Shining on the home course

Johnston fuels boys ski team victory at Hidden Valley meet

by Tom Coombe
The Ely Nordic Wolves were in familiar territory and made the most of it.
Sophomore all-stater Jasper Johnston dominated the boys race and Ely swept to the boys title during the ski teams’ home-opening meet, held Dec. 13 at Hidden Valley.
Johnston was one of four Wolves in the top-10 of the boys standings while Ely’s Zoe Devine and Kalyssa Eilrich both bagged top-10 finishes among the girls.
Ely was first among five boys teams and the girls took third at an event that brought about 200 skiers to town.
While the Wolves are perennial contenders in Section 7, Ely Head Coach Paula Anderson cautioned against putting too much stock in the results of the early-season encounter, given the absence of many of the top skiers from opposing section contenders.
Nonetheless, Anderson said it was a strong meet for her team and “the skiers were given a great opportunity to get back into race mode. Results are less important at this point of the season as we focus much more on racing prep and process”
Johnston, who emerged as one of the state’s top skiers a year ago, picked up where he left off and cruised to victory in the 5.3-kilometer freestyle race. He was first in 14:39.7, a better than 30-second spread over runner-up Sam Stertz of Grand Rapids.
Ely junior James Schwinghamer was fourth (15;21.6), while classmate Raif Olson was sixth (15:24.3) and exchange student Kjetil Midtun took ninth (15:58.7). Junior Nate Nettifee was 13th in the field of 28 with a time of 16:21.1.
Freshman Gabriel Pointer won the boys JV race, but his time of 16;00.8 would have been good enough for an 11th-place varsity showing had he skied in that race.
Jon Hakala, also a freshman,was the boys JV runner-up (17:06.7) while teammates Micah Larson and Adam Williamson were sixth and 15th, respectively.
Eighth-grader Zoe Devine had what Anderson termed “a break out race” in the varsity girls event, placing fifth among 30 skiers in 18:23.7.
A junior, Eilrich took eighth in 18:51.8 and contributed points toward Ely’s third-place finish, as the hosts placed behind Grand Rapids and Duluth East.
Sophomore Julia Schwinghamer took 12th (19:21.6) and was followed in the varsity lineup by junior Brooke Pasmick (15th, 19:37.4), junior Ana Bercher (20th, 20:42.4) and senior Lucy Stouffer (26th, 22:34.7).
Gracie Pointer was third in the JV girls race, as the freshman crossed the finish line in 20:11, 34 seconds ahead of teammate Phoebe Helms, who was sixth.
Other Ely JV girls finishers were Cora Olson (eighth), Kelly Thompson (ninth), Abigail Thompson (14th) and Annikka Mattson (25th).
The Wolves were scheduled to go to Mount Itasca Thursday, after deadline, for their last meet before a holiday break. They return to action Jan. 2 at Proctor.
• Ely’s junior high skiers were well represented in the home meet, with the hosts entering a whopping 18 skiers among 43 competitors in the girls meet.
The top finishers were Sydney Durkin and Ava Skustad, who were third (12:28.3) and fourth (12:39.5) in the girls event. Others high in the standings included Cedar Ohlhauser (seventh), Courtney Eilrich (ninth) and Natasha Fulkrod (10th).
Liam Lacey finished in 12:14.7 to take sixth in the junior high boys event. Teammates Silas Solum, Leo Stalmer and Sam Favet were 14th through 16th and Dylan Durkin wound up 18th.