Seniors dominate swim roster

by Tom Coombe

The anticipation is over.<BR><BR>The season they’ve waited for is finally here.<BR><BR>With eight returning seniors, including 2003 state diving meet participant Candice Smrekar, the stakes are a bit higher this year for Ely’s high school girls swimming and diving team.<BR><BR>The Timberwolves begin the year with high hopes after a solid 2003 campaign.<BR><BR>Smrekar is gunning for a second straight state bid, the Wolves return a section finalist in senior Ali Schulze and several other swimmers are looking to climb this fall.<BR><BR>The 2004 Wolves may be a more focused and confident group, according to head coach Nancy Smrekar.<BR><BR>“This is the do-or-die year,” Smrekar said. “The kids have been working very hard and a lot have been training over the summer, doing different things. Just coming into the pool on the (Aug.) 16th, there was a change. They looked more confident. We already have the talent in the middle. Now we have to do it at the ends, with the starts and the turns and focusing mentally.”<BR><BR>Candice Smrekar, Nancy’s daughter, comes into her senior year after a fourth-place section finish and a 19th-place showing at the state diving meet. She’ll be a leading contender again for a return engagement at state.<BR><BR>And a deep senior class should help the Wolves fare well both in dual meets and in the section.<BR><BR>Schulze placed seventh in the section in the 100 yard breaststroke last fall, just three seconds off from a state berth.<BR><BR>Classmate Kelly Chaudoin was 10th in the 100 butterfly and another returning Ely senior - Angie Mackie - had a big regular season as well as being part of two medal-winning Ely relay teams.<BR><BR>Sprinter Meghan Furnstahl, distance swimmer Marlayna Whiting and backstroker Beth Wilmunen are also part of an impressive senior contingent. So is Michelle Houle, who could be slotted in any of several events.<BR><BR>“This group had a fantastic region meet and we have almost everybody back,” said Smrekar. “They all got a taste of it last year.”<BR><BR>Juniors on the Ely varsity include distance swimmers Amber Adams and Nicole Charles, breaststroke Maren Gotchnik, and butterfly and medley swimmer Betsy Guck.<BR><BR>Ely has six sophomores: Katie Berg, Alex Hoffmeister, Shonna Kowarsch, Audrey Kothe, Laura Schulze and Emily Weisinger.<BR><BR>Sarah Berg and Kelly Bruels are the only ninth graders on the team. In addition to swimming, Bruels will join Candice Smrekar on the diving board.<BR><BR>Nancy Smrekar is assisted by Don Franks, while Martha Scott returns as a volunteer diving coach.<BR><BR>Ely has a full schedule, but few home events. The Wolves are home just five times, starting with a Sept. 9 duel against Chisholm<BR><BR>“We’ve got some tough meets, and we’d like to be prepared for Hibbing, because that’s where the section meet will be,” said Smrekar.<BR><BR>2004 Ely Timberwolves<BR><BR>Girls Swimming Schedule<BR><BR>Sept. 9: Chisholm<BR><BR>Sept. 14: at BEST, Babbitt<BR><BR>Sept. 16: at Hibbing<BR><BR>Sept. 18: at Shiverland Invite, Int. Falls, 9 a.m.<BR><BR>Sept. 23: at Eveleth-Gilb.<BR><BR>Sept. 25: at Hibbing Invite, 9 a.m.<BR><BR>Sept. 28: Int. Falls<BR><BR>Sept. 30: at Chisholm<BR><BR>Oct. 2: at Taconite Invite, Aurora, 9 a.m.<BR><BR>Oct. 5: at Babbitt Quad<BR><BR>Oct. 7: at Grand Rapids<BR><BR>Oct. 12: Mesabi East<BR><BR>Oct. 14: at Int. Falls<BR><BR>Oct. 19: at Chisholm<BR><BR>Oct. 26: Two Harbors<BR><BR>Oct. 28: BEST<BR><BR>Nov. 11: at Section Prelims, Hibbing<BR><BR>Nov. 13: at Section Finals, Hibbing<BR><BR>• Meets begin at 5 p.m., unless noted otherwise<BR><BR>