BIWABIK — Riley Nelsen was so close and Zean Baker was enjoying the view, too.
The two Brainerd Warriors flirted with all-state honors Thursday during the state Nordic ski meet at Giants Ridge Resort.
In the end, Nelsen finished 29th and Baker 63rd to help the Warriors team to a sixth-place finish.
Nelsen was 34th after the morning skate, or freestyle, race. He then attacked the classic course in 16:05.7 for a pursuit time of 31:35.7.
“I learned last year that there is usually a pack or a pocket of skiers 40th place and back where there is a ton of guys and so I really worked to get in front of that,” said Nelsen. “I was riding the wave you could say, so by being in front of that pack I was able to get space for me to work with. I wasn’t so crammed.”
Nelsen called the 34th position clutch. It allowed him to work into the top 20, but he couldn’t maintain the place for all-state honors, which goes to the top 25 finishers.
“I knew I could classic well because I did pretty well at the Mesabi East Invite earlier in the year at Giants Ridge,” said Nelsen. “I had a lot of confidence going into the classic. Last year, I had to fight my way through the pack. I didn’t have to do that this year so my day went according to plan.”
Baker was 26th going into the classic after an impressive skate time of 15:22. He said he just didn’t have the technique to move up in the standings.
“The classic just didn’t go so hot,” Baker said. “In the skate, I was running really well. I felt I had pretty good technique and it just went good. I felt smooth.
“I’m not a very good classic skier. It’s the weaker of my two techniques.”
Baker posted a classic time of 17:28.2 for a 32:50.2 pursuit time.
Gerrit Garberich finished with a 99th-place pursuit time of 34:50.2. Noah Baker placed 106. Matthew McDonald was 114th followed by Connor Gunsbury in 115th and Benjamin Hanson in 116th.
“I was hoping to be all-state, but this being my senior year, I was less concerned how I did individually,” said Nelsen. “I wanted to have the team finish well. I wanted to be on a team that went some where. I wanted to feel a part of something bigger. We were already winners by the time we got to state and stayed in the lodge.”
Preston Zimny of the Little Falls Flyers finished 51st with a time of 32:22.3. He was 50th after the skate race and posted a 32:22.3 pursuit time.
Boys team scores: 1-Roseville 370, 2-Hopkins 367, 3-Duluth East 362, 4-Forest Lake 351, 5-Minnetonka 342, 6-Brainerd 285, 7-Eagan 282, 8-St. Paul Central 264
Individual winner: Ben Saxon (Lakeville North) 28.52.2
Brainerd results: 26-Zean Baker 32:50.2, 34-Riley Nelsen 31:35.7, 99-Gerrit Garberich 34:50.2, 106-Noah Baker 35:52.0, 114-Matthew McDonald 38:06.0, 115-Connor Gunsbury 38:34.9, 116-Benjamin Hanson 39:27.2
Little Falls results: 51-Preston Zimny 32:22.3