Brainerd hosts Central Lakes Conference Championships in Nordic ski
BRAINERD — It was a great day to be a Brainerd Warrior Thursday, Feb. 2.
Fifteen Warriors earned All-Central Lakes Conference honors in the CLC Championship at the Northland Arboretum.
Brainerd’s girls’ and boys’ teams each won CLC titles as well.
Individually, Eli Knapp, Ellie Brown and Annelise Baird were conference champions in their races.
The format was one skier competed in either the classic or the freestyle. The top six skiers earned all-conference honors with seventh- through 1oth-place earning all-conference honorable mention.
Warriors head coach Mary Claire Ryan praised both teams for braving the -22 degree wind chills and still performing at a high level.
“When it’s cold and the snow is so dry and abrasive it’s hard to ski fast,” she said. “We just had outstanding effort on both sides to produce the results we did. It was impressive and exciting.”
The cold weather wasn’t a problem for Knapp who won the boys’ classic race in 15:21.09.
“You just have to look at it that everyone is facing the same things,” Knapp said. “You just have to get through it and ski hard no matter what. Weather changes all the time. It’s just a part of skiing.”
Brown won the girls’ classic race in 18:43.77. Baird grabbed the title in the girls’ freestyle race in 16:07.68.
Taite Knapp was close to making it a clean sweep for the Warriors in the boys’ freestyle race. He finished second by one second to Sartell’s Jonathan Nemeth.
The Warriors held the top four positions in the boys’ classic race. After Eli Knapp, Gabe Hallgren was second, Lance Hastings third and Eli Hallgren fourth.
Brainerd also earned four all-conference finishes in the boys’ freestyle race. Owen Robertson was third behind Tatie Knapp. Joe Neumann recorded a fourth-place finish and Karlton Anderson sixth.
“It’s crazy that we have so many skiers who are amazing at skiing,” Eli Knapp said. “They all work super hard and a lot of kids have worked hard over the summer to get to this point and it’s fun to see it pay off.”
After Brown’s first-place finish in the girls’ classic, Katelyn Kennedy finished third and Bridget Collins fourth for the Warriors.
In the girls’ freestyle, Addie Ryan was second to Baird with Isabelle Smith getting fifth and Cally Robertson sixth to earn all-conference honors.
“We are such a strong team,” Brown said. “We are so deep and all of the members on our team are hard workers. Every day at practice we just come and we work together and give it our all and make sure we have a good team environment, which helps with our success as well.”
Ryan said the depth is the biggest strength for the Warriors right now.
“We have so many skiers up and coming and to pick and choose who gets to ski varsity when we have only eight spots, but have 12 varsity capable skiers, it’s a good problem for a coach to have,” she said.
Brown added it was fun to be at the home course for the conference meet.
“We haven’t had a home conference meet in many years,” she said. “So it was fun to do a big race at home and be with all the other teams.”
“We are focused on keeping our heads high and working hard in practice,” Eli Knapp said. “We want to go into sections with a focused mindset and know what we need to do and ski our hearts out.”
Brown added: “It’s not over yet. This was a really big success today, but we have a lot ahead of us and I’m excited to see how we do.”
Ryan’s goal is to see two team section champions next week.
“We choose this format for the conference meet because it is not as demanding on the kids,” Ryan said. “We don’t want them totally worn out before sections. This was a great tune-up and a quick 5k for everyone as we fine-tune things before sections.”