Girls Nordic Skiing: Warrior girls look for 3rd straight state appearance

Three return from last year's state team as the girls look to make state a third straight season

Brainerd Warriors girls Nordic ski captains Emma Storbakken (left) and Mari Devine ski during practice. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Returning three participants from their state team last year, the Brainerd Warriors come into 2021 with high expectations.

“To make it to state two years in a row after a 20-year drought was an awesome effort by that team,” co-head coach Mary Claire Ryan said. “It is exciting we have three coming back. They are looking great in practice and we have a great core to build around. We may have lost some great skiers, but we have some great depth.”

Liliana Schaeffer was the top skier for the Warriors finishing 32nd in 36:34.7 at last year’s state meet. Now a junior, Schaeffer will look to get into the top 25 of state in 2021. That would earn her All-State honors.

“She only seems to be getting better and faster,” Ryan said. “I think that the key for her was after the first race in state which was the skate race, she was in the top 25, and she fell off a couple of spots after the classic and we are just talking seconds. I know she was aiming for that top 25 and fell just short. So I know that if we get to state she will have the top 25 in her sights.”


Lily Schaeffer

As a team, the Warriors finished first in the Central Lakes Conference, second in the Section 8 and 14th in state.

Senior Emma Storbakken is one of the two captains and turned in a 35:02 at sections and a 41:04.0 at state.

The other captain, senior Mari Devine, is fresh off an excellent fall playing soccer. Devine was a state alternate last season and plays a key role in leadership for the Warriors.

“Emma was a captain last year and during the summer the two of them were encouraging the girls to be on board,” Ryan said. “They have been giving us good feedback and giving us what we need. We have great leadership.”

Ryan said there are younger skiers to build around as well like sophomores Emma Balsley and Cally Robertson.

“Some of those freshmen last year did get some varsity experience,” Ryan said. “So, I am looking for some of those gals to step into that section spot. We are in great shape this year and a lot of skiers put in a lot of good work in the fall.”

Ellie Brown is a sophomore who turned in a 39:58.0 at state last year.


“She was one of our top gals at state,” Ryan said. “I think she had to pinch herself and say ‘am I really skating this well.’ She did and she knows that and has been working hard all summer and is off to a great start. She has a lot of upside and I only see her getting faster.”

Ellie Brown

The core four of Storbakken, Brown, Schaeffer and Devine will be the rock of the girls with the younger core filling in the gaps.

“There is always someone that is going to surprise me,” Ryan said. “But Cally Robertson and Emma Balsley are looking good and working hard. Allison Rice, who is a junior, would love to be there as well. We have a bunch of freshmen who I haven’t seen compete yet, but in time trials have done well.”

The girls team is a younger group with six juniors and seniors to go along with 17 freshman and sophomores. With the recent success the girls teams have had Ryan doesn’t see being young a problem.

“I think with the leadership that we have with our seniors — sure we are a little young and inexperienced, but once a team is successful and goes to state and skiers realize what that is all about, I see them working hard,” Ryan said.


Marie Claire Ryan

Senior: Mari Devine, Allyson Goeden, Emma Storbakken
Junior: Emerson Holcomb-Smith, Allison Rice, Liliana Schaeffer
Sophomore: Emma Balsley, Ellie Brown, Gabrielle Chalupsky, Hannah Hayes, Katelyn Kennedy, Ashtyn Kubista, Grace Loney, Gretchen Paysse, Cally Robertson
Freshman: Molly Cartwright, Bridget Collins, Annika Gearey, Stella Hagen, Caroline Holcomb-Smith, Addie Ryan, Isabelle Smith, Anja Storbakken

Thursday, Jan. 14: at Moorhead
Saturday, Jan. 23: at Bemidji
Tuesday, Jan. 26: at Moorhead
Saturday, Jan. 30: at Little Falls
Thursday, Feb. 4: at Fergus Falls
Tuesday, Feb. 9: hosts at Arboretum
Tuesday, Feb. 16: at Detroit Lakes
Saturday, Feb. 20: at Alexandria
Tuesday, Feb. 23: at Bemidji
March 1-6: CLC Championships at Willmar
March 8-13: Section/State week

2020-21 Nordic skiing

Co-head coaches: Chris Hanson, Mary Claire Ryan

2019-20 girls finish: First in CLC, second in Section 8, 14th in State

Returning state meet participants: Liliana Schaeffer, Emma Storbakken, Ellie Brown

Girls captains: Emma Storbakken, Mari Devine

Assistant coaches: Eric Storbakken, Clint Baker, Kevin Robertson (volunteer assistant)

Chris Hanson

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or Follow on Twitter at
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