Ely out to defend cross country title

by Tom Coombe

Despite some losses to graduation, Ely’s high school girls cross country team heads into the 2004 season with good reason for optimism.<BR><BR>The Timberwolves made history last fall, winning the Section 7A championship for the first time and advancing to the state meet.<BR><BR>And with four of their seven varsity runners back and the biggest turnout of athletes in the 10-year history of the program, Ely may be poised for another run at the title.<BR><BR>The first test comes Thursday, when Ely takes part in the annual season-opening meet at Babbitt.<BR><BR>Head Coach Jayne Dusich, who has run the program since its inception and was named 7A Coach of the Year in 2003, has several seasoned and talented runners to work with.<BR><BR>Among them is sophomore Casey Sovil, who qualified for state competition as an individual last year, placing 10th in the section.<BR><BR>Senior Jenna Klein (12th in the section in 2003) and sophomore Carolyn Freeman (19th) give the Wolves two more top-20 section competitors, and senior Taryn Cunningham rounds out an imposing nucleus.<BR><BR>“Jenna and Casey and Carolyn and Taryn, I know they’re going to be fine,” said Dusich. “Right now we need three other people to move up, and it could be any of the other girls.”<BR><BR>Ely has 16 other runners in the mix.<BR><BR>Junior Mary Anderson was a varsity runner for much of 2003 but missed the section meet due to injury. She’s joined on the squad by classmates Sarah Markwardt, Naomi Weckman and Mary Bruels.<BR><BR>Sophomores include Sovil, Freeman, Jennifer Zupancich and Amelia Donars, while Zoe Lampman is the only ninth-grader on the team and is making a push for varsity time.<BR><BR>Ely should have plenty of depth at the junior varsity and junior high levels, thanks to eighth-graders Abby Zupancich, Kit Anderson and Alex Stene, and a six-member seventh-grade contingent that includes Sarah Anderson, Maggie Jesme, Kahsha Hyde, Thea Gessler, Moriah Barker and Glenn Hartman-Mattson.<BR><BR>Many of the Wolves are also involved in Ely’s cross country ski program, which also won a section title last year, and begin the season after a summer’s worth of training.<BR><BR>Dusich has also led the Wolves through grueling workouts since practice opened Aug. 16.<BR><BR>“Everybody is still not here,” said Dusich. “We’ve had some kids sick, some injured and some on vacation, so we don’t know what our true team is yet. We’ll know more after the first meet.”<BR><BR>Thursday’s meet at Babbitt kicks off a schedule that includes a series of events around northeastern Minnesota, leading up to the section competition in late-October.<BR><BR>