Johnston an All-American; Ely sophomore stands out at Junior National event in Alaska

by Tom Coombe -

Jasper Johnston is right at home when he’s on skis.
His passion for the sport began when he was little more than an infant, putting skis on at the age of two and developing into to one of the best prep Nordic skiiers in the state.
After a recent trip to Alaska, Johnston can add another title - that of All-American - to his growing and very impressive list of accomplishments.
Johnston gained All-American recognition while taking part in the U.S. Junior Nationals at Anchorage.
Over the course of a week, the sophomore at Ely Memorial High School competed and stood out against the best skiers of the nation in his age group - 16-and-under.
Two top-10 fiinshes resulted in the All-American designation, including a third-place finish in a five-kilometer Classic Mass Start and a seventh-place finish earlier in the week in a 5K Individual Freestyle race.
For good measure, he added a 12th-place showing in a Classic Sprint showdown that included three separate 1.4K sprint races.
There were more than 70 skiers in Johnston’s age group and the Ely Timberwolf was part of a 10-member Midwest team who locked horns with skiers from Alaska, Maine, Vermont and elsewhere. He was the only Section 7 skier on the 16U team.
Johnston returned home not only with a taste of national competition but an appreciation for what it had to offer.
“It was probably pretty similar to the speeds and competition of the state meet, but there it definitely felt a little more intense be cause everybody was your age,” said Johnston.
The result of his performance is likely to result in more opportunities to train regionally with the top skiers in his age group, and the trip left Johnston yearning for more.
“I definitely would like to make the national team a couple more times throughout high school,” said Johnston.
Then it may be on to college skiing for Johnston, who has earned all-state acclaim the last two years as part of Ely’s Nordic Wolves.
Johnston was 11th overall at this year’s state meet and figures to be one of the top returning skiers in Minnesota in the 2019-20 season.
Training for that campaign has in essence already begun, with Johnston qualifying for the national event at a meet in the Twin Cities just three days after he skied at state.
Johnston is also part of a dedicated group of Ely skiers who train religiously, and year-round, for Nordic skiing.
“I like the challenge of it,” Johnston said of Nordic skiing. “There’s always something you can improve on, whether it’s technique or fitness. I also do enjoy spending time skiing in the woods.”
Johnston called the recently-completed season “one of the most fun years I’ve had in skiing,” crediting his teammates and Ely Head Coach Paula Anderson and her staff.
While Johnston has made a name for himself on the ski trails, winter sports seem to have been made for him.
Since he’s been a seventh grader, Johnston has also raced sled dogs, taking part in the Junior Beargrease and other events, taking a break this year to fully concentrate on skiing.