BIWABIK-It was a mixed bag of emotions for all the right reasons Thursday, Feb. 14.
For Brainerd senior Evan Storbakken, who landed the best performance of the state meet at Giants Ridge, it was bittersweet.
For the Brainerd girls team, which finished 13th, it was a great and motivating experience.
For Little Falls senior Katie Corbett it was a state meet come true and for the Little Falls boys team, which finished 13th, it will be motivation for next year.
Storbakken landed in 34th place after the morning skate race. His time of 15:37 had him just eight seconds off his goal of being in the top 25.
"I felt 34th was a good spot for the Classic," Storbakken said. "I had 12 guys within 10 seconds in front of me. That's not that much. That was very doable. I was just hoping to try and catch as many as I could and not get caught. I just didn't quite get there."
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- Boys' highlight: Evan Storbakken grabbed the 27th-place spot
- Boys' team highlight: Flyers place 13th
- Girls' team highlight: Brained girls finish 13, but beat Bemidji
- Girls' highlight: Little Falls' Katie Corbett finished 76th
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The senior's 16:45.3 classic time jumped him up seven spots to 27th and two places, or 18 seconds, off his goal.
"I was hoping for that top 25 and I had a good race, both races," said Storbakken. "I mean, I'm bummed I didn't get that, but I also know I gave it my all so there was nothing else I could have done."
Storbakken's combined time of 32:22.3 was higher than his time last year of 31:59.6, but he placed 25 spots better.
"It was snowing all afternoon, which really changed up the classic course," Warrior co-head coach Mary Claire Ryan said. "If you're in the track and polling and striding, well, that's great, but if you have to move around somebody then you're going through a lot of new snow. Sometimes some of that can adhere to your kick and then you have to work it off once you're back in the track. It was snowing hard, which made for slower conditions."
Thursday marked Storbakken's fourth and final state meet and his final race as a Warrior.
"I'm very happy with the career," Storbakken said. "I'm super sad to be done. It's hard to believe that four years have gone by like this."
It was also the final race for Grace Erholtz who helped the Brainerd girls to 13th place.
"That was the best classic race I have skied up there my entire high school career and I've skied quite a few of those classic races up there," Erholtz said. "My kick was great. The wax techs absolutely nailed it. They gave me the opportunity to ski as well as I did."
Erholtz posted a 21:29.2 in the classic and finished with a combined time of 40:56.2 which landed her in 87th individually, which was a marked improvement from her previous two trips at state.
"It was really my skate race," Erholtz said. "It really comes down to what you do in that first race because it is so hard, especially for me because I'm not as good at classic, to come back in the classic race."
Freshman Liliana Schaeffer took the lead Thursday for the Warriors. She opened with a 19:04 in the skate and coupled it with a 21:18.8 in the classic.
"My first race, I was just going to go as hard as I could so I could get a good position for classic, which happened," Schaeffer said. "Then with classic, I didn't really have a plan. I just wanted to stick with my place, which I kind of didn't really do."
For Erholtz, having the Warriors team there for the first time since 1998 was the key to capping off her career.
"It was so much better," Erholtz said. "You just had the full support of your team. You weren't skiing on your own. You didn't feel like you were completely out there on your own. You had the support from everyone and it was so much fun. I'm just really happy we were able to get a team here for my senior year."
Elle Juranek finished 114th with a 42:30.4 followed by Emma Storbakken in 122nd and Gina Wasniewski in 123rd.
Brainerd's 208 team points were eight points better than Mora and 15 better than Section 8 champion Bemidji.
"It is crazy," Ryan said. "We couldn't beat them all season long and they seemed really solid and we beat them today. Mora is another very good team. We raced against them twice this year and they beat us both those times, but not today.
"It was an awesome day all the way around. The girls, with Grace being the only experienced one, battled nerves and other things. For our first crack at it, with a very young group, coach (Chris) Hanson and I are very pleased with the results."
Corbett's goal was to make a state tournament. Thursday that came true as she opened with a 76th-place 19:41 in the morning skate. The Flyer was able to maintain her position with a 21:00.0 classic.
"She's really excited and so happy," Flyers head coach Mattia Hendrickson said. "To be at the state meet was the main thing for her and then to have a good first state race ever was just icing on the cake.
"She was hoping to be in the top half so she did that for sure."
After the morning skate race, Jackson Grant and Colton Yorek were both sitting in the 40s, but both slipped into the 50s. Grant finished with a combined time of 32:58.8. He opened with a 15:51 in the skate race and posted a 17:07.8 classic time.
Yorek dropped to 58th overall with a 15:54 skate and a 17:26.5 classic time.
"There's a lot of very tough competition once you get to the state meet and all those racers were so close together from the top skier down it was just seconds between them," Hendrickson said. "Jackson and Colton were near the top and not too far off the all-state area going into the classic race. They were both about 20 seconds away from all state and there were so many people between them and that mark, it was just a tight race. There was a lot of good competition.
"They're a little disappointed, but I still think they skied very well."
Simon Park stepped up for the injured Cormac Shanoff and was the third scorer for the Flyers in his first state race. Colton Gottwat placed 142nd overall, two spots behind Park.
Team scores: 1-Sartell 407, 2-Forest Lake 397, 3-Robbinsdale Armstrong 387, 4-Stillwater 386, 5-Minneapolis Southwest 380, 6-Ely 336, 7-Wayzata 331, 8-St. Paul Highland Park 298, 9-Duluth Marshall 273, 10-Eden Prairie, 11-Prior Lake 251, 12-Mora 231, 13-Little Falls 194, 14-Minnehaha Academy 178, 15-Champlin Park 175, 16-Winona/Winona Cotter
Individual winner: Peter Moore (St. Paul Academy) 30:16.0
Brainerd results: 27-Evan Storbakken 32:22.3
Little Falls results: 51-Jackson Grant 32:8.8, 58-Colton Yorek 33:20.5, 140-Simon Park 37:16.2, 143-Colton Gottwalt 37:33.3, 148-Eli Segler 38:15.2, 150-Connor Grant 38:24.7, 152-John Stockard 38:52.4
Team scores: 1-Robbinsdale Armstrong 412, 2-St. Paul Highland Park 384, 3-Stillwater 381, 4-Forest Lake 381, 5-Wayzata 369, 6-Minneapolis Southwest 358, 7-Duluth East 350, 8-Edina 306, 9-Eastview 273, 10-Grand Rapids 269, 11-Andover 267, 12-Winona-Winona Cotter 261, 13-Brainerd 208, 14-Mora 200, 15-Bemidji 193, 16-St. Paul Central 147
Individual winner: Mara McCollor (Wayzata) 24:51.0
Brainerd results: 70-Liliana Schaeffer 40:22.8, 87-Grace Erholtz 40:56.2, 114-Elle Juranek 42:30.4, 122-Emma Storbakken 42:45.4, 123-Gina Wasniewski 42:51.9, 147-Callie Knapp 45:13.2, 150-Sarah Nesheim 45:33.2
Little Falls results: 76-Katie Corbett 40:41.0