Nordic Skiing: Warriors take the crown in both girls and boys at their home event

Brainerd's Ryan Cady takes fourth place for boys with a time of 32:54.25 during the Brainerd Invite Saturday, Dec. 28, at Northland Arboretum. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The home course knowledge proved to be enough for the Brainerd Warriors as both the girls and boys teams captured first place in the Brainerd Invite Saturday, Dec. 28, at Northland Arboretum.

Warmer temperatures and snow flurries with a mix of freezing rain made conditions not ideal for skiers. Nevertheless, the Warriors earned wins against some of its top section competition.

The Brainerd girls recorded four skiers in the top 10 led by senior Gina Wasniewski in fourth and Liliana Schaeffer who placed eighth.

“Gina has been outstanding for us,” Warriors co-head coach Mary Claire Ryan said. “For her to move up that far and lead the team is great. She is a captain and doing her job well.”

Wasniewski said her gameplan coming into the race was to stick with the group she started with for the classic and get separation in the skate portion.


“Once I got out on the skate I knew I just needed to push it until the end,” Wasniewski said. “It was a little snowy for the course to not be freshly groomed, but this is our home course so you know every bump and mound so the conditions were not that bad to me.”

Schaeffer usually finds herself near the top of the leaderboard, but has battled the stomach flu in recent days. Ryan was unsure if Schaeffer was even going to race Saturday.

“She is recovering and did come out and ski which was good to see,” Ryan said of Schaeffer. “The thing about the girls is that we’re all bunched together up high because Alexandria is missing its number one gal. The core of (Alexandria) was here and Bemidji was here so some of our main competitors at sections. We got to see what we need to do to work our way back to a state meet entry.”

Brainerd's Gina Wasniewski takes fourth place for girls with a time of 35:39.12 during the Brainerd Invite Saturday, Dec. 28, at Northland Arboretum. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Elle Juranek and Sarah Nesheim both recorded top 10 finishes for the Warriors as well.

For the boys, Ryan Cady led Brainerd with a fourth-place finish. Cady has been a pleasant surprise for Ryan this season as he is only in his second year skiing. He’s been a big contributor for the Warriors.

“Ryan had a great break out race,” Ryan said. “He is a second-year skier and put in a lot of time in the summer. It’s definitely paying off for him.”


Cady said the wind played more of a factor for him than anything.

“Nordic skiing is a lot about enduring all kinds of weather,” Cady said. “Some days it will be negative 10 and other days it will be 40 degrees, but we practice in a lot of different conditions so we were prepared.

“It is hard to do a continuous pursuit like this. During the classic, I felt like I maintained a good position and then during the skate I knew I had to stay in the place I got to. I felt like I jumped a few places in the skate.

“This race gives us a lot of confidence. We showed we can compete with the best teams moving forward.”

Nole Robertson finished 13 seconds behind Cady for fifth place. Robertson was a little disappointed in his performance, but was happy to see his team get first regardless.

“I had a rough race myself, but it was good to see the team do well,” Robertson said. “It’s still nice that I am up there because the last couple years I have not been that good of a skier. It’s also nice we have other skiers who can step up and take those positions.”

Ryan is not worried about Robertson moving forward.

“Nole will rebound no doubt,” Ryan said. “Once again, with the boys finishing together will work much better for them.”


Elias Knapp placed eighth to be the third Warrior to finish in the top 10.

The Brainerd Invite was a continuous pursuit meet and not a true meet. This means the racers transitioned from classic to the skate portion without a break.

The continuous pursuit builds up endurance according to Ryan and is a good test for how well her athletes are conditioned.

“Continuous pursuit is unlike anything we really do during our season,” Wasniewski said. “Coming in, it’s a good way to make sure you are focused during the race.”

Little Falls placed third in boys and sixth in girls. Cormac Shanoff placed second in the boys race. The Flyers finished just four points behind Bemidji for second.

Adrienne Kresha was the Flyers top girl with her 13th-place finish.

For Brainerd, Ryan says she was proud of both the boys and the girls performances. The goal of both teams making the state tournament is still in reach.

“To win here and both teams, which has not happened in a while, is great,” Ryan said. “We were working really hard over the break and saw excellent results today. From a coach's perspective I am very pleased with how well they did today. We head to Mesabi next, which is the biggest Nordic skiing race in the United States and I think we will be competitive in that race.”


Cormac Shanoff of Little Falls and Ryan Cady of Brainerd take off from the starting line Saturday, Dec. 28, during the Brainerd Invite at Northland Arboretum. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Boys results
Team scores: 1-Brainerd 375, 2-Bemidji 362, 3-Little Falls 358, 4-Detroit Lakes 336, 5-Fergus Falls 312, 6-Mora 310, 7-St. Cloud Tech 281, 8-Willmar 114, 9-St. John’s Prep 54
Individual winner: Nick Youso (Bem) 28:31.33
Brainerd results: 4-Ryan Cady 32:54.25, 5-Nole Robertson 33:06.77, 8-Elias Knapp 33:32.79, 12-Atticus Osborne 33:46.60, 19-Jacob Olson 34:39.28, 22-Noah Schaeffer 34:55.53, 23-Nicholas Porisch 35:05.64, 27-Nicholas Schneider 36:17.54, 28-Braden Capelle 36:21.80, 32-Bennet Capelle 37:22.24, 35-Treyton Miller 37:38.38
Little Falls results: 2-Cormac Shanoff 31:56.06, 11-Ethan Yorek 33:45.59, 16-Eli Segler 34:26.43, 17-John Stockard 34:29.58, 29-Connor Grant 36:47.08, 33-Grant Yorek 37:26.80, 44-Angus Rustad 40:04.04

Girls results
Team scores: 1-Brainerd 375, 2-Mora 364, 3-Bemidji 352, 4-Alexandria 346, 5-St. Cloud Tech 306, 6-Little Falls 293, 7-Fergus Falls 234, 8-Detroit Lakes 186
Individual winner: Bethany Miller (Alex) 34:30.57
Brainerd results: 4-Gina Wasniewski 35:39.12, 7-Elle Juranek 36:31.59, 8-Liliana Schaeffer 36:32.16, 10-Sarah Nesheim 37:45.27, 11-Emma Storbakken 38:04.54, 17-Callie Knapp 39:56.26, 19-Ellie Brown 40:21.01, 21-Isabel Nelson 40:45.31, 23-Mari Devine 41:07.06, 28-Jenna Lee 41:32.10
Little Falls results: 13-Adrienne Kresha 38:16.73, 30-Elizabeth Ahlin 41:50.96, 31-Claire Zack 42:02.23, 37-Kaylee Zupko 44:58.59, 47-Claire Zupko 51:19.14, 50-Aliza Kresha 55:03.16

Brainerd Invite

Team winners: Brainerd boys and girls both win.

Boys highlights: Cormac Shanoff finishes second to lead Little Falls. Brainerd gets three top 10 finishers with Ryan Cady, Nole Robertson and Elias Knapp.


Girls highlights: Gina Wasniewski leads a Brainerd that had four in the top 10. Adrienne Kresha was the top girl for Little Falls with a 13th place finish.

Next: Brainerd, Little Falls in Mesabi East Invite at Giants Ridge Invite 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 4.

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

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