The Brainerd Warriors Alpine ski team has battled many adversities this season. A lack of snow and, at times, the unseasonably warm weather, had wreaked havoc throughout much of the Warriors' season.
One skier that has persevered is senior Mark Femling.
On Tuesday, at Giants Ridge in Biwabik at the Section 7 meet, that perseverance paid off as Femling placed sixth with a time of 1:11.66 and qualified for next week's state meet.
"Mark has probably been one of our most successful skiers in our program this year," Warriors coach Jim Ruttger said. "He's reached the podium three times this season. We had a lot of expectations coming into this meet. You throw him in with the best skiers in the top half of the state and he places in top 10, that's just an amazing meet."
What's also amazing, according to Ruttger, is that Femling was going up against skiers who train and ski year round in USSA racing.
"Mark was the only one of the top 10 not doing USSA racing," said Ruttger. "Those are some of the top skiers around. But we had those expectations of him and he put two impressive runs together. He had a great day."
Femling thought the course was in prime condition for racing but that it boiled down to how mentally prepared each racer was.
"The course was in real good condition," said Femling. "The snow was good quality but it was more about the mental aspect of racing. I had a good mental mindset.
"I wanted to put down a good first run and I knew if I could stand, my second run I felt I could place in the top 10."
The rest of the boys' team had a rough day as the other four skiers were unable to stand up on both runs. The Warriors finished ninth with 197 points. Duluth East took home the title with 307 points.
The Warrior girls' team finished third with 237 points and missed qualifying for the state meet by a mere nine points as Chisago Lakes finished second with 246. Duluth East won the girls' team competition with a score of 274.
"Coming in third was great but it was also a huge disappointment because they wanted more," Ruttger said of the girls' team. "They went into the race knowing they could get second. We knew after the first run that it was neck-and-neck with Chisago.
"We told them afterwards that it was a great day. All six girls stood both runs. We couldn't ask any more of them. They just got taken over by two teams that were better today."
The Warrior girls had three of their five racers place in the top 20. Stacey Verkennes led the way with a 12th-place finish and a time of 1:23.79. Monica Nelson was nipping at her heels as she finished at 1:24.41, good for 13th place, and Jenna Bergin placed 17th with a time of 1:25.94.
Even though Femling is the only Warrior to move on to the state meet, Ruttger believes his squads have earned a degree of respect from other programs throughout the state.
"Our training facility is probably one of the last to open in the state and has by far the least amount of vertical," said Ruttger, "and we don't have many kids training in USSA because of the travel. All of those things make other teams look at us. We're very respected because we put teams in the upper third in spite of all those things that could hinder us."
Boys team scores -- 1-Duluth East 307, 2-Chisago Lakes 299, 3-Virginia 273, 4-Hibbing/Chisholm 259, 5-Forest Lake 244, 6-Mesabi East 234, 7-Buffalo 216, 8-Duluth Marshall 213, 9-Brainerd 197, 10-Grand Rapids 173, 11-Duluth Central 164, 12-Duluth Denfeld 161, 13-Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 150, 14-Anoka 138, 15-Annandale 118, 16-Cook County 110.
Individual winner -- David Priest (Virginia) 1:08.75
Brainerd results -- 6-Mark Femling 1:12.66, 27-Mike Garry 1:21.70, 57-Brandon Asker 1:34.81, 59-Jason Cave 1:36.56, 75-Mike Qualey 1:51.15, 82-Steve Moen 2:13.68.
Girls team scores -- 1-Duluth East 274, 2-Chisago Lakes 246, 3-Brainerd 237, 4-Virginia 218, 5-Forest Lake 172, 6-Grand Rapids 165, 7-Hibbing/Chisholm 154, 8-Duluth Marshall 151, 9-Mesabi East 144, 10-Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 136, 11-Duluth Denfeld 94, 12-Cook County 81, 13-Annandale 70, 14-Buffalo 69, 15-Duluth Central (Inc.), 16-Anoka (Inc..)
Individual winner -- Brittany Nelson (Chisago Lakes) 1:14.82.
Brainerd results --12-Stacey Verkennes 1:23.79, 13-Monica Nelson 1:24.41, 17-Jenna Bergin 1:25.94, 21-Steffani Burton 1:27.19, 26-Adrianne McAlpin 1:29.35, 35-Andrea Koob 1:32.49.
Next meet -- State meet Giants Ridge, Biwabik, Feb. 13.
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