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Brainerd Nordic Girls Advance to State Meet

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CAMP RIPLEY -- For the first time in 21 years, the Brainerd Warriors girls are headed to the state meet. Brainerd finished second behind Bemidji Tuesday, Feb. 5, in the Section 8-1A meet to end a drought that started after the 1998 state meet. “Analyzing all the results after the morning race, we saw how close it was with Alexandria, who we knew all along would be our competition for qualifying,” Warriors co-head coach Chris Hanson said. “Both teams improved and Alex improved a little more, but not quite enough to catch us. “Every girl did exactly what they needed to do and it couldn’t have been much closer than that.” Senior Grace Erholtz led the Warriors’ charge with her sixth-place time of 39:33.2. Erholtz was eighth after the morning classic race with a 21:32.0, but posted the fifth fastest skate time of 18:01.2 to move up two spots. “She picked the right time to put together one of her best races,” Hanson said. “She met her goals of advancing to that state meet.” Liliana Schaefer moved up five spots after the freestyle to finish ninth in 39:57.5. Schaefer’s skate time of 18:13.5 was the seventh fastest. “The kids know exactly where they are in the afternoon because the bibs are sequentially ordered so you know who is passing you,” Hanson said. “It’s pretty easy to define your job for the race and you can keep track of how many times you’ve been passed or are passing people. She knew exactly what she needed to do and obviously every spot she moved up was critical.” Gina Wasniewski finished 11th after she skied the 10th fastest classic time. “We’ve seen a steady improvement with technique, effort and just learning to race from her and Lily,” Hanson said. “Then they had the opportunity to push and pull each other. They’re in the same race competing against each other, but knowing that by doing that they’re helping the team.” Rounding out Brainerd’s scoring was junior Elle Juranek, who finished 15th in 41:22.7. Juranek moved up one spot after her 16th-best classic time of 22:06 as she posted the 13th-best skate time of 19:16.7. Right behind her was sophomore Emma Storbakken who finished 16th in 41:33.8 and just as impressive was Callie Knapp’s 24th-place finish, which was two spots better than the No. 4 Alexandria skier. That helped the Warriors edge the Cardinals by one point. “The important thing is when you have skiers who can push other team’s scoring skiers down,” Hanson said. “Obviously, that becomes pretty important. Our fourth scoring girl and then two more pushed her down.