Sophomores Sarah Fairbanks and Allison Kosobud enjoyed breakout seasons last year for the Brainerd Warrior girls Nordic skiing team.
But with the graduation of state participant Amanda Finstad, the two will have to make another giant leap for Brainerd to improve upon its third-place finish at the Section 8 meet last season.
"Sarah and Allison came really close to making it to state last year," said co-head coach Mary Claire Ryan. "We expect big things from both. They are both doing very well so far and we're excited to see how the season concludes for them."
Fairbanks skied to a 15th-place pursuit time of 41:17. She was 23rd in classical and 13th in the freestyle. Kosobud placed 18th with a pursuit time of 41:43.
"They are both cross country runners," said co-head coach Chris Hanson. "They had a real strong fall. Both of those girls show some excitement and dedication. Allison is a state meet cross country runner and I know she would really enjoy adding a winter season state meet.
"With Sarah, it would be difficult to find a harder worker than she is. There are no limits for her."
Junior Emily Dumbeck rounds out the returning section participants. She was 35th in the pursuit with a 47:51.
"Her leadership will be a key as a junior," said Ryan. "She committed herself at the end of last season. She is a soccer player and came into the season very fit."
Junior Micaela Hallan skied to an 11th-place classic time of 20:13 in the Central Lakes Conference meet at Camp Ripley, where Brainerd finished second behind Little Falls.
Senior Jennifer Murray also competed in the conference meet. She finished 17th in the freestyle at 18:42. Murray and fellow senior Rachel Howard are captains.
"We have outstanding leadership and experience with Rachel and Jennifer," said Ryan. "They do have big shoes to fill with Amanda gone, but I think they are up to the challenge. I think some of the girls are going to follow the example left by Amanda."
Ryan is also excited about the emergence of freshman Victoria Johnson and Katie Montgomery along with the numerous other girls out for skiing this year.
"We went from 38 last year to 55 this year," said Ryan. "I just got a call (Tuesday) about another girl interested. Having numbers like that provides better competition amongst ourselves and more team camaraderie."
Warrior girls roster
Seniors: Rachel Bartosh, Marie Sophie Frommelt, Martina Giger, Rachel Howard, Kira Irmler, Jennifer Murray, Patricia Pensel
Juniors: Emily Dumbeck, Micaela Hallan, Tomi Majerus, Michaela Quast
Sophomores: Sarah Fairbanks, Allison Kosobud
Freshmen: Victoria Johnson, Katie Montgomery, Katie Pernula, Madeline Pike
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.