Nordic Skiing: Warrior boys finish program best 4th, Brainerd girls 10th

The Brainerd Warriors and Little Falls Flyers skied in the state meet Thursday, Feb. 16.

Nordic skiers compete.
Brainerd's Eli Knapp competes Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, during the State Nordic Boys Ski Meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!

BIWABIK —Eli Knapp just missed his individual goal, but he’s happy to celebrate what’s believed to be the best finish in the Brainerd Warriors boys’ history.

Knapp and the Warriors finished fourth Thursday, Feb. 16, in the state meet at Giants Ridge with 326 points. Duluth East won the team title with 381 points followed by Wayzata in second and St. Paul Highland Park in third.

Brainerd’s previous best finish was sixth a couple of times. The most recent sixth-place finish was in 2005.

“They set themselves up really well with solid classic performances,” Warriors co-head coach Chris Hanson said. “It’s pretty rare to have everybody ski to the best of their ability. It looked like they had that showing in the classic race. Our wax technicians did things right. They looked really good.

“Then that positive attitude coming out of that race helped us gain in the skate race. That was a pleasant surprise. We thought maybe we could move up a spot, but then we went up two spots. They really skied out of their minds.”


Knapp finished 26th individually to just miss All-State honors, which goes to the top 25 skiers. Knapp opened with the 30th-fastest classic time of 14:36.1 and then moved up four spots to 26th thanks to the 25th-fastest skate time of 13:29.6 for a combined 28:05.1.

“I think it’s amazing,” Knapp said. “I’m so glad we did so well as a team. The team matters so much more than my individual score does. I’m just proud of the boys that we were able to pull it out and get fourth place. It’s crazy.”

Knapp was most happy to ski next to sophomore teammate Gabe Hallgren who finished two spots behind him with a time of 28:05.9.

“I was actually surprised and so happy for him that he was having a good race,” Knapp said. “It was amazing to just be able to ski with him. I don’t get to ski with many of my teammates during a race so it was crazy to have Gabe skiing right there next to me.

“It was a tight pack. I think the pack that is fighting for the 25th spot is just as competitive as the pack fighting for the top five spots.”

Hallgren posted the 35th-fastest classic time and jumped up seven spots thanks to the 21st-fastest skate time.

Finishing off Brainerd’s scoring was Joe Neumann who placed 70th in 30:06.1 right behind him was freshman Owen Robertson, who finished 71st, and Eli Hallgren, who placed 73rd. Neumann moved up one spot from his classic position, while Robertson jumped up seven spots.

“Joe has some family history on the team and he knows what this sport is all about,” Hanson said. “At this level to be scoring for us is a new experience for him, but I know it’s an experience he hopes to repeat. Just to see the smile on his face coming in was amazing.”


The top three scores plus those from Wednesday’s sprint relay, which finished fourth overall and second among complete teams, helped Brainerd to fourth.

The Warrior girls finished 11th led by Annelise Baird’s All-State finish of 22nd.

Baird recorded the 27th fastest classic time of 17:00.9. She then recorded the 19th fastest skate time and in doing so passed five people to move into 22nd place and earn All-State honors.

Brainerd's Annelise Baird skis on a path.
Brainerd's Annelise Baird competes Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, during the State Nordic Girls Ski Meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!

“She set just incredibly high expectations for herself going into that classic race,” Hanson said. “She’s a younger skier, going up against some of those juniors and seniors. She is no stranger to high-stress, high-level events so she knows what it takes. We thought her classic race went really well, but she wasn’t satisfied. Like she did at the section race, to her credit, she came back and clawed her way into that All-State position. It was impressive, especially for someone that young.”

Baird said her classic wasn’t her best race and that angered and motivated her.

“I was just like so mad and I just said I’m going to get All-State,” Baird said with a giggle. “That was my mindset. I really like that course. It’s a very tactical course. I just wanted to go out there and pass as many people as I could and have fun with the uphills and the turns and execute it as best as I could."

Senior Ellie Brown finished 55th. She started with the 67th fastest classic time of 18:20.6, but recorded the 38th fastest freestyle to move up 12 spots.

“She had a couple of spills in the classic race and even put a hole in her race suit,” Hanson said. “While her suit was damaged, her confidence and drive weren’t. She came back and moved up quite a few places. It was a good exclamation mark on a very fine ski career for that senior.”


Addie Ryan was next for Brainerd with a 71st-place pursuit time of 35:36.1. She passed 25 people in the freestyle.

“She likes that course,” Hanson said “She is small and mighty and she certainly was today. She’s very good at getting around traffic. She had to do that numerous times this year and again today.”

Junior Katelyn Kennedy was three spots behind Ryan with a 74th-place time of 35:44.3. Bridget Collins finished off the Warriors skiers with a 97th-place finish.

“I’m so excited for next year,” Baird said. “I think we’ll just build on the success of this year and take that energy moving forward. Losing Ellie is going to be such a big loss, but thankfully we still have Izzy, Bridget and Addie to help fill those shoes.”

Little Falls finished 10th with Ethan Yorek leading the way. Yorek placed 30th with a 28:07.0. Connor Grant placed 52nd and Elliott Oberton rounded out The Flyers' scoring with an 80th-place finish.

A skier competes.
Little Falls' Ethan Yorek races Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, during the State Nordic Ski Meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!

Boys results

Team scores: 1-Duluth East 381, 2-Wayzata 339, 3-St. Paul Highland Park 338, 4-Brainerd 326, 5-Eden Prairie 321, 6-Minneapolis South/Roosevelt 317, 7-Robbinsdale Armstrong 316, 8-Stillwater 293, 9-Prior Lake/New Prague 291, 10-Little Falls 288, 11-Champlin Park 278, 12-Blaine 273, 13-Minnetonka 266, 14-Mora 259, 15-Rosemount/Apple Valley/Eagan 248, 16-Forest Lake 240

Individual winner: Benon Brattebo (Eden Prairie) 26.00.9

Brainerd results: 26-Eli Knapp 28:05.1, 28-Gabe Hallgren 28:05.9, 70-Joe Neuman 30:06.1, 71-Owen Robertson 30:08.7, 73-Eli Hallgren 30:18.9

Little Falls results: 30-Ethan Yorek 28:07.0, 52-Connor Grant 29:12.8, 80-Elliott Oberton 31:08.8, 98-Angus Rustad 32:28.7, 106-Chse Olsen 34:33.0

Girls results

Team scores: 1-Duluth East 387, 2-Stillwater 363, 3-St. Paul Highland Park 362, 4-Minneappolis Washburn 333, 5-Forest Lake 312, 6-St. Paul Academy and Summit School 308, 7-Elk River/Zimmerman 301, 8-Ely 300, 9-Eden Prairie 300, 10-Wayzata 276, 11-Brainerd 274, 12-Winona/Cotter 271, 13-St. Louis Park 252, 14-Eastview/Rosemount 251, 15-Sartell/St. Cloud Cathedral 212, 16-Irondale 205

Individual winner: Zoe Devine (Ely) 30:08.7

Brainerd results:22-Annelise Baird 32:33.6, 55-Ellie Brown 34:19.8, 71-Addie Ryan 35:36.1, 74-Katelyn Kennedy 35:44.3, 97-Bridget Collins 37:07.6

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