.

“With that being said, Bemidji only loses one of their scorers from last year and Alexandria also only loses one of their scorers. It’s not going to be easy. They’ll have to earn it again this year just like last year.”


Liliana Schaeffer is the top returning skier from the state and section meets. She posted a ninth-place finish at sections with a 39:57.5. She was 70th at state in 40:22.8.

“She was an athlete we moved up a few years ago,” Hanson said. “She was a contributor as soon as she moved up and it’s not a surprise to see her progress. She has the potential to be a top competitor on our team, especially if she gets her classic technique to be as good as her skate technique.”

Elle Juranek placed 114th at state in 42:30.4 and was 15th in the section meet with a 41:22.7.

“I think we missed her for a couple of years so we’re thrilled to have her back again this year,” Hanson said. “By the end of the season last year, she was one of our top contributors. She’s been skiing for a while. Elle was a pleasant surprise last year with how far she came and this year she is right there in the mix with those top gals.”

Gina Wasniewski placed 12th in sections and 123rd at state. She did win the Central Lakes Conference title in the classic division.

“Gina is one of our captains and is healthy for Nordic skiing,” Hanson said. “She’s looking good. She’s working hard and she is providing a lot of leadership for the girls because I know she’s excited about making the most of her senior year. She has been in skiing for a long time and this is her last chance to make a go of it.”

Right behind her at the conference meet was Emma Storbakken in third. Storbakken was 16th in the section meet and landed in 122nd place at state.

“Emma is a quiet leader and she leads a lot by example and hard work,” Hanson said. “She’s an academic thinking skier.”


Along with Wasniewski, Callie Knapp and Sarah Nesheim will be captains. Knapp was 147th at state and Nesheim 150th. At the section meet the two finished 24th and 36th.

“They are the leaders,” Hanson said. “They are the organizational and motivational leaders of this team. They push the girls because their expectations are high. They organized a summer training trip which went really well. They’ve been doing captains practice and it’s really fun to see kids grow into that leadership stuff. They’ve taken it on and really shined.”

The Warriors did graduate Grace Erholtz, who led them at sections and was voted the team’s most valuable skier last year.

“To be honest, I don’t know if we have a top three section skier,” Hanson said. “I don’t know if we have a section champion contender, but the girls’ strength is that they are all solid skiers. If we don’t have anybody in the top three, we’ll still have four or five skiers in the top 10.”

Mari Devine placed 10th in the conference meet in the freestyle division. The junior might be the early favorite to fill Erholtz roster spot, but Hanson said more will be known after the season opener Thursday, Dec. 5, in St. Cloud.

“We’ll have to see with the race on Thursday,” Hanson said. “We have a few other girls that are looking good. Mari and Ellie Brown is a freshman, who was the top junior high skier. She looks to be strong after just two days of snow so far. We’re going to keep an eye on her.

“We have a few new kids and some that come in, but it takes a year or two if you’re brand new to the sport to catch up on all the technique.”


Nordic skiing

Co-head coaches: Chris Hanson, Mary Claire Ryan

2018-19 girls finish: First in CLC, second in Section 8, 13th at state

2018-19 boys finish: First in CLC, fourth in Section 8

Returning state meet participants: Liliana Schaeffer, Elle Juranek, Emma Storbakken, Gina Wasniewski, Callie Knapp, Sarah Nesheim

Girls captains: Wasniewski, Knapp, Nesheim

Boys captains: Nick Porisch, Nick Schneider

Assistant coaches: Eric Storbakken, Clint Baker, Kevin Robertson (volunteer assistant), Chris Hunter, Tiffany Knapp, Dave Herath, Leah Rasmussen


Warrior girls roster

Seniors: Callie Knapp, Isabel Nelson, Sarah Nesheim, Gina Wasniewski, Sara Alcock, Emelia Hinrichs, Jenna Lee, Elle Juranek

Juniors: Mari Devine, Allyson Goeden, Emma Storbakken, Elena Dircks

Sophomores: Liliana Schaeffer, Abby Johnson, Payton Lillo, Allison Rice

Freshmen: Elizabeth Anderson, Ella Bailey, Emma Balsley, Emily Bastian, Rilee Borders, Ellie Brown, Parker Freeman, Hannah Hayes, Madison Kelm, Katelyn Kennedy, Ashtyn Kubista, Grace Loney, Gretchen Paysse, Cally Robertson

Seventh-grader: Grace Olson


Chris Hanson

Chris Hanson

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