Ely wins Two Harbors meet, battles state’s best at Giants Ridge

TOP-TEN FINISHER - Emma Terwilliger (136) of Ely put herself in elite company by placing sixth in the girls classic race at the Mesabi East Invitational, the state’s largest regular season meet.

by Tom Coombe -

No matter the format, Ely’s Nordic Wolves seem to be just fine.
The high school ski teams more than held their own at the state’s largest regular season meet - last weekend’s Mesabi East Invitational - with some skiers taking part in the classic race and others in freestyle.
Classic was the order of the day at Tuesday’s Two Harbors event, with senior standout Erin Bianco topping the field in the girls’ event, Gavin Blauch pacing the Ely boys, and the girls scoring a resounding team victory against their fiercest section rivals.
To top it off, the Wolves head to Duluth this Saturday to test their skills in another area of competition - sprint racing - for the annual Marshall Sprints.
The action comes as the Wolves fight through the heart of their brief season and the finish line already in sight.
In less than two weeks, the Wolves host the Feb. 2 regular season finale at Hidden Valley and the section meet is one week later at Giants Ridge.
Bianco dominates
Nobody could stay with Bianco on the 5.5-kilometer course at the Two Harbors event.
The all-stater was the only skier to finish in under 22 minutes, cruising to victory in 21:39.5 and leaving runner-up Emma Stertz of Grand Rapids about 26 seconds behind.
Bianco’s win paired with the Wolves’ impressive depth made for the Ely team victory.
Junior Emma Terwilliger was third (22:44.4), with juniors Ryne Prigge (fifth, 23:10.3) and Laura Pasmick (sixth, 23:13.1) right behind.
Senior Caroline Homer was 10th (23:43.6) and freshman Kalyssa Eilrich (12th, 24:20.6) followed as the Wolves topped Grand Rapids, Duluth East, Mesabi East/Virginia and several other area schools.
Other Ely finishers were Brooke Pasmick (16th, 25:06.2) and Taryn Osthoff (31st, 27:05.4).
Blauch breaks through
Only in his first season of varsity racing, Gavin Blauch is already making his mark.
The freshman was Ely’s top finisher Tuesday and only skier in the top-10. He took seventh in 20:47.3, about two minutes behind speedster Alex Kelling of Grand Rapids.
Senior Simon Stouffer took 12th in a field of about 50 skiers, gliding past the finish line at the 21:01.5 mark.
James Schwinghamer (15th, 21:22.6) and Raif Olson (21:22.6), both freshmen, also cracked the top-20, while junior Elijah Olson wound up 32nd (23:28.7).
Ely wound up third in the team standings, 12 points behind runner-up Duluth East, 21 behind champion Grand Rapids, but ahead of six section rivals.
Eilrich first in JV
If team scores were kept in junior varsity races, Ely would have had a convincing win.
Junior Chase Eilrich picked up an individual win, taking first among 31 racers with a time of 23:13.
Several of his teammates were near the top, with Nate Netifee (23:38.4) and Jasper Johnston (23:40.5) giving the Wolves a three-four finish and Aidan Bremner placing sixth (24:59.8). Henry Dirks took eighth (25:09.3).
Among the JV girls, the Wolves had three skiers in the top-10.
In fourth was Ana Bercher (27:14.1), followed by Cate DeRemee (fifth, 27:19.1) and Anna Nelson (ninth, 28:40.8).
Lucy Stouffer (20th, 30:26.7) and Maarja Faltesek (31st, 32:08.7) rounded out the Ely lineup.
Ely’s top junior high finisher was seventh-grader Gabriel Pointer, who was the runner-up in the junior high boys race, skiing four kilometers in 15:48.7. Jon Hakala was fifth (16:34.9).
Julia Schwinhamer (fourth, 17:35.2) and Tesla Humphreys (ninth, 18:28.9) were the highest Ely finishers in junior high girls action.
Giants Ridge
The state’s top skiers converged at Giants Ridge near Biwabik for the Jan. 14 Mesabi East Invitational, and the Ely girls served notice they’ll be a factor in the section and state meets.
About 80 teams were there, and the Ely girls placed fifth with Bianco’s fourth-place showing in the freestyle setting the pace.
Stillwater’s Libby Tuttle led an elite field and won in 17:20.6, but Bianco cracked the 18-minute mark and was fourth in 17:52.1.
Prigge, who has state meet experience under her belt, also excelled on the big stage and was 11th in 18:34. Laura Pasmick was 33rd (20:12.3).
In the classic division, Terwilliger was sixth in 17:53.3, with Evelyn Bercher (38th, 20:23.4) and Caroline Homer (40th, 20:32.6) also contributing to the team score.
Stouffer led the way for the Ely boys, taking 16th in a loaded freestyle race and crossing the finish line in 15:38.4.
Ely’s Ethan Hasz placed 25th (16:27.5) and Chase Eilrich took 66th (18:40.1).
In the classic race, Gustafson was 29th (16:41.60, Olson finished 54th (17:28) and Ethan Bremner took 93rd (19:46.6).