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Alpine Skiing: Warriors' McGuire pursuing highest state finish

Brainerd Warrior Alpine skier Grace McGuire stands on top of Mount Ski Gull Monday before making a training run for the state meet Wednesday, Feb. 14, at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch 1 / 2
Grace McGuire makes a training run at Mount Ski Gull Monday. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch 2 / 2

Grace McGuire aims for her highest finish in state Alpine competition Wednesday, Feb. 14, when she skis in the state meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.

The Pequot Lakes senior, who competes for the Brainerd Warriors, will make her fourth state appearance. Her highest finish was 35th in 2015, when Brainerd won the state team title.

McGuire's other state showings were 46th in 2017 and 76th in 2014. Last week she finished sixth in Section 5 to earn a return trip to state. She will be the 23rd girl out of the gates at state.

"She's got an excellent seed," Warriors head coach Jim Ruttger said. "She's improved, no question. She's hopefully capable of getting an all-state finish, which I think with Alpine skiing is top 15. Grace just needs to ski her first run as strong as she skis her second run and she will be right on the cusp of that."

McGuire has been the Warriors' top-seeded female skier all winter.

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State meet

  • Who: Grace McGuire will represent the Brainerd Warriors Where: Giants Ridge, Biwabik
  • When: Wednesday, Feb. 14, first run 10 a.m., second run 1 p.m.

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"She's lived most of her career in the shadow of either Savannah Stone or Alex Stone," Ruttger said. "The successes the team has had she's been a huge part of. You don't win the state meet on the strength of one skier. You've got to have a great group.

"She was not only at state on that team but was one of the four that contributed points three years ago. She kind of gets overlooked because some skiers were ahead of her. ... Pick any team in the state of Minnesota and Grace would be one of the top three skiers on the roster on any one of them."

McGuire was scheduled to be joined at state by Brandon Neifert who finished 17th in the boys section race and qualified for his first state meet. Neifert, who was an alternate on the section team last year, suffered a knee injury Saturday doing training runs before a USSA Giant Slalom race at Giants Ridge and will miss the state meet.

"Brandon really leapfrogged four guys from last year's section team and finished in our No. 1 spot," Ruttger said. "He's just a really hard worker. He's one of the last kids to leave practice. He doesn't like you tearing down courses because he wants to keep going. If the club is practicing next to us and they've still got gates up, he will run over and run some gates with them. It's starting to pay off for him."

McGuire helped the Warrior girls to third place in the section. Neifert and the boys team finished sixth. Minnetonka and Orono captured the top two section places in the boys and girls meets to advance their teams to state.

"We knew even after the first run it would be all Minnetonka and Orono," Ruttger said. "They had forerunners, kids that didn't make the section team, that were putting down times as forerunners that were faster than our kids."