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After first loss, swimmers prep for sections

They’ve already enjoyed a banner regular season.A big performance in this week’s section meet would be just the topper that the Ely Timberwolves are looking for.The high school girls swimming and diving team has relied on a deep and talented nucleus of seniors throughout the fall, winning 10 of 11 dual meets.The Wolves go to Hibbing Thursday for the section preliminaries with lofty goals.“Right now we’d like to get more than half of our swimmers into the top 16 and I hope at least a quarter will be in the top eight to medal,” said Ely Head Coach Nancy Smrekar.The Wolves have at least two contenders for bids to the state meet.Senior Candice Smrekar, the daughter of the head coach, advanced to state in diving a year ago and figures to be near the top of the heap when the diving finals take place Saturday.Fellow senior Ali Schulze may have had the best overall season of any Ely swimmer - almost always having a hand in four first-place finishes at each dual meet.Schulze finished eighth in the 100 yard breaststroke in last year’s section event, about two seconds shy of a state berth.Moving up has been a goal all season long.“Ali came into this year loaded for bear,” said Nancy Smrekar. “She has the right attitude.”Schulze, Angie Mackie, Meghan Furnstahl and Betsy Guck form an Ely 400 freestyle relay team that has high hopes for sections.“If we play our cards right we can get a good medal,” said Nancy Smrekar.The medley relay of Schulze, Kelly Chaudoin, Mackie and Furnstahl could also contend.The Wolves have prepared for the section meet with some practices at Babbitt, which like Hibbing has a 25-yard pool (the Ely pool is just 20 yards long).“Physically we’re there,” said Nancy Smrekar. “We just have to get those extra five yards and get back to counting those strokes.”But while the Wolves have run up an impressive dual meet record, the competition level steps up a notch at sections as Ely has to contend with swimmers from larger schools such as Grand Rapids and Hibbing, the only team to beat the Wolves this fall.Hibbing 119, Ely 67The host Bluejackets won all but one event in the Oct. 29 meet.Smrekar and Kelly Bruels gave the Wolves a one-two finish in diving, but the Bluejackets won every other event.“It wasn’t our best day,” said Nancy Smrekar.Schulze was second in both the 200 individual medley (2:32.87) and 100 breaststroke (1:17.03).Chaudoin (1:12.69) and Guck (1:13.41) gave Ely a two-three finish in the 100 butterfly.Ely had three second-place relays.Furnstahl, Guck, Schulze and Mackie combined to take second in the 400 freestyle relay (4:10.02), while Chaudoin, Gotchnik, Nicole Charles and Marlayna Whiting were second in the 200 freestyle relay (1:57.11). It was Mackie, Schulze, Chaudoin and Furnstahl on a runner-up 200 medley (2:05.91) foursome.Mackie had a pair of third-place individual finishes, in the 50 freestyle (28.25) and 100 freestyle (1:01.36).Audrey Kothe placed third in the 500 freestyle (6:24.84).Ely’s Laura Schulze, Amber Adams, Kothe and Beth Wilmunen took third in the 200 freestyle relay (2:01.26).

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