HASTINGS - The Brainerd Warriors girls' Alpine ski team is headed back to the state tournament, but this time as section champs.
Brainerd skied past metro favorites Blake and Benilde-St. Margaret's to capture its second section title in head coach Jim Ruttger's 20-year tenure. Ruttger said it's the first time the girls' team has gone to state in back-to-back seasons.
The Warriors defeated Blake by five points to win the Section 5 title Tuesday at Afton Alps. Also advancing to state are Brainerd boys Bror Linnerooth and Ryan Weihemuller.
"This is a team that had a sleep over about two months ago and set a goal of doing better than eighth at state," said Ruttger. "That presumes that they were going to make it to state. It's an amazing section with many outstanding teams."
The last time Brainerd won a section title was 1996. Ruttger said that team was helped by falls from other teams. Tuesday Brainerd controlled its fate.
Gina Engel skied to a third-place finish of 1:01.8 to lead the Brainerd Warriors girls' Alpine ski team to the Section 5 championship Tuesday at Afton Alps.
Gina Engel led the charge with a third-place 1:01.8. Andrea Cibuzar placed sixth with a 1:03.3. Taryn Ruttger's 10th-place time of 1:04.01 was followed by Ariana Cibuzar's 1:05.6 to seal the win.
Engel was third after the first run and stayed in that position, but both Andrea Cibuzar and Taryn Ruttger jumped one spot from their first runs. Jim Ruttger said that was key.
"I think we would have considered last Friday's victory at Welch Villages our biggest win in program history," said Ruttger. "That was a huge confidence builder for our section meet. Now, I think today was our biggest win in program history. It's been a good week."
A change to the state qualifying helped Linnerooth and Weihemuller advance. This year the top two teams advance to state and the 10 individuals not on those teams also advance.
Linnerooth placed 11th overall with a 59.92. He was the seventh individual not on the top two teams. Weihemuller was the final individual qualifier. He placed 15th with a 1:00.7
"Bror skied two terrific runs," Ruttger said. "He is a fun skier to watch. He has great balance and quick feet. On this course they threw some things on the course where you needed quick feet. He skied as well as could be expected.
"Ryan was our fourth seed so he was down the line a ways and he skied a great first run. He was coming off a win at our Ski Gull invite so he was kind of on a roll. He was in an unsettling place after we had a few falls and the team was depending on him. He skied well and earned himself a trip to state."
The boys' team tied for fifth. Jonathan Aga placed 30th with a 1:04.2 and Thomas Ruttger was 56th.
Boys team scores: 1-Hopkins 308, 2-Minneapolis Southwest 299, 3t-Minnetonka 294, 3t-St. Cloud Breakaways 294, 5t-Brainerd 252, 5t-Blake 252, 7-Lakes Area Alpine 231, 8-Wayzata 230, 9-Orono 197, 10-Minneapolis Washburn 159, 11-Breck 155, 12-Mound Westonka 151, 13-Buffalo 104, 14-Armstrong 103, 15-Annandale 75
Individual winner: Marc Massie (Blake) 54.71
Brainerd results: 11-Bror Linnerooth 59.92, 15-Ryan Weihemuller 1:00.7, 30-Jonathan Aga 1:04.2, 56-Thomas Ruttger 1:09.6, 62-Rian Hutchison 1:17.1, 85-Justin Wright 1:34.2
Girls team scores: 1-Brainerd 257, 2-Blake 252, 3-Benilde-St. Margaret's 233, 4-Minnetonka 224, 5-Breck 200, 6-Wayzata 183, 7-St. Cloud Breakaways 170, 8-Minneapolis Southwest 160, 9-Orono 118, 10-Lakes Area 116, 11-Hopkins 108, 12-Mound Westonka 95, 13-Waconia 71, 14-Armstrong 54
Individual winner: Maisie Ide (Blake) 57.46
Brainerd results: 3-Gina Engel 1:01.8, 6-Andrea Cibuzar 1:03.3, 10-Taryn Ruttger 1:04.01, 16-Ariana Cibuzar 1:05.6, 19-Savannah Stone 1:06.5, 23-Katie Hutchison 1:07.0
Next meet: Brainerd in State meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik Feb. 12.
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