No Zean Baker.
Gerrit Garberich and the rest of the Brainerd Warriors stepped up in the absence of their top skier and captured the Brainerd Invite by one point over second-place Bemidji Friday at Northland Arboretum.
Garberich led the Warriors with a fifth-place 18:15. Noah Baker finished seventh in 18:53 and Connor Gunsbury finished 14th in 19:50.
“We had to make up for Zean today,” said Garberich. “Tech was missing their top guy, too, so we knew it was going to be more even. The plan was to try to beat the other two top Tech kids.”
Zean Baker and St. Cloud Tech’s top skier, Nick Proell, were competing at a biathlon event Friday. That didn’t diminish Garberich’s excitement for Friday’s pursuit style event. It was the first time Brainerd has skied the classic technique in an event. That fit into Garberich’s strengths.
“I’m better at classic than I am at skating so that’s nice,” said Garberich. “It was a pretty flat course so you didn’t really need to use your classic technique that much. So you just double-polled most of it.
“Our transitions went really well. (Coach) Mary Claire (Ryan) had it down to the T so it took me about five seconds.”
Ben Hanson made the difference as Brainerd’s fourth scorer. The sophomore placed 19th in 20:15, which was 16 spots better than Tech’s fourth scorer and four spots better than Bemidji’s fourth scorer.
Tech secured the top two spots with Bemidji skiers placing third and fourth in front of Garberich.
“We told the guys that this was their opportunity,” said Ryan. “Zean’s not in the mix, so which Brainerd guy wants to take the lead? And we worked very hard in the last few weeks on transitions and the boys’ transition went very well. That was a factor. All those things added into their extra seconds or extra places. Most of the guys said they felt good and their skis were fast.
“The focus all week was to see who was going to be our No. 1 today.”
The Little Falls Flyers finished fourth and were led by Brian McNamara and John Gottwalt. Both crossed the finish line in 19:09, but McNamara was awarded eighth place and Gottwalt ninth. Isaiah Korver finished 22nd for the Flyers.
“I’m pleasantly surprised,” said Ryan. “Tech is who we need to beat. That’s our main competition. Now, we hadn’t seen Bemidji until today and Bemidji’s top two boys did quite well in the front.
“This was a good race to see most everybody we haven’t seen this winter from our section because Detroit Lakes was here as well.”
Boys team scores: 1-Brainerd 359, 2-Bemidji 358, 3-St. Cloud Tech 356, 4-Little Falls 354, 5-Mora 341, 6-Detroit Lakes 323, 7-Alexandria 308, 8-Ottertail Nordic 67
Individual winner: Cory Rouw (Tech) 17:57
Brainerd results: 5-Gerrit Garberich 18:15, 7-Noah Baker 18:53, 14-Connor Gunsbury 19:50, 19-Ben Hanson 20:15, 27-Sam Guida 20:51, 28-Evan Schreifels 21:05, 30-Robert Pike 21:25, 40-Sam Nesheim 22:52
Little Falls results: 8-Brian McNamara 19:09, 8-John Gottwalt 19:09, 11-Matt Massmann 19:24, 22-Isaiah Korver 20:38, 41-Ethan Crocker 23:24, 42-Nathaniel Warnke 23:49, 43-Michael Caril 23:52, 51-Jacob Massmann 25:27