Nordic Skiing: Schaeffer, Warrior girls finish strong

Brainerd and Little Falls competed in the state Nordic ski meet.

cross-country skier glides across the snow.
Brainerd Warriors senior Lily Schaeffer races toward the finish line Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022 during the state Nordic ski meet at Giants Ridge.
Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!

BIWABIK — Lily Schaeffer finally had the state meet she’s been hoping for.

The Brainerd Warriors senior jumped from 16th place after the first-day classic to move into 10th place with a pursuit time of 40:26.9 during Day Two of the state meet Thursday, Feb. 17, at Giants Ridge.

Hopkins’ Sydney Drevlow won the individual pursuit in 38:40.7.

Schaeffer’s finish led the Warrior girls to a fifth-place team finish. It’s the Warriors girls' best finish since 1998, when they placed fifth.

The Warriors boys placed ninth followed by the Little Falls boys in 13th.


“Honestly, this is the best moment of my life,” Schaeffer said. “I had such a disappointment last year and this year making it back to state and making it top 10, I’m just overjoyed.”

Schaeffer posted the sixth fastest freestyle time of 22:26.45 Thursday to make her six-place jump. It’s the fourth straight state meet Schaeffer has led the Warriors. Schaeffer’s 10th place is the highest finish for a Warrior since Justin Tyner placed fifth in 2007. It’s the highest girls finish since Christina Roberts placed seventh in 2004.

“I really wanted top 10 and that was my goal and that was the plan I built up for the whole season,” Schaeffer said. “I needed to pass six people so that was my goal. That’s what I had to do to basically complete my skiing career. I just pushed hard the whole entire time.

“I was beyond exhausted. I passed the sixth girl right before the last hill and going up the last hill I just gave it my all because I didn’t want her catching me on the downhill.”

Schaeffer wasn’t the only Warrior on the move as Ellie Brown jumped three spots to finish 29th overall with a 42:16.4. Brown posted the 27th fastest freestyle after landing in the 32nd spot with her classic.

There might be people who see us roller skiing in July and we do that because of today.
Mitchell Neuamann

Eighth-grader Annelise Baird improved one spot from her Wednesday classic to finish 35th in her first state meet. Baird posted a pursuit time of 42:50.3.

A Brainerd Warrior Nordic skier skates over the ice.
Brainerd eighth-grader Annelise Baird skates over the snow Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, during the state Nordic ski meet at Giants Ridge.
Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!

“I’m so proud of my teammates,” Schaeffer said. “Their classic races were amazing. They really got the technique down and both Ellie and Annelise held their own down the hill. Then in the skate race, both of them picked up spots and absolutely killed it. Next year they’re going to be so amazing.”

Brainerd’s sprint relay of Addie Ryan and Isabelle Smith posted a 14th-place time of 19:21.44, leading to Brainerd’s 178 team points.


“Our sprint team went before us and we were just going insane cheering for them,” Schaeffer said. “That just made all of us so excited to ski our skate races. They encouraged me and made me believe that we were a good team and we belonged.”

A skier works her way through a crowd.
Ellie Brown of the Brainerd Warriors works her way through a crowd of skiers Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, during the state Nordic ski meet at Giants Ridge
Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!

The Brainerd boys relay of Noah Schaeffer-Taite Knapp may have raised some eyebrows after the duo placed fifth and beat both Bemidji and Little Falls, teams they lost to in the Section 8 meet last week.

The Brainerd duo posted a time of 15:40.48 to score 150 team points.

“We were jumping around and it was a shot of adrenaline,” Brainerd senior Mitchell Neumann said. “It was really exciting. We were insanely proud of those guys. It really just helped our team elevate to a new level of wanting to do well for each other.”

Fellow teammate Eli Knapp had a similar feeling about the relay’s performance.

A cross-country  skier glides to the finish line
Brainerd's Elias Knapp views the finish line Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, during the state Nordic ski meet at Giants Ridge.
Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!

“That really gave me a boost of adrenaline to see that Noah and Taite could pull that out and get second in their heat,” Knapp said. “It was crazy and we were going crazy. It was just amazing and gave me that little bit of a push I needed to try my hardest.

“I knew once they finished that we had a shot at placing well as a team. I knew they had done their best so I was going to go out and give it my best.”

The Flyers’ Ethan Yorek leapfrogged Eli Knapp for the top area individual pursuit finisher. Yorek was in 29th place, but moved to 26th with a 31:15.5 pursuit time. Knapp was one spot behind with a 27th-place showing of 31:16.7.


Nordic Ski Little Falls Ethan Yorek 2446.JPG
Little Falls Flyers Ethan Yorek glides toward the finish line Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, during the state Nordic ski meet at Giants Ridge
Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!

“Going into it I knew classic was going to be my strong suit so I just needed to go out there and stay where I was or hopefully go up,” Knapp said. “I had good people around me to push me and it felt good to have people around me who were pushing me.

“It would have been nice to get all-state (top 25 finishers earn all-state honors), but I have no regrets. I’m just so happy that we could get here as a team. I love my team so much and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Neumann jumped from 76th place after the classic to finish 65th with a 33:03.3 pursuit time. He finished with the 58th best freestyle time.

“Going into the freestyle, I knew I didn’t have the greatest day in the classic portion and so I really took the time to calm myself and rest the night before and then my confidence really grew right up until race time when I left the line,” Neumann said. “I really think that just focusing and being a hunter and chasing the guys in front of me really helped to cut that number down.

“It wasn’t my greatest day of all time, but I’m really proud of what we were able to do as a team. We had a great team showing today. It was generally a great experience for all of our guys.”

Adam Cady also moved down the ladder. The senior went from 80th on Thursday to place 69th in 33:05.5.

Nordic Ski Brainerd Capelle Karlgaard 2708.JPG
Brainerd's Braden Capelle skies Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, with teammate Benjamin Karlgaard in pursuit at the state Nordic ski meet at Giants Ridge.
Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!

One of the biggest movers was Little Falls’ Connor Grant, who struggled to a 77th-place classic finish Thursday. He clocked the 18th fastest freestyle Thursday, however, to move into 51st place.

“The state meet was a whirlwind of emotions for Little Falls,” Flyers head coach Mattia Hendrickson said. “Going into Day One of the pursuit a few boys were sick. The general feeling after was of disappointment.

“Eddie Sobiech and Elliot Oberton started Day Two off on a better note with the sprint relay. The pair finished 12th out of 24 teams. For Day Two of the pursuit, everyone felt healthier and moved up in the race to end on a positive note.”

Grant Yorek placed 92nd to round out the Flyers’ scorers.

“I loved being with the team and being a captain and helping your team to state is a great feeling,” Neumann said. “It’s really a testament to the work that we put in the season and the offseason.

“There might be people who see us roller skiing in July and we do that because of today.”

Boys results

Team scores: 1-Minneapolis Southwest 389, 2-Duluth East 363, 3-Wayzata 345, 4-Minneapolis Washburn 344, 5-St. Paul Highland Park 331, 6-Prior Lake 310, 7-Forest Lake 302, 8-Robbinsdale Armstrong 293, 9-Brainerd 291, 10-Minneapolis South/Rosevelt 282, 11-Proctor/Hermantown 279, 12-Stillwater 276, 13-Little Falls 261, 14-Maple Grove 255, 15-Champlin Park 251, 16-ISD 196 co 208

Individual pursuit winner: Cooper Camp (Minneapolis Southwest) 28:25.7

Individual relay winners: Lars Brinkema-Sam Scott (Minneapolis Southwest) 14:59.55

Brainerd pursuit results: 27-Elias Knapp 31:15.7, 65-Mitchell Neumann 33:03.3, 69-Adam Cady 33:05.5, 82-Ben Karlgaard 34:23.7, 87-Braden Capelle 34:39.5

Brainerd relay results: 5-Noah Schaeffer-Taite Knapp 15:40.48

Little Falls pursuit results: 26-Ethan Yorek 31:15.5, 51-Connor Grant 32:21.0, 92-Grant Yorek 35:15.0, 96-Alexander Oberton 36:04.3, 101-Angus Rustad 36:25.0

Little Falls relay results: 12-Elliott Oberton-Edward Sobiech 16:03.27

Girls results

Team scores: 1-St. Paul Highland Park 371, 2-Duluth East 368, 3-Forest Lake 346, 4-St. Louis Park 320, 5-Brainerd 318, 6-Stillwater 316, 7-Hopkins 304, 8-Minneapolis Washburn 301, 9-Ely 294, 10-St. Paul Academy 278,11-Eden Prairie 276 12-Eagan/Eastview 255, 13-Elk River 253, 14-Winona 237, 15-Bemidji 236,16-Maple Grove 200

Individual pursuit winner: Sydney Drevlow (Hopkins) 38:40.7

Individual relay winners: Liesl Cope-Schaeffer-Rowan Bixler (Duluth East) 17:52.41

Brainerd pursuit results: 10-Lily Schaeffer 40:26.9, 29-Ellie Brown 42:16.4, 35-Annelise Baird 42.50.3, 89-Allison Rice 46:55.2, 97-Ashtyn Kubista 48:41.2Brainerd relay results: 14-Addie Ryan-Isabelle Smith 19:21.44

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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