Wolves break from the pack

by Tom Coombe

Ely’s high school girls cross country team picked up right where it left off a year ago.<BR><BR>Even without a full roster, the Timberwolves were the class of the field at Thursday’s season-opening meet at Babbitt.<BR><BR>Paced by top-four finishes from sophomore Casey Sovil and senior Jenna Klein, Ely finished first among five teams at the Gene Ritsche Invitational.<BR><BR>First is a familiar spot for the Wolves, who won several meets in 2003 - including the program’s first Section 7A championship.<BR><BR>The graduation of some of their top runners and the absence of two more didn’t deter the Wolves last week.<BR><BR>Ely had more than enough depth to top section rivals International Falls, Hermantown, Mesabi East and Proctor.<BR><BR>“It was a surprise to all of us,” said Ely Head Coach Jayne Dusich. “I think we did a very good job. I was surprised we won just because we didn’t have everyone there that normally runs.”<BR><BR>Sophomore Carolyn Freeman, one of Ely’s top runners last fall, was sidelined with achilles tendonitis while teammate Mary Anderson also missed the meet.<BR><BR>Nonetheless, the Wolves were solid all around.<BR><BR>Sovil, an individual state meet qualifier in 2003, placed third overall and completed the 4,000-meter course in 16 minutes, 29 seconds.<BR><BR>Klein was fourth in 16:31.<BR><BR>The Ely runners battled 85-degree heat and humid conditions, and persevered thanks to a steady pace.<BR><BR>“We haven‘t run in heat like this all summer,” said Dusich. “That was a big factor in this meet. Jenna and Casey, I told them not to go out too fast right away. They played smart and stayed behind in the second pack, but after the first lap they were second and third.”<BR><BR>Hermantown’s Melissa Engmeier was first, blazing past the field to win in 15:22. Samatha Smith of Cromwell passed the Ely duo in the final 800 yards to take second in 16:22.<BR><BR>Senior Taryn Cunningham also had a top-10 finish, taking ninth in 17:52. Sophomore Jen Zupancich was 11th (18:16), while Sarah Markwardt (38th, 20:50) and Mary Bruels (44th, 21:53) completed the varsity lineup.<BR><BR>“That was the best Taryn has run at this Babbitt meet,” said Dusich. “Jen Zup took it easy and didn’t push it too hard.”<BR><BR>Ely had 45 points, followed by International Falls (53), Hermantown (65), Mesabi East (69) and Proctor (101).<BR><BR>The Wolves are off until Sept. 16, when they take part in a meet at Virginia.<BR><BR>• In the junior varsity race, Ely’s Kit Anderson and Abby Zupancich finished third and fourth, respectively, at 21:17.<BR><BR>• The Ely junior high team placed second, with Sarah Anderson leading the squad with a third-place run of 7:14. The seventh and eighth-graders ran 1,666 meters.<BR><BR>Also running for Ely were Glenn Hartman-Mattson (eighth, 7:35), Mariah Barker (18th, 8:34), Maggie Jesme (20th, 9:00) and Kahsha Hyde (23rd, 10:05).<BR><BR>“It was their first race ever and their goal was to finish,” said Dusich. “They did a good job.“<BR><BR>