In the front row

by Tom Coombe Echo editor

In high school sports, reaching a state tournament or state meet is the pinnacle of success.<BR><BR>So to say it’s been a successful 2004-2005 for Ely athletes Jenna Klein, Casey Sovil and Carolyn Freeman would be an understatement.<BR><BR>The Timberwolves ran the table, so to speak, in athletic competition this year, reaching state competition in all three seasons.<BR><BR>All three were part of the Wolves’ Section 7A high school girls cross country team.<BR><BR>They traded their running shoes for skis and poles in the winter, forming a solid nucleus on the Ely Nordic ski team that finished third in the state and captured another section championship.<BR><BR>And even though school has been out for more than a week, the Ely trio remained immersed in high school competition heading into this weekend, when they take part in the state Class A girls track meet.<BR><BR>Klein, Sovil and Freeman formed three-fourths of a 3,200 relay squad that qualified for the state meet by time standard. Ali Schulze, another key cog of the Ely ski team and an outstanding swimmer in her own right during the fall, completed the relay squad.<BR><BR>When a school’s football, basketball or hockey teams qualify for a state tournament, generally they capture the attention and interest of an entire community and generate gobs of publicity.<BR><BR>That usually isn’t the case for individual or small relay sports such as track, or lesser-known activities such as cross country or Nordic skiing.<BR><BR>But that shouldn’t detract from what indeed has been an extraordinary year for these exceptional athletes.<BR><BR>Klein and Sovil were also three-sport state qualifiers a year ago, along with 2004 graduate Julie Anderson<BR><BR>That was believed to be a first for the school’s athletic program, and Klein, Sovil and Freeman have followed up a year later.<BR><BR>Klein graduated - at the top of her class - last Saturday while both Sovil and Freeman have completed their sophomore years.<BR><BR>• It could be a battle between Ely’s Steve Milkovich and New York Mills’ Ted Rud for the state Class A boys championship in the triple jump.<BR><BR>Both are juniors, and Rud won the state title a year ago with Milkovich taking fourth.<BR><BR>Milkovich has made significant strides since missing the regular season with an ankle injury, topping the 43-foot mark at section competition and nearly going farther on jumps that were eventually scratched.<BR><BR>Rud was rated first in the state heading into the meet with a top leap of 44-1. Milkovich is one of five competitors to have topped 43 feet this spring.<BR><BR>• The 15th annual “Altameja” fundraiser for Vermilion Community College athletics was a rousing success.<BR><BR>Last Saturday’s golf and fishing outing attracted nearly 100 participants, including many college alumni and area coaches.<BR><BR>The event is named after retired Vermilion coaches Bob Altavilla and Rudy Semeja, and coordinated by current VCC coach and athletic director Paul McDonald.<BR><BR>• Little known fact: George Mikan, the former Minneapolis Lakers star and one of the pioneers of professional basketball, frequented Bill Zupancich’s fishing camp at Curtain Falls during the 1940s.<BR><BR>The 6-10 Mikan, who passed away earlier this month, was pro basketball’s first big-name center and blazed the trail for today’s greats.<BR><BR>• Elyite Jerome Nemanich coached Sartell to the Section 8AAA baseball finals for a second straight year.<BR><BR>The Sabres, who qualified for the state baseball tournament in 2004, met Alexandria late Thursday for the section crown.<BR><BR>Nemanich, a 1988 Ely graduate, has taught and coached in Sartell since 1993.<BR><BR>• Youth sports are certainly alive and well in Ely, as baseball and softball diamonds should be busy all summer long.<BR><BR>Little League baseball participation with the addition of a fourth major league (age 9-12) team as well as four coach-pitch teams and 28 T-ball participants, for a grand total of more than 115 Ely kids.<BR><BR>And girls softball interest is starting with the formation of a summer league that has drawn 57 girls in grades K-6.<BR><BR>• The Ely Little League will host its annual All-Star Blueberry Weekend Tournament July 29-31.<BR><BR>• A changing of the guard was assured in Section 7A Tuesday, when both Nashwauk-Keewatin and Babbitt-Embarrass-Soudan-Tower were knocked out of the baseball playoffs.<BR><BR>Since Minnesota went to three-class high school baseball in 2000, N-K has been in the 7A finals every year, and the championship has been passed around between Ely (2000), N-K (2001 and 2004) and BEST (2002 and 2003).<BR><BR>Chisholm took on Mt. Iron-Buhl late Thursday for the section championship and a spot in the State Class A tournament, which starts next Thursday at Chaska and Jordan.<BR><BR>• Unbeaten Hermantown, which met Aitkin for the 7AA championship, was a heavy favorite to advance to state for the fifth consecutive year. But their section rivals can take some consolation: the Hawks move up to Class AAA next spring.<BR><BR>• Littlefork-Big Falls advanced to the state softball tournament out of 7A, but the Vikings had a tough battle with Ely during the regular season. <BR><BR>L-BF knocked off a young Ely squad by a relatively narrow 5-1 margin.<BR><BR>• Ely’s Tim Scott has been selected to play in the annual Range-Duluth High School Baseball All-Star Game, set for June 18 at Duluth’s Wade Stadium.<BR><BR>