Any time an outstate athlete captures runner-up honors in a state meet it’s a colossal accomplishment.
Metro athletes have access to more training and facilities and those two factors usually enable them to dominate state competition.
That’s what makes the achievement of Brainerd Warrior skier Savannah Stone monumental. The Pequot Lakes High School senior finished second in Wednesday’s state Alpine meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, a program-best finish for a Warrior boy or girl.
“I don’t think people have any concept of how much it takes to get to that level, unless they’ve been around her,” Warriors coach Jim Ruttger said. “For one thing, you’ve got to get yourself on a national stage, and she was able to do that the last 4-5 years with JOs (Junior Olympics).
“It’s a huge commitment of time and money, time away from school, training, and the unbelievable miles they put on to go to California, Colorado and Canada and every place they go. You’ve got to give the whole family a lot of credit for sticking with her, and giving her all the tools and opportunities that she had to do well.”
Stone, who finished sixth at state last year, was in third place after her first run (35.58). Her second run (41.69) gave her a total time of 1:17.27.
“After my first run I was really excited,” Stone said. “I had a pretty good run. My goal was just to stay in the top three and maybe even move up to second. This was probably one of the last races of my skiing career since I’m going to play golf in college.
“I just went up there and just said I was going to go all out and put everything on the table and that’s what happened, and I ended up in second place.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet. I really couldn’t believe it at first. I’m really happy.”
Stone finished behind only East Ridge’s Elizabeth Koprucki, who completed the course in 1:15.52.
“I raced against her a lot in USSA and FIS stuff, she’s pretty good,” Stone said. “It’s just so cool to be racing against girls from around the state. There’s so much talent there.
“(The day) definitely went according to plan. Everyone was there, cheering me on. That made the day so much better. It was just overall a great day.”
Ruttger said a group of girls were within about a second following the first run.
“It was anybody’s ballgame at that point,” he said. “What’s really cool about it is Savannah came out of the section meet last week and beat everyone from our section in both runs today. I think last week she was a little more reserved, she knew she didn’t have to ski all out to qualify for state. She turned up the gears to what she needed to do to achieve the runner-up position.”
Stone’s eighth-grade sister, Alex, finished 43rd with a time of 1:28.36.
“I just wanted to go out today and do my best, get more experience so I can do better in the next few years,” Alex said. “I had a good first run, I didn’t follow that on the second run. I was a little back there but it was good enough to place me in 43rd so I was happy with it.”
Ruttger pointed out that Alex beat half of Wednesday’s field of 88 skiers.
“If anyone has a chance to pass Savannah’s records someday it’s Alex,” he said. “As an eighth-grader, she’s skiing so strong.
“It was a gnarly course, and Alex was the 65th skier down the hill. The course was getting pretty ratty by then, but she was able to put two good runs together. It was quite an achievement for her as well.”
Alex moved up 12 places from her 2012 state showing.
“It was just really fun to be with my sister for her last race,” Alex said. “We had a great time.”
Section 5 runner-up Minnetonka won the state team title followed by Section 5 runner-up Blake. Brainerd’s girls team finished third in Section 5.
“We pretty much figured it would be Blake and Minnetonka in a shootout,” Ruttger said. “They were within one point of each other at the section, and that’s exactly what happened. Minnetonka had the edge today.
“For our girls team, it validates how good our girls team was to finish third in a section to teams that went 1-2 at state. That’s huge.”
Girls team scores: 1-Minnetonka 172, 2-Blake 155.5, 3-Minneapolis Southwest 145, 4-Mankato West 124.5, 6-Mounds View 122, 6-Stillwater 100, 7-Duluth East 95, 8-Bloomington Jefferson 71
Individual champion: Elizabeth Koprucki (East Ridge) 1:17.27
Brainerd results: 2-Savannah Stone 1:17.27, 43-Alex Stone 1:28.36
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.