Ely girls, Bianco win state Nordic ski meet titles

BIG SMILE from Erin Bianco as she heads for the finish line and the win at the State Ski Meet. Photo by Bob Dalberg

by Nick Wognum -

Ely senior Erin Bianco saved the best for last, winning the state Nordic ski meet going away, posting a six second margin of victory.
Bianco becomes the first state individual champion in program history. She won the Section 7 championship for the first time last week.
Her win at Giants Ridge on Thursday, coupled with strong performances from her teammates, propelled the Ely girls team to its first state championship as well.
Ely racked up 413 points to take the top spot. Robbinsdale Armstrong was runner up with 394 and Minneapolis Southwest won a tiebreaker with Stillwater and Duluth East for third place.
Bianco finished her sixth straight trip to state with a combined time of 32 minutes and 20 seconds at Giants Ridge Thursday.
Finishing second with a time of 32:26.7 was Anja Maijala of Cloquet-Esko-Carlton.
Ely junior Emma Terwilliger finished 11th in 33:43.1, junior Ryne Prigge was 18th in 34:33, junior Laura Pasmick was 29th in 35:17.3, senior Caroline Homer was 68th in 36:54.4, freshman Brooke Pasmick was 79th in 37:21, and junior Evelyn Bercher was 89th in 37:40.2.
The top four individual results are used to determine the team standings.
Bianco was in second place after the freestyle portion of the race, trailing Maijala by four seconds, 15:29 to 15:33.
But in the freestyle portion, Bianco put on a show, clocking in at 16:47, the fastest of any girls skier by three seconds.
“I had no clue this could happen I had an amazing first race and that really helped. Everything was like perfect, my skis were fast, the snow was fast and I just felt super good, I had a good warm up and everything. I just tried to think of it as my last race so that really motivated me,” said Bianco
And by last, she means ever. Bianco said she doesn’t plan to ski competitively in college at St. Olaf.
In the freestyle on Thursday afternoon, Bianco said it was stressful since the racers were so close together.
“That was kind of stressful but I just wanted to catch Anja right away and then me and her just kind of went up the course together. She really helped me push as hard as I could.
When the finish line finally came in sight, Bianco said reality started to sink in.
“I couldn’t really believe it actually. I could hear everyone cheering but I didn’t know how far second place was, I was just going as fast as I could.
“Then it didn’t really seem real until I saw my dad there cheering and he started crying and I started crying.”
Winning as a team was another unexpected surprise.
“When I found out we had won, that was amazing. We all just started crying. Definitely the win as a team was something we never expected. That was the highlight of my whole year. That’s something I never dreamed could happen.
“We came into it as underdogs for sure. I think we didn’t let anything get to us though. We were ranked second some of the times this year but we didn’t really believe it. We actually joked about how we would be ranked first and we said, no, that’s not going to happen.
“We just went into it with a chill attitude and just positive and whatever happens, happens. We just never expected it.
“I’m done skiing. I’m going to be in track and then I’m going to run in college. I really enjoy running. Nothing goes into it like skiing. In skiing you have the deal with all the wax, all the cold weather, all that stuff. I’m just ready to move on to something simpler.”
Bianco had finished 17th, 19th and 24th in previous trips to state.
While this is the best finish for a girls team in school history, the 2010 boys team also won the state meet. That same year the girls team took third.
Ely senior Simon Stouffer closed out his prep career with another state appearance, taking 77th overall.
There is only one class in Nordic skiing.