After first loss, swimmers prep for sections

by Tom Coombe

They’ve already enjoyed a banner regular season.<BR><BR>A big performance in this week’s section meet would be just the topper that the Ely Timberwolves are looking for.<BR><BR>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.<BR><BR>The Wolves go to Hibbing Thursday for the section preliminaries with lofty goals.<BR><BR>“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.<BR><BR>The Wolves have at least two contenders for bids to the state meet.<BR><BR>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.<BR><BR>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.<BR><BR>Schulze finished eighth in the 100 yard breaststroke in last year’s section event, about two seconds shy of a state berth.<BR><BR>Moving up has been a goal all season long.<BR><BR>“Ali came into this year loaded for bear,” said Nancy Smrekar. “She has the right attitude.”<BR><BR>Schulze, Angie Mackie, Meghan Furnstahl and Betsy Guck form an Ely 400 freestyle relay team that has high hopes for sections.<BR><BR>“If we play our cards right we can get a good medal,” said Nancy Smrekar.<BR><BR>The medley relay of Schulze, Kelly Chaudoin, Mackie and Furnstahl could also contend.<BR><BR>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).<BR><BR>“Physically we’re there,” said Nancy Smrekar. “We just have to get those extra five yards and get back to counting those strokes.”<BR><BR>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.<BR><BR>Hibbing 119, Ely 67<BR><BR>The host Bluejackets won all but one event in the Oct. 29 meet.<BR><BR>Smrekar and Kelly Bruels gave the Wolves a one-two finish in diving, but the Bluejackets won every other event.<BR><BR>“It wasn’t our best day,” said Nancy Smrekar.<BR><BR>Schulze was second in both the 200 individual medley (2:32.87) and 100 breaststroke (1:17.03).<BR><BR>Chaudoin (1:12.69) and Guck (1:13.41) gave Ely a two-three finish in the 100 butterfly.<BR><BR>Ely had three second-place relays.<BR><BR>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). <BR><BR>It was Mackie, Schulze, Chaudoin and Furnstahl on a runner-up 200 medley (2:05.91) foursome.<BR><BR>Mackie had a pair of third-place individual finishes, in the 50 freestyle (28.25) and 100 freestyle (1:01.36).<BR><BR>Audrey Kothe placed third in the 500 freestyle (6:24.84).<BR><BR>Ely’s Laura Schulze, Amber Adams, Kothe and Beth Wilmunen took third in the 200 freestyle relay (2:01.26).