Ely ski teams get set for key meets

by Tom Coombe -
Ely’s Nordic Wolves had the chance Wednesday to race under the same format that will be used for the upcoming section and state meets.
The results showed that opponents of the Ely boys have good reason to be nervous.
As they have all year, the Wolves racked up another team victory with sophomore Jasper Johnston once again at the head of the pack.
Johnston won both the freestyle and classic five-kilometer races at the Duluth East Invitational, taking home the combined pursuit victory with nearly a minute to spare.
As a team, the Ely boys were as dominant as Johnston, grabbing three of the top-five individual places and six spots in the top-11.
Those results gave the Wolves an easy win in the team standings, with Ely topping eight other schools.
Among the girls, Ely was fourth in a 10-team field.
Only one regular season meet awaits the Wolves - a meet set for Hidden Valley on Jan. 31 - before the section competition Feb. 7 at Giants Ridge.
Skiers compete in both freestyle and classic races in the postseason, and the Duluth East event was the first this winter that employed that format.
The Wolves weren’t rattled, with Johnson getting out to a big lead in the freestyle and building a 41-second lead.
The all-stater added to it in the classic and finished with a combined time of 26:32.6, some 57 seconds ahead of runner-up Sam Stertz of Grand Rapids.
Johnston’s teammates helped secure the team title by making sure there was a steady stream of Ely red-and-white at the front of the line.
Juniors Raif Olson (28:17.5) and James Schwinghamer (28:25.6) were fourth and fifth respectively, while fellow junior Nate Nettifee may have put together his best outing of the year en route to a seventh-place (28:40.1) showing.
Freshman Gabriel Pointer (10th, 29:04.3) and exchange student Kjetil Midttun (11th, 29:04.5) followed, with freshmen Jon Hakala (29th, 31:21.7) and Micah Larson (31st, 32:39.6) adding to the Ely depth.
The Wolves’ Ethan Bremner placed 41st (33:17.5) and Adam Williamson wound up 62nd 35:59.7).
The Ely girls had four skiers in the top-30, with junior Kalyssa Eilrich the leading finisher at 16th (35:37.4).
Brooke Pasmick, a junior, took 21st (36:07.5) while freshman Cora Olson and sophomore Julia Schwinghamer were 28th (36:45.5) and 29th (36:50.7) respectively.
Phoebe Helms (35th, 37:43.8), Ana Bercher (38th, 38:02.6), Gracie Pointer (45th, 38:38.6), Lucy Stouffer (53rd, 40:12.4) and Abigail Thompson (61st, 41:16.2) followed for Ely. Annikka Mattson was 85th (45:36.1).
The Ely girls placed behind team champion Duluth East as well as Grand Rapids and Duluth Marshall.
In the 5K junior varsity girls race, Ely had three finishers: Sarah Isbell (sixth, 21:40.5), Selina Sun (11th, 22:31.2) and Amelia Pluth (13th, 23:37.7).
The Wolves also sent their junior high teams to Duluth with eighth-grader Cedar Ohlhauser placing third in a 3K race (13:31.3). Others in the top-15 were Courtney Eilrich (fifth, 13:42.5), Ava Skustad (ninth, 14:03.8) and Sydney Durkin (15th, 14:28.7).
Seventh-grader Liam Lacey was 10th in the junior high boys competition (13:42.9) and classmate Leo Stalmer wound up 14th (14:20.6).