Warriors Athlete of Week: Skier on mission to erase 2014 state finish
Noah Baker Sport: Nordic skiing Year: Senior Age: 17 Height: 5-11 Career highlight: Qualifying for state with team in 2012 Favorite class: Economics Favorite food: Pizza Favorite TV show: "Walking Dead" Favorite website: "YouTube" Future plans: M...
Sport: Nordic skiing
Career highlight: Qualifying for state with team in 2012
Favorite class: Economics
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite TV show: "Walking Dead"
Favorite website: "YouTube"
Future plans: Move to Montana this summer with older brother Zean Baker, attend Montana State and ski next year
Favorite athlete: Norwegian cross country skier Bjorn Daehlie
Parents: Sarah and Clint Baker
Noah Baker is on a mission to prove last year's state Nordic skiing meet was an injustice.
In the 2014 state meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, Baker was in the middle of his classic race when he received a controversial disqualification that ended his junior season in a frustrating manner. He was disqualified for what one course judge said was an incorrect technique.
"The rule is you can't push off your skis," Baker said. "You can't have any glide when going out, like you're pushing off. The race official claimed I was gliding, which I didn't agree with, but that's what he thought."
That incident inspired Baker and he proceeded to maintain his position this season as Brainerd's No. 1 skier. He won the Detroit Lakes Invite and was runner-up in the Grand Rapids Invite at Mt. Itasca in Coleraine. He attained a fifth-place finish in the Section 8 race Feb. 3 to qualify for state and helped the Warriors' team advance to state as well.
After last week's section freestyle race, Baker was tied with two other skiers for fourth place.
"The third-, fourth- and fifth skiers were all stuck together," he said. "Then I wasn't going very fast. I couldn't get moving. I let those two get away from me and finished in fifth.
"It was a good race, a solid race. Last year, I got third (in the section) and obviously I wanted to improve on that, but I didn't. Then the team did really well at sections and made it to state so it was a good race overall."
Warriors co-head coach Chris Hanson said Baker is the consummate teammate.
"Our score is based on a group of individual efforts, but the team aspect is still important to him," Hanson said. "Noah led us individually, but he really prioritizes the team part. He leads by example. He's only happy when he brings along teammates with him.
"He wasn't super happy with his finish, but then he talked about the bus ride home was great because of the team. He was excited about the team advancing."
Baker is finishing his second season as the Warriors' top skier, a distinction that he doesn't mind.
"When I was a sophomore, we had my brother Zean and Geritt Garberich," he said. "Last year, I was kind of the top guy and it's stayed that way since then. I feel like I kind of represent Brainerd. I like that. I don't like losing. I like that position."
Hanson agreed it wasn't a burden for Baker to be the No. 1 Warrior.
"That just drives him to be better," Hanson said. "That doesn't discourage him or overly pressure him because that's been the case for a few years now. But his emphasis is still team success, not just his own."
Baker and the Warriors have thrived in a winter that will be remembered for little snow cover. Four races were postponed. Six others, including the section meet, were moved to locations that could make artificial snow.
"It's a credit to Noah and the rest of the kids because they have not complained," Hanson said of the mild winter. "We've pulled out every trick in our hats to make this season work, including long-distance travel to Ely on weekends, going to Ski Gull before it opens early in the morning, hitting Ski Gull on nights it's closed. It was a lot of extra travel for our kids and extra organization for us, but the kids have been great."
A 5-year varsity skier, Baker said the lack of snow has been a downer, but he and teammates have made the best of it.
"When I don't get to (ski) when I want to and where I want to that's a bummer for me," he said, "but we're pretty fortunate to have Ski Gull allowing us to go out there Tuesdays and Thursdays and at 7 on Saturday morning.
"More snow would have been better, but we made it work. It was a fun senior year. I would rather have been able to go to places like the arboretum and French Rapids, but the coaches were always good at getting us to meets. They were doing whatever they could to get us on good skiing snow and we made the most of it."
Hanson is hoping to watch the senior captain and 4-time state meet participant end his high school career on a high note Thursday.
"Every year he consistently improved," Hanson said. "It's going to be pretty exciting to watch him make his final effort. And he's pretty excited to make his final effort at the state meet."
Other notable efforts:
• Gaby Haire, girls Nordic skiing, finished 11th in the Section 8 race and qualified for state.
• Alex Stone, Hannah Moen, Emily Aga, Ashley Fitterer and Grace McGuire, girls Nordic skiing, finished in the top 10 in the Section 5 meet and qualified for state.
• David Supinski, Peder Smith and Matt Majerle, swimming, each won two events and were on two winning relays vs. Sauk Rapids.
• Millie Klefsaas, gymnastics, was all-conference in two events.
• Brock Saatzer, floor hockey, scored two goals and collected three assists vs. Anoka-Hennepin.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark .