Nordic Skiing: Warrior boys relay earns All-State

The Brainerd Warriors and Little Falls Flyers competed in Day One of the State Nordic Ski Meet Wednesday, Feb. 15, at Giants Ridge.

Two skiers competing.
Little Falls' Alexander Oberton, left, and Brainerd's Lance Hastings compete Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, during the State Nordic Boys Ski Meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!

BIWABIK — It was a good first day for the Brainerd Warriors boys, but it could have been great.

Trailing heavily-favored Duluth East by about 30 meters heading into the home stretch of sprint relay, Brainerd’s Taite Knapp caught an edge with his ski and fell. The Warriors were in second by a favorable margin against the rest of the field, but when Knapp got up and regrouped two teams passed him and Brainerd finished fourth instead of second Wednesday, Feb. 15, on Day One of the state meet at Giants Ridge Resort.

“How he managed to get up and still finish fourth is amazing,” Warriors co-head coach Mary Claire Ryan said. “He was in a solid second place. He fell in a dip and got all tangled up. He’s scrambling to get up and as he’s getting up the two other skiers pass him because they have all the momentum and he’s at a dead stop. He picked it up and got over the finish line. It was pretty crushing to watch that happen.

“To be 50 meters from the finish and crash is just… Like (Taite) said to me afterward, ‘I haven’t crashed all year.’ We’re still happy. fourth is good.”

Luckily for Brainerd, the two teams that passed the duo of Lance Hastings and Knapp were Bemidji and Minneapolis Southwest. Neither of those teams is here as a complete team so Brainerd sits in second place in the team standings heading into Day Two’s pursuit format.


Three skiers after the race.
Brainerd's Lance Hastings, left, Bemidji's Jack Mueller and Brainerd's Taite Knapp stand together after their race Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2023, during the State Nordic Boys Ski Meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!

Hastings-Knapp finished at 14:28.44. Bemidji was second in 14:27.0 and Minneapolis Southwest recorded 14:27.27. Duluth East won the event in 14:05.22.

One consolation for the Brainerd duo is they still earned All-State honors as the top four sprint relay teams earn the distinction.

“They were outstanding,” Ryan said. “They’re just a great combo together. They are two fierce competitors.”

Hastings-Knapp finished second in their preliminary heat with a 14:54.52 qualifying time. Mounds View won the heat, but finished sixth in the finals.

The Little Falls team of Alexander Obeton and Edward Sobiech skied to a second in heat three and placed eighth overall to fall into fifth place in the team standings. The Flyers posted a 15:06.21 heat time to qualify as the No. 7 team. They finished in 14:40.47 in the finals.

The winner of each heat and the next five fastest times make the finals. Brainerd skied the third fastest time overall among the eighth-finals qualifiers.

“The other fun thing is Section 8 had all three teams in the state finals,” Ryan said. “Everybody wants to look past Section 8, but we made a statement today. That was exciting.”

On the girls’ side, Brainerd's duo of Isabelle Smith and Cally Robertson was dealt a bit of bad luck as they were in the first heat, which because of the conditions was the slowest heat by far. Forest Lake won the first heat with a 17:33.87 and it was the only team from that heat to qualify. The No. 7 qualifying team was Moorhead, which posted a 17:11.65 in heat two.


A group of skiers compete.
Brainerd's Isabelle Smith competes Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, during the State Nordic Girls Ski Meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!

“Izzy took off and she led that entire first lap,” Ryan said. “She just took off and flew, but the interesting thing is it rained until about 2 a.m. and it turned over to snow. They groomed and then it snowed at the beginning of the race. If you look at the times of the other heats and the people we had beaten all year, heat one basically skied in the course. After heat one, the course got faster and faster. We just had the bad luck of the draw.

“They looked great. They were strong and they put it all out there. The girls skied very well.”

Brainerd finished third in heat one with a 17:44.88 and finished 11th overall. Moorhead, which finished fifth in the finals is participating just as a sprint relay team and not as a complete team so they didn’t count in the team scores. That moved Brainerd into 10th heading into Thursday’s pursuit.

“We were 11th out of 24 relay teams, but we were 10th in team points so we’ll see what our great, strong girls’ pursuit team can do (Thursday). I was thinking our girls make the top eight, but it just didn’t go that way. They have nothing to hang their heads about though.”

Boys results

Team scores: 1-Duluth East 159, 2-Brainerd 156, 3-Wayzata 153, 4-St. Louis Park 150, 5-Little Falls 147, 6-Mora 144, 7-Minneapolis South/Roosevelt 141, 8-Minnetonka 138, 9-Eden Prairie 135, 10-Blaine 132, 11-Champlin Park 129, 12-Stillwater 126, 13-Rosemount/AppleValley/Eagan 123, 14-Forest Lake 120, 15-Robbinsdale Armstrong 117, 16-Prior Lake/New Prague 114

Sprint relay winners: 1-Colin Willemsen-James Kyes (Duluth East) 14:05.22

Brainerd results: 4-Lance Hastings-Taite Knapp 14:28.44


Little Falls results: 8-Alexander Oberton-Edward Sobiech 14:40.47

Girls results

Team scores: 1-Duluth East 159, 2-St. Paul Academy and Summit School 156, 2-Stillwater 153, 4-St. Paul Highland Park 150, 5-Minneapolis Washburn 147, 6-Forest Lake 144, 7-Sartell 141, 8-Winona/Cotter 138, 9-Eastview/Rosemount 135, 10-Brainerd 132, 11-Wayzata 129, 12-Eden Prairie 126, 13-Ely 123, 14-Elk River/Zimmerman 120, 15-St. Louis Park 117, 16-Irondale 114

Sprint relay winners: Liesl Cope-Greta Hendrickson (Duluth East) 16:01.87

Brainerd results: 11-Isabelle Smith-Cally Robertson 17:44.88

Next: Brainerd, Little Falls in Day Two of the State Nordic Ski meet at Giants Ridge Resort, Biwabik 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 16.

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

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "staff." Often, the "staff" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.

Hi, I'm the Brainerd Dispatch. I started working a few days before Christmas in 1881 and became a daily paper two years later. I've gone through a lot of changes over the years, but what has never changed is my commitment to community and to local journalism. I've got an entire team of dedicated people who work night and day to make sure I go out every morning, whether in print, as an e-edition, via an app or with additional information at News, weather, sports — videos, photos, podcasts and social media — all covering stories from central Minnesota about your neighbors, your lakes, your communities, your challenges and your opportunities. It's all part of the effort to keep people connected and informed. And we couldn't do it without support.
What To Read Next
Get Local


Must Reads