Nordic ski racers in Minnesota suffered through several mild winters in which they were fortunate to be on snow by Christmas.
On Saturday, 11 teams and nearly 100 skiers converged on the Northland Arboretum to capitalize on this winter's abundant snow conditions at the Brainerd Pursuit Invitational.
"We have been waiting for this for about three years," Brainerd Warriors girls' coach Pat Lanin said. "It was gorgeous out there with all the snow. There were a few teams that backed out because a lot of skiers are doing training camps this time of year and were gone after having finished 4-5 days of hard skiing.
"If the temperature would crank itself up 10 degrees to around 20 it would be just glorious but we can't complain after what we have put up with. We didn't get on snow last year until about this time. We've been on snow now 5-6 weeks so we have had a good situation."
Brainerd Warriors skier Ben Endreson double-poled the beginning of the 3.75-kilometer course Sunday in the Brainerd Pursuit Invitational Nordic Ski Meet at the Northland Arboretum. (Dispatch Photos by Steve Kohls)
Warrior boys' coach Chris Hanson said an optimum situation exists at the arboretum and French Rapids, making skiing in the Brainerd area second to none in the state. He noted there has almost been too much snow in a short time frame this winter.
"The groomers almost can't keep up with packing it," Hanson said. "But it's a good thing to be complaining that there's almost too much. We have learned that the last couple years.
"As far as the public goes for a place to ski the arboretum can't be matched. Those who work for the nordic ski club do a great job. They also set up the course for us.
"For anyone wanting to try out skiing for the first time it's pristine. It's just beautiful."
Elk River skied to first place in the boys' meet and Buffalo won the girls' in a format that featured a 3.75-kilometer classic race in the morning and a 3.75km freestyle event in the afternoon.
The Warrior girls were fourth with 335 points. Freshman Anna Mangan beat her older sister, Lindsey, by 20 seconds to be the Warriors' fastest girls' finisher.
"If Lindsey gets serious that is likely not to happen again," Lanin said. "Lindsey is a two-time state qualifier. We'll see what happens from now on.
"Christina Roberts was 13 seconds behind Lindsey. Less than a minute behind her was Greta Biersach. Emily Powers, who I had anticipated to be our top skier, didn't a have good day of classic skiing. She ended up in the middle of the field. She should have been considerably better than that. She is definitely capable of that. Her training and practices are indicative of a lot better."
Brainerd's boys' team was fifth with 317 points. The Warriors' fastest finisher was freshman Ben Endreson in 18th place. His brother, Chris, a junior, was 20th. The Warriors skied without Nick Phelps, who was in South America on an exchange student function.
"Ben has shown improvement in every race," Hanson said. "He was followed by his brother who also has another year to ski. We're excited to have that family on our team.
"With a couple guys gone we had two eighth-graders fill in. Chris Woodard and Ty Hunt both surprised me as young guys who are coming on strong. They have a bright future. They got to see some tough competition in Elk River and Grand Rapids. Those steams very likely will see each other at state, and Mora has some strong skiers."
Boys' team scores -- Elk River 384, Grand Rapids 368, Mora 347, Alexandria 330, Brainerd 317, St. Cloud Apollo 302, Fergus Falls 228, Deer River 186, Little Falls 59
Individual champion -- Mario Peng (Mora) 23:42
Brainerd results -- 18-Ben Endreson 28:12, 20-Chris Endreson 28:44, 24-Chris Woodard 29:31, 25-Ty Hunt 29-43, 36-Andrew Cottingham 33:16
Little Falls results -- 42-Will Threlkeld 36:42
Girls team scores -- Buffalo 384, Grand Rapids 373, Elk River 363, Brainerd 335, Sartell 319, Alexandria 303, Little Falls 273, Mora 246, Fergus Falls 58
Individual champion -- Jamie Nelson (Buffalo) 29:17
Brainerd results -- 15-Anna Mangan 33:08, 16-Lindsey Mangan 33:28, 18-Christina Roberts 33:41, 20-Greta Biersach 34:37, 23-Emily Powers 35:28, 39-Courtney Justin 39:30, 41-Cori Severson 39:52
Little Falls results -- 24-Monica Mogg 35:54, 26-Emily Gustafson 36:19, 37-Jolene Janwelka 39:03, 44-Nancy Silbernick 45:34
Next meet -- Brainerd, Little Falls at St. Cloud Cathedral Classic 3 p.m. today.
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