It only seems like Zean Baker has been competing in varsity sports at Brainerd High School forever.
Baker is finally a senior now and will captain a cross country team that has experienced veterans and eager underclassmen.
That mix of talent will try to mold together and improve on last year’s 12th-place showing at the Section 8-2A meet.
Baker and fellow captain Gerrit Garberich will be keys to this year’s success.
Baker is a four-year varsity cross country runner and a skier in the state Nordic meet.
“Zean trained a lot this summer, both in running and (cross country) skiing, and the biggest thing I have noticed is he really upped his strength program this summer,” said Warriors head coach Dave Herath. “He’s coming in as a much stronger runner. His offseason work has really shown. He’s doing a very nice job.”
This will be Garberich’s third season, but he ran the team’s second-fastest time at last year’s section meet with a 51st-place 17:53.
“Gerrit is a multi-sport guy that doesn’t take a season off,” Herath said. “He’s looking really good this year.
He wants to make a statement in cross country and he trained very hard this summer.
“He was 11th in last weekend’s (Lakes Country) triathlon. Now he can concentrate on just running so we expect a big season from him.”
Also back from last year’s section team is sophomore Connor Gunsbury, who finished 89th, and Justin Kuglin, who placed 93rd.
“Connor does a lot of things well,” Herath said. “He’s one of those guys, who if you’re running varsity as a freshman you have some gifts. Now he’s getting more physically mature so we expect more from him.
“Justin is kind of the same deal, but swimming is his main deal. We’re glad to have him out for cross country. He has a lot of ability. He was our seventh runner last year so we’re looking for improved times from him.”
Fellow seniors Stafford Thompson and Jed Smith look to fill out the roster, along with junior Sam Guida, but they’ll have competition from the up and comers.
“Jed and Stafford put on some big mileage this summer and they have vastly improved from last year,” said Herath. “They weren’t on varsity last year, but they’ll have a shot this year. They’re looking to make the most out of their senior seasons.”
Seniors: Zean Baker, Gerrit Garberich, Jed Smith, Stafford Thompson
Juniors: Sam Guida, Justin Kuglin
Sophomores: Daniel Schoonover, David Supinski, Connor Gunsbury, Parker Fredrickson, Ben Hanson
Freshmen: Caden Johnson, Zachery Raymond, Peder Smith, Sam Smith, Luke West, Canyon Crochet, Matthew Majerle, Sam Selisker