BIWABIK — Riley Nelsen and Zean Baker both registered top 20 performances in the largest Nordic ski race in the United States Saturday at Giants Ridge.
More than 1,100 high school skiers from three states competed and the Brained duo of Nelsen and Baker led the Warrior boys to 17th out of 62 teams.
The Brainerd girls placed 28th behind the Little Falls Flyers, which captured 15th out of 63 girls teams. The Little Falls boys, behind Preston Zimny’s 37th-place finish, placed 38th.
Nelsen completed the make-shift course in 16:04.2 to finish 17th. Baker posted a 16:10.4 to finish 20th.
“This is the 27th year of this race and they usually do it on the state course,” said Warriors co-head coach Mary Claire Ryan. “This year because of lack of snow, we skied around the downhill area. The course we skied Saturday was a 5.4-kilometer course instead of the 5K we normally run. Plus there was a steep wall climb along a downhill slope. It was challenging and we were wondering what the skiers would pull off, with the number of other skiers there and the course, but they held up pretty well.”
Gerrit Garberich was Brainerd’s top freestyler as he placed 33rd with a 15:11.6
“Riley and Zean were the second and third skiers to finish the classic from our section and as a team we beat Bemidji, which is our top competition in the section, so those were all good things to see,” said Claire Ryan. “Noah Baker fought a bad cold, but still competed well.
“Gerrit had his best race of the season and picked it up and came in with a good time. Matt McDonald got caught in some traffic and Connor Grunsbury skied varsity for us and had a good race. Had he skied junior varsity his time would have placed him very high.”
Little Falls got a pair of 33s from Maria Hauer in the classic and Chelsea Rutz in the freestyle to finish with 590 points. Mattia Hendrickson was 38th in the freestyle.
The Warriors’ Allison Kosobud finished 35th in the classic with a time of 20:11.6. Sarah Fairbanks finished 66th.
“Allison focused on the classic technique and that’s something we haven’t had a lot of opportunity to do so far this year,” said Brainerd co-head coach Chris Hanson. “She did have a very good race, though, and I was standing on top of one of the larger hills and I was watching her you could tell she was in a pack of some of the better racers.
“Section wise, Little Falls continues to have that dynasty they’ve had for the last few years. There is a considerable distance between us and them. The next section team, however, was Cathedral and we were only four points away from them. They just nipped us.”
Boys team scores (62 teams): 1-Roseville 715, 2-Eden Prairie 702, 3-Irondale 690, 4-Mineapolis Southwest 683, 5-Duluth East 678, 17-Brainerd 594, 38-Little Falls 387
Individual classic winner: Sam Elfstrom (Rosevlle) 14:33.4
Individual freestyle winner: Jan Ketterson (Bloomington Nordic) 13:13.7
Brainerd results: Classic — 17-Riley Nelson 16:04.2, 20-Zean Baker 16:10.4, 119-Noah Baker 19:47.0; Freestyle — 33-Gerrit Garberich 15:11.6, 94-Matt McDonald 16:59.7, 105-Connor Grunsbury 17:12.7
Little Falls results: Classic — 109-Matt Massmann 19:22.9, 116-Isaiah Korver 19:45.8, 165-Nathan Almen 27:59.0; Freestyle — 37-Preston Zimny 15:17.4, 109-John Gottwalt 17:17.3, 112-Brian McNamara 17:19.2
Girls team scores: (63 teams): 1-Wayzata 721, 2-Stillwater 714, 3-Duluth East 713, 4-Roseville 696, 5-Eden Prairie 683, 15-Little Falls 590, 28-Brainerd 454
Individual classic winner: Nora Gilbertson (Stillwater) 17:29.6
Individual freestyle winner: Alayna Sonesyn (Wayzata) 15:22.3
Brainerd results: Classic — 35-Allison Kosobud 20:11.6, 66-Sarah Fairbanks 21:29.8, 104-Serena Schreifels 23:03.3; Freestyle — 93-Gaby Haire 20:07.8, 108-Michaela Quast 20:28.6, 141-Sara Whiteman 21:37.4
Little Falls results: Classic — 33-Maria Hauer 20:03.0, 62-Kaitlin Geisenhof 21:04.3, 145-Chloe Houle 25.09.6; Freestyle — 33-Chelsea Rutz 18:00.5, 38-Mattia Hendrickson 18:07.6, 144-Josie Lange 21:41.6
Next: Brainerd, Little Falls in Fergus Falls Invitational at Spidahl’s 1 p.m. Tuesday.