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Warriors Athlete of Week: Warriors’ Schaeffer skiing past the competition

This week's Brainerd Warriors athlete of the week goes to Nordic skier Lily Schaeffer.

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Warrior Nordic skier Liliana Schaeffer competes in a meet Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Northland Arboretum in Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch / Kelly Humphrey

Lily Schaeffer’s competitive nature started right from the womb.

Not only is the Brainerd Warriors junior a triplet, but she’s also the lone girl in that equation.

“I’ve always been competing with my brothers,” Schaeffer said. “I think that’s really taught me to catch up to people and to pass them.”

Schaeffer has passed everyone she’s competed against this season as the leader of the Warriors girls’ Nordic ski team. She’s won the last three invites, including the Fergus Falls Invite Thursday, Feb. 4

FERGUS FALLS INVITE: Nordic Skiing: Schaeffer wins, Warriors grab 2 seconds Brainerd and Little Falls traveled to Fergus Falls for a Nordic ski meet.
“I was really nervous about this meet because the hills were huge,” Schaeffer said. “The downhills were kind of getting icy by the time we were going because of all the snow plowing from the races before us.

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“I just decided that I’d rather take it slow down the hills and not fall because it takes a lot more time to get up. It was really windy that day and for the first kilometer, it was out in the middle of a field. I just stayed behind four girls and then we went up this big hill and they broke the wind for me and then on the downhill into the forest I tucked again and blew by them down the hill and led the whole rest of the way in the forest where there was no win.”

Schaeffer’s second victory was Jan. 30 at the Northland Arboretum. She skied the difficult course to a 22:53.32 to clip Bemidji’s Mary Beth Mathews. Schaeffer’s win helped Brainerd to second place behind Bemidji.

LITTLE FALLS INVITE: Nordic Skiing: Schaeffer claims individual title, boys team title at Little Falls invite Warriors ski at Northland Arboretum Saturday, Jan. 30.
“The Little Falls event, I just hung back and let (Mathews) break the wind for me,” Schaeffer said. “Then I could tell she was getting tired on the downhills because she wasn’t tucking like you’re supposed to. I just tucked behind her and rode the draft and I was finally able to pass her on a downhill. Then I just stayed in front of her. On the uphills, I did the V1 hop, which is a more efficient and faster way of getting up the hills. Then I just kept going faster.”

Warrior co-head coach Chris Hanson said when you talk about Schaeffer you have to first talk about competitiveness.

“That describes Lily,” he said. “She is not content to have anybody faster than her and she can be a little bit hard on herself when somebody is ahead of her. That’s a good motivator for her. She might seem sometimes in practice that she’s lacking some confidence, but she’s just working hard at it. Then come the race day she’s just after her competitors. That desire of hers becomes visible. That makes her a good racer.”

After missing the season-opening event because of illness, the varsity veteran opened her season at the Bemidji Invite and captured the afternoon title with a 13:39 Jan. 25. The Warriors topped the other two opponents in their session.

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“The problem with last year, in the midst of our season she got sick in the middle and kept wanting to race and ski and was not as productive,” Warriors co-head coach Mary Claire Ryan said. “The start of this season, she has cold and respiratory issues for our first race. We just said we’re not going to do what we did last year. So she didn’t ski the first race and we told her to get healthy and stay healthy.

“The next three races, as a healthy athlete, she’s won all three of them. A healthy Lily is going to be an excellent skier.”

WIN NO. 1: Nordic Skiing: Warriors sweep, Flyer boys win afternoon The Brainerd Warriors and Little Falls Flyers traveled to Bemidji for a Nordic ski meet Saturday, Jan. 23.
The two-time state participant was the top skier for the Warriors finishing 32nd in 36:34.7 at last year’s state meet. Now a junior, Schaeffer will look to get into the top 25 of state in 2021. That would earn her All-State honors.

“I’m hoping to get back there again to achieve All-State,” Schaeffer said. “I’m practicing on my classic technique because that’s where I really fell behind. I’m focusing more on my stride and just really my form so I can keep my spot from the skate race and even improve my spot.”

Schaeffer admitted she doesn't believe in herself as much when it comes to the classic position of Nordic skiing. Brainerd has not competed in an event that has used the classic discipline of the sport yet, but Schaeffer hopes to have enough confidence when that event comes.

Along with earning All-State, Schaeffer is also hoping to earn top three in the Section 8 event, too.

“She will tell you she is a much stronger skater,” Hanson said. “She doesn’t have the confidence in her classic, but the reality of it is she is a strong classic skier. If you look at the results she still does very well. Skating is her strong suit, but her classic is coming along and she is better than the majority of the girls in this sport.

“She has made classic her focus. She’s watching and asking questions and working hard to improve it.”

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Schaeffer was sitting 25th at state after the morning skate, or freestyle, event. It was during the classic position of the state meet that she slid to 32nd. But she was just 12 seconds out of All-State honors. From 27th place to 32nd place it was just one second apart.

“It was doable for her, but it wasn’t one of her best classic races and she just missed that top 25,” Ryan said. “Knowing Lily as I do, that’s in the back of her mind to come back and correct that issue and finish inside the top 25.

Hanson said what makes Schaeffer such a good skier is everything. She has the combination of good balance with strong technique and then a solid endurance base not to mention good strength. He said it’s rare to find all four qualities in one athlete, but Schaeffer has it all as well as that competitive spirit.

“Her competitive drive, if every athlete had that it would be scary how fast these young athletes would go,” Ryan said. “One term that is always overused, but it fits her is her mental toughness. Her hard work and natural athletic ability and her toughness make for a great combination as a skier.”

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

Other notable performances

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  • Breya Sawyer, girls hockey, finished with 23 saves in a win over Moorhead.

  • Eric Pohlkamp, boys hockey, finished with two goals against Duluth East and added another against Hermantown.

  • Gavin Hoelzel, Alpine skiing, won the boys’ side of a dual competition against Duluth East/Denfeld. He also skied to first at Powder Ridge

  • Lauren Kalenberg, Alpine skiing, won the girls’ side of a dual competition against Duluth East/Denfeld.

  • Mitchell Degen, boys basketball, scored 25 points against St. Cloud Tech.

  • Nick Evanson, boys basketball, scored 21 points against St. Cloud Tech.

  • Kyle Eschenbacher, wrestling, finished 4-0 with three pins last week.

  • Gabe Wagner, wrestling, finished 4-0 with three pins last week

  • Isaiah Jillson, wrestling, finished 4-0 with a pin last week.

  • Jadon Petrie, wrestling, finished 4-0 with two pins last week.

  • Brenna Deason, gymnastics, won the balance beam and the all-around against Bemidji.

  • Molly Hagelie, girls hockey, finished the week with an assist and two goals, including the game-winner against Grand Rapids.

  • Griffin Rushin, boys basketball, finished with 29 points against Willmar.

Lily Schaeffer

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Lily Schaeffer

Sport: Nordic skiing

Year: Junior

Age: 17

Height: 5-foot-6

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Career highlight: Making it to state Nordic ski meet the last two years

Other sports: Cross-country running, track and field

Grade-point average: 4.2

Favorite class: AP Chemistry

Favorite food: Chicken fried rice

Favorite movie: “The Matrix”

Favorite TV show: “Criminal Minds”

Favorite website or app: Instagram

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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

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