As Taryn Ruttger has begun to soar so has the Brainerd Warrior girls' Alpine skiing team.
Ruttger has won two of her last three individual races, helping Brainerd to two victories and a runner-up finish. The four-year varsity skier attacked the courses at Powder Ridge in Kimball, Welch Village and Ski Gull to come away with victories.
"I think I'm just learning to be a more aggressive skier, that's the main thing the last couple weeks," she said. "I've been watching races on TV, then getting to practice and being fearless on the course. I'm going into each race with more confidence."
Ruttger's confidence helped Jan. 18 when she placed sixth at Welch, one place higher than she did last year. The meet is billed as the country's largest high school Alpine event. More than 400 individuals from Minnesota and Wisconsin competed.
Brainerd finished second in the girls' competition at Welch. When combining the boys' and girls' teams the Warriors won the overall team championship.
"It was very cold," Ruttger said. "Our team really banded together and made a day out of it. We made sure to keep each other warm, get our coats on from top to bottom."
Ari and Andrea Cibuzar joined Ruttger to form the Warriors' squad one.
"We spent a lot of time together, talking about how much good this meet does, being a big meet," Ruttger said. "The three of us went into it with a lot more confidence than a usual race. The environment of being at a big race like that really helped."
Taryn Ruttger profile
Sport: Alpine skiing
Weight: 120 pounds
Memorable sports achievement: Skiing in state meet with girls' team in 2006
Grade-point average: 4.0
Favorite subject: Art, English
Favorite food: Apples
Hobbies: Inline skating, waterskiing, swimming, biking
Athlete she admires: Olympic skier Kristina Koznick
Parents: Jim and Merilee Ruttger.
A few days earlier Ruttger won at Powder Ridge. Teammate Kenzey Ostrowski was second.
"The snow was really great, and our team did a very good job," Ruttger said. "I was only 1/100th of a second in front of (Ostrowski). I just put together two solid, aggressive runs."
She followed with a first-place finish Monday at Ski Gull, her third win of the season.
"She's real comfortable on our hill," Warriors coach and Taryn's father Jim Ruttger said. "She seldom has any difficulty with any of the courses we set for training there. We expected her to do well, and she did.
"What was interesting was she was getting pushed. Kenzey was a hair ahead of her at the end of the first run. Kenzey is an up and coming ninth-grader who's skiing real well. Kenzey had a problem in her second run, and dropped out of the standings. Taryn skied two real clean runs. She was real aggressive.
"She's extremely competitive, even though she might not show it when she gets into the starting gates. She knew she wasn't in the lead at the end of the first run, skied a nice, solid second run and ended up with the gold medal."
Ruttger's other victory was Dec. 18 at Andes Tower Hills near Alexandria.
"She goes into every race with a goal," Jim Ruttger said. "Sometimes she doesn't tell you until it's over if she reached it or not. At Welch she finished seventh last year. She wanted to move up from that position and she did. She's always got a plan.
"It's neat to see a skier who's not just out there with a goal of making it down the hill without falling but to excel and push her limits a little."
The Warriors' coach said he has appreciated the leadership his daughter brings to the girls' team as a junior captain.
"I've appreciated the example she sets for working hard, staying until every kid finishes the race," Jim Ruttger said. "If she's cold, or her feet are freezing, she's still out there encouraging them, having a good time.
"When a race is over everyone heads to the chalet to bag up their skis and climb on the bus. Taryn gets three or four other girls and they ski until the very end. You don't see hardly any other teams doing that."
Other notable efforts:
Ethan Rudbeck, floor hockey, had six goals against Wayzata/Minnetonka and three goals and three assists against Mounds View.
Jared Anderson, swimming, won two events and was on a first-place relay against Auk Rapids.
Andrew Goll, swimming, won two events and was on a first-place relay against Sauk Rapids.
Bronson Shepherd hockey, had a hat trick against Tech.
Zach Skogen, Alpine skiing, won the boys' race at Ski Gull.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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