Nordic Skiing: Warrior boys state bound

DETROIT LAKES - Just in time. A Minnesota State Night School League rule change concerning the number of teams advancing to the state meet from each section couldn't have come at a more perfect time for the Brainerd Warriors boys. Brainerd finish...


DETROIT LAKES - Just in time.

A Minnesota State Night School League rule change concerning the number of teams advancing to the state meet from each section couldn't have come at a more perfect time for the Brainerd Warriors boys.

Brainerd finished second at Tuesday's Section 8 meet, just three points behind winner St. Cloud Tech, to return to state for the first time since 2011.

The Little Falls Flyers girls weren't as lucky as their streak of nine straight state meet appearance was snapped in heartbreaking fashion as they lost a tiebreaker for second to St. Cloud Cathedral. The Flyers did advance two skiers.

The Warrior girls placed fifth, but watched as senior Gabriella Haire battled back from an eventful classic race to place 11th and qualify for her first state meet as an individual.


Haire broke her ski during the morning race and found herself in 13th place and needing to make up ground.

"It was somewhat of a traumatic experience," said Haire. "It happened on the course and right before I noticed it I was going up the biggest climb with the tip of my ski falling off. One of our alumni skiers was luckily on the top of the hill and he gave me his skies to finish the race. It was crazy because my ski broke during the Mesabi event two years ago and the same guy gave me his skis then, too."

That helpful observe was Zean Baker, older brother of Noah Baker, who finished fifth Tuesday.

Baker clocked a 25.44 and was followed by Robert Pike and his eighth-place 26.08, Connor Gunsbury in ninth and Ben Hanson in 16th.

"We knew the top two teams were going to go, but every one of us was determined to get that first place," said Baker. "Nobody wanted second place. We were just short of getting first. We didn't get it, but we have a great chance of beating (Tech) at state."

Brainerd topped Tech by three points at last week's Central Lakes Conference meet.

Evan Schreifels finished 18th for Brainerd. Landon Bruggeman placed 29th and Gabe Raguse was 30th.

Baker, who skied in the last four state meets, said he was disappointed in his individual finish, but added Tuesday's bus ride home was much more fun with the whole team celebrating.


"On the boys side we had three of our four skiers in the top 10," said Brainerd co-head coach Chris Hanson. "Usually that's going to get you a team title. All seven of our skiers were in the top half of the field and we had alternates, who also would have been in the top half of today's field. That just shows you the depth we have in our program right now."

The last time Brainerd advanced as a team, Noah Baker finished 106th, Conor Gunsbury placed 115th and Ben Hanson was 116th.
Haire is the first Brainerd girl to advance since Allison Kosobud and Sarah Fairbanks went in 2013. She said she stayed mentally strong by focusing on one skier at a time during the freestyle.

"I just had to step back," said Haire. "I was pretty worried that this was going to be the end of my ski season. But I just told myself to take it one skier at a time and leave everything out there. I was going to use all my energy to catch each of these girls one by one. When I got to the finish line I had no idea what happened."

The top two teams and top six individuals not on those teams advance to state. That left Haire's teammate Faith Watson on the outside by two places. Watson finished in 31.38, Sara Whiteman placed 23rd and Lydia Herath 28th.

Mora won the girls event with 255 points. Cathedral and Little Falls tied with 254 points. Cathedral won the tiebreaker, which is a combined time of the top skiers.

"It's the way the game goes sometimes," said Flyers head coach Terry Wasland. "You win some and you lose some. I thought we skied solid. We knew Mora was a good team and they won by a point. Cathedral is a quality team and we tied them and just lost in the tiebreaker. Our girls did a great job of coming back. We were down by 20 points after the first round and we came back to tie the. I was proud of the effort they made."

Kendal Hendrickson will be the lone Flyer girl as she finished sixth in 29.59.

Hunter Zupko will represent the Flyers boys team as he placed fourth in 25.05.


Boys results

Team scores: 1-St. Cloud Tech 369, 2-Brainerd 366, 3-Mora 353, 4-Little Falls 350, 5-Bemidji 325, 6-Alexandria 312, 7-St. Cloud Cathedral 262, 8-Detroit Lakes 252, 9-Ottertail 224, 10-St. Cloud Apollo 198, 11-Trek North 119, 12-St. John's Prep 67, 13-Rocori 40

Individual winner: Cory Rouw (Tech) 23.37

Brainerd results: 5-Noah Baker 25.44, 8-Robert Pike 26.08, 9-Connor Gunsbury 26.23, 16-Ben Hanson 26.52, 18-Evan Schreifels 27.01, 29-Landon bruggeman 28.17, 30-Gabe Raguse 28.18

Little Falls results: 4-Hunter Zupko 25.05, 12-Hunter Kleinschmidt 26.45, 17-Drew Peterson 27.00, 21-Gunner Kleinschmidt 27.19, 25-Seth Crocker 27.52, 26-Ethan Crocker 27.53, 37-Michael Carll 29.11

Girls results

Team scores: 1-Mora 355, 2-St. Cloud Cathedral 354, 3-Little Falls 354, 4-Bemidji 335, 5-Brainerd 329, 6-St. Cloud Tech 295, 7-Alexandria 265, 8-Ottertail 248, 9-St. Cloud Apollo 247, 10-Detroit Lakes 241, 11-St. John's Prep 124, 12-Trek North 72

Individual winner: Sadie Peterson (Mora) 29.19


Brainerd results: 11-Gabriella Haire 31.35 SM, 13-Faith Watson 31.38, 23-Sara Whiteman 32.49, 28-Lydia Herath 34.09, 29-Claire Gunsbury 34.11, 31-Annie Grabowski 34.31, 37-Emily Nelson 36.13

Little Falls results: 6-Kendal Hendrickson 29.59, 12-Catherine Zack 31.36, 15-Claire Gammon-Deering 31.41, 17-Nicollet Gammon-Deering 31.59, 18-Amelia Kresha 32.00, 20-Elizabeth Becker 32.27, 24-Christy Masog 33.00

Next: Brainerd, Little Falls in state meet at Giants Ridge, Biwabik, Feb. 11.

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