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Warriors Athlete of Week: Schaeffer skies into another victory

Lily Schaeffer won her fourth Invite out of four tries to her the Warrior Athlete of the Week honor.

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Brainerd Warrior Lily Schaeffer skate skis at practice Monday, Jan. 4., 2022, at Forestview Middle School. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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Lily Schaeffer has not tasted the agony of defeat during the current Nordic ski season.

The Brainerd Warriors senior made it four straight victories Dec. 28 when she posted a continual pursuit time of 45.36.91 to win the Brainerd Invite at Northland Arboretum in Brainerd.

Schaeffer’s victory coupled with a second-place finish from eighth-grader Annelise Baird helped the Warriors to the team’s fourth victory in five events. The lone event Brainerd did not win was the one event Schaeffer didn’t compete in because of a cautionary measure to help heal a sore muscle.

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“I just really wanted to do my best because I was injured the week before from lifting,” Schaeffer said. “I didn’t think I was going to go out there and win it. I was basically thinking I was going to get through it and see how I do. In the middle of the race, if I wasn’t feeling good then I was going to drop out, but I was actually feeling really good. I pushed through it.

“Coming into the race I was kind of nervous, but once I finished it felt like a good race and I had a lot of fun.”

Nordic Ski: Warriors get the sweep at home invite

Warrior co-head coach Chris Hanson said conditions were perfect at the Northland Arboretum for the type of athlete Schaeffer is. The lakes area was hit by a steady snowfall prior to the race making snow conditions soft and slow. Or in Hanson’s words, “perfect for someone who epitomizes grit.”

“She got in there and gritted it out,” Hanson said. “She knows there are other fast kids and other hard-working kids, but there aren’t that many that are straight out as tough as her. It was a good chance for her to showcase not only skills, but her determination.”

Co-head coach Mary Claire Ryan agreed. She said even if the conditions had been perfect, Schaeffer just would have been faster than the field.

“That’s one thing I really admire and respect about her is her willingness to give it her all,” Ryan said. “That’s Lily to the core: Work hard, be positive and have fun. She loves to ski and she loves her teammates and is very motivated.”

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At the Bemidji invite Dec. 11, Schaeffer posted a 14:17.0 to win the 5-kilometer freestyle event. The Warrior girls won by 21 points over host Bemidji.

Nordic Skiing: Brainerd sweeps Bemidji Invite

On Dec. 7, Schaeffer posted a winning time of 14:38.8 to win the Detroit Mountain Invite. The Warrior girls once again outpointed the Lumberjacks for the team victory.

In the season-opening Moorhead Sprint Relay Nov. 30, Schaeffer teamed with Baird for a winning time of 19:51.0.

Nordic Skiing: Warriors sweep Detroit Mountain Invite

“I’m actually a nervous person when it comes to sports,” Schaeffer said. “I always tell myself that I’m going to do bad or that I’m not feeling great. Then I go out and most of the time I end up having so much fun that I push myself as hard as I can.”

The sprint relays are a new aspect to the section and state meets for Nordic skiing this season. It’s an additional event with the traditional pursuit format.

“She could excel in either the sprint or the individual pursuit,” Hanson said. “We are likely going to enter her into the individual pursuit because she is so strong in both disciplines. It’s probably going to work out better teamwise to do it that way.”

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Nordic Skiing: Both Brainerd teams with good first sprint showing

That approach is fine with Schaeffer. She said she prefers the pursuit because she has teammates that are much better in the sprint relays.

“I know a lot of my teammates are better at sprints than the longer races,” Schaeffer said. “I love seeing them shine. We have a team in Ellie Brown and Isabelle Smith that are doing really well at it. I love watching it. It’s so high energy and you get to watch them multiple times because they come in through a loop and tag off twice. It’s really exciting.”

Schaeffer’s favorite part of the pursuit is the freestyle. She’s still not overly confident with her classic technique.

“I really need to relax more when I classic ski,” Schaeffer said. “I’m not confident. I trust my arms more than my legs so I kind of muscle my way through. I need to relax and do the correct technique and build more muscles in my legs. That will help me become more confident.”

Last season, Schaeffer made history by becoming the first Brainerd girl to win the Section 8 individual title during the current pursuit format. She won the section with a 28:35.51 to lead the Warrior girls’ team to a state tournament appearance.
At state, Schaeffer was hoping for an All-State finish, but placed 32nd with a 36:34.7 time. All-State is the top 25 skiers. The 25th-place time was 36:22.3 in tough snow conditions.

Girls Nordic Ski: Return trip to state is the goal for Warrior girls

“That makes me hungry for a better race,” Schaeffer said. “I was very disappointed with how I finished. I think that will motivate me a lot to just keep my head in the game while I’m racing and to work hard every day.”

Ryan said Schaeffer had a year like few others did last season, but ending it the way the senior did has provided more motivation to get back.

“She just had some issues and did not have the state race that she wanted," Ryan said. "I know she is very motivated by that to come back and be more successful and prove she is one of the top skiers in Minnesota.”

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Brainerd Warrior Lily Schaeffer skis to the finish line in the pursuit race Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, during their Nordic meet at the Northland Arboretum. Steve Kohls / Brained Dispatch

Hanson called it putting the exclamation mark on a stellar high school career. He said the big difference in Schaeffer this season is her confidence level. He said, “she’s brimming with confidence.” What hasn’t changed is Schaeffer’s excellence as a leader.

“We had the opportunity to see her since the eighth grade,” Hanson said. “She came in as a youngster with girls much older. She fit right in. She learned from quality kids and she took on that mantle of leadership even early on. She’s been a captain and has just done a fantastic job on all the things. Even the other things like uniform orders and team get-togethers and some duties that could be distracting to somebody focusing strictly on performance, but she takes those responsibilities seriously because she’s looking beyond herself.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

Other notable performances

Ellie Brown and Isabelle Smith, girls Nordic skiing, won the sprint portion of the Brainerd Invite in 21:49.47.

Taite Knapp and Noah Schaeffer, boys Nordic skiing, won the sprint portion of the Brainerd Invite in 18:26.63.

Myah Nelson, girls basketball, finished with 22 points, six rebounds, five steals and four assists against New Prague.

Cade Rosenwald, boys swimming and diving, won two individual events and was on two winning relays during the Warrior Holiday Invite.

Mason Kuepers, boys swimming and diving, won two individual events and was on two winning relays during the Warrior Holiday Invite.

Mitchell Degen, boys basketball, finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds against Champlin Park.

Esten Hiebert, boys Alpine skiing, won the Warrior triangular in 49.38.

Lauren Kalenberg, girls Alpine skiing, won the Warrior triangular in 51.06.

Lily Schaeffer

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Lily Schaeffer

Sport: Nordic skiing

Year: Senior

Age: 18

Height: 5-foot-6

Career highlight: Making it to state the last three years

Other sports: Cross-country running, track and field

Grade-point average: 4.3

Favorite class: AP Bio

Favorite food: Chicken fried rice

Favorite movie: “The Matrix”

Favorite TV show: “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”

Favorite website or app: DragonVale

Favorite restaurant: Burritos California

Future plans: Attend college in pre-med and eventually become a radiologist

Favorite athlete: Jessie Diggins

Parents: Meegan and David Schaeffer

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Brainerd Warrior Lily Schaeffer skis to the finish line in the pursuit race Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, during their Nordic meet at the Northland Arboretum. Steve Kohls / Brained Dispatch

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