Brainerd Warriors co-head coach Mary Claire Ryan was named head coach of the year by the Minnesota State High School Nordic Ski Coaches Association Saturday, April 21.

Fourteen years ago, Ryan initially helped with the junior high program which has grown from more than a dozen skiers to over 60 this past season.

As a varsity assistant and now co-head coach of the Brainerd Nordic team, Ryan uses her experience and skill set to put skiers on good equipment, transport them to groomed trails, teach them skills, and inspire them to compete.

She also stresses the importance of teamwork, cooperation, and positivity. The Brainerd girls team this year won the conference sportsmanship award, a reflection of Ryan's influence, Ryan instills in her athletes a love for the sport. Many Warrior skiers continue to ski competitively and recreationally after graduation.

In high school, Ryan earned competitive varsity letters in tennequoit (ring tennis), basketball, and softball. In 1971, she added cross country skiing to her list of athletic interests, finishing her first Nordic race (Jonathon/Victoria/Chaska) in 1975.

Ryan has remained involved with promoting and advocating athletic activities and youth programs ever since. She has taught swimming, run outdoor adventure camps, and served as leader or administrator for programs including Girl Scouts, Outward Bound and the YMCA.

In 1988, she started a sixth grade Learn to Ski Program in cooperation with Brainerd and surrounding school districts and Mount Ski Gull. She coordinated this partnership for 25 years and continues to be involved as a volunteer.

Ryan has served as treasurer, secretary, and vice president of the Brainerd Nordic Ski Club. She currently volunteers as the grooming coordinator and trail grant-in-aid coordinator, a duty she has filled for 25 years.