In the front row

by Tom Coombe

Thursday’s Section 7A high school girls cross country meet offers no guarantees, but Ely is in strong position to return to the state meet for a second straight year.<BR><BR>The defending section champion Timberwolves have been even more dominating against section foes than they were a year ago.<BR><BR>Sophomore Casey Sovil, fresh from an individual victory at last week’s Iron Range Conference meet, is one of the area’s best runners, without a doubt.<BR><BR>Jenna Klein, a senior, has kept pace with Sovil at most events this year. After that, the Wolves have depth, and lots of it.<BR><BR>Jen Zupancich and Carolyn Freeman round out a front-four that any 7A team may find hard to match.<BR><BR>But Ely Head Coach Jayne Dusich knows that upsets can happen and she and the Wolves are guarding against a letdown.<BR><BR>The Wolves, currently ranked fourth in the state in Class A, have to finish in the top two in the team standings in order to advance to the state small-school meet at Northfield.<BR><BR>“We should win the way we’re running right now but anything can happen,” said Dusich.<BR><BR>Hermantown and International Falls appear to be Ely’s primary competition this week at Cloquet, site of the 7A competition.<BR><BR>• It’s been a long time, 1998 to be exact, since Ely has hosted a high school football playoff game.<BR><BR>But that hiatus comes to an end Tuesday, when the Wolves take on Duluth Marshall at Ely School Stadium.<BR><BR>Hats off to coach Darren Visser and his squad, which overcame a rough 1-3 start and rebounded well. <BR><BR>The defense has made strides since Greenway ran over the Wolves in the season opener.<BR><BR>On offense, the Wolves have a tremendous weapon in quarterback Tim Scott, a potent passer and an underrated running threat. And now that senior Mike Krunkkala is healthy and in the lineup, the Ely running game has been effective.<BR><BR>The Wolves will have to limit their mistakes and contain a threatening Marshall passing attack, but they could very well move on to a semifinal game with Esko.<BR><BR>• Mt. Iron-Buhl (8-0) won a coin flip with fellow unbeaten Tower-Soudan to earn the top seed for the Section 7, 9-man playoffs, which also start Tuesday.<BR><BR>The Rangers had little trouble winning the section title a year ago and they have nearly everyone back. Wins of 30-plus and 40-plus points were the norm during the regular season and MIB has a clear path to the section finals.<BR><BR>Tower-Soudan has had a less difficult schedule, but the Golden Eagles have disposed of everyone put in front of them, with relative ease.<BR><BR>Should T-S and MIB meet in the section finals, the game would be held Nov. 5 at Mt. Iron.<BR><BR>• Even the most ardent New York Yankees fan should admit that the series between the Bronx Bombers and the Boston Red Sox was great for baseball.<BR><BR>Boston broke the fabled “Curse of the Babe” and beat the Yankees in seven games, coming back from a three games to nothing deficit to do so.<BR><BR>The fourth and fifth games,which were won by Boston in 11 and 14 innings, respectively, were classics.<BR><BR>The same could also be said about Tuesday’s sixth game. And the BoSox took out decades worth of frustration on New York in the finale.<BR><BR>Former Twins David Ortiz and Doug Mientkiewicz both played important roles for Boston, as well.<BR><BR>Interest in the series seemed to be at an all-time high. When scores from the seventh game were announced at Wednesday’s Ely-Silver Bay football game, they were greeted with loud roars.<BR><BR>The drama of the playoffs almost makes this week’s World Series between Boston and St. Louis anticlimactic.<BR><BR>• Efforts are underway to bring the Twins’ Winter Caravan back to Ely in January.<BR><BR>A delegation including manager Ron Gardenhire and third baseman Corey Koskie was here this year, drawing a crowd of about 200 and raising more than $2,000 for local baseball.<BR><BR>• Any fan of Minnesota sports history should love Fox SportsNet North’s new series “The Year That Was.”<BR><BR>Each month, FSN digs into the video archives and features a major year in Minnesota sports history, covering everything from the state’s professional teams to developments in high school sports.<BR><BR>A recent show on 1977 covered Rod Carew’s run at a .400 average, the Vikings’ meeting with Oakland in the Super Bown, the 24-3 Golden Gopher basketball team with Hibbing’s Kevin McHale, the exploits of the Grand Rapids high school hockey team and the emergence of girls basketball star Janet Karvonen.<BR><BR>In November, FSN will feature Minnesota sports happenings from 1981.<BR><BR>• John Kemppainen, a longtime Range sports official and current coach of Virgnia’s Legion baseball team, was interviewed on Twin Cities radio station WCCO following Wednesday’s rally for Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards in Hibbing.<BR><BR>• Completing fall workouts with the baseball team at Hamline University in St. Paul was Ely freshman Aaron Thom.<BR><BR>Thom was an all-conference player for Ely last spring and hit .520 for the Legion team, which finished second in the state. He’s one of three college freshmen eligible to return to the Legion squad next summer.<BR><BR>