Boys set for a grand finale; Luke Olson takes top seed, section title into state track meet

by Tom Coombe -

A section title barely eluded the Ely Timberwolves, but even better things could come this weekend in St. Paul.
Junior Luke Olson won the Section 7A title in the 800 meter run and enters the Class A state meet as the top-seeded runner in the state.
Olson, in his debut season in track, is one of three individual qualifiers and part of two state-bound relays for the Timberwolves, who missed the 7A team title at the May 30 meet in Duluth by just one point.
But not even a one-point defeat could take the luster off a banner day for the Wolves.
“If you would have suggested back in March that this team would be sending two relays and three individuals to St. Paul in June for the state meet, I would have accused you of being more than a bit overoptimistic,” said Ely Head Coach Will Helms. “It really has been a season of surprises, and Thursday’s section meet was the biggest surprise of all.”
Olson, who has shattered previous school records in the 800, blazed to victory in 1:57.76 and was pushed to the limit b y Virginia’s Cameron Stocke. The two were separated by only three-tenths of a second.
“Luke Olson ran the 800 meters much as he has for the entire season--he went out quickly, followed by Cam Stocke from Virginia, and pushed the race from the front for the section title,” said Helms. “He goes into the state meet with the fastest single-A time in Minnesota; Luke has a golden opportunity and has looked very sharp in training recently.”
Another junior named Olson - Raif Olson - punched his own ticket to the state meet by taking second in the 300 hurdles in 43.44 seconds. He climbed from the number-five seed, and was third until the final 60 meters.
“Just when it looked like he’d be in third, the second place hurdler tripped over the berth,” said Helms.
Junior Eric Omerza also moves on in the triple jump, takng second with a persona-best of 41 feet, 10 inches. The state berth comes on the heels of a season that included a string of victories, as Omerza put himself on the map as one of the area’s top triple jumpers.
Two Ely relays also qualfied, with the four-by-400 team providing the most drama.
Luke Olson teamed up with Emmett Faltesek, Nate Nettifee and Raif Olson on the second-place team, with Olson passing two runners in the anchor leg as Ely moved up from fourth to second to secure the state berth.
“We didn’t know if Luke would have enough left to move around the two other anchors,” said Helms. “He launched a late sprint coming off the final turn and caught both boys steps before the tape to secure second place, with a split of 51.4.
Ely’s four-by-800 relay had high expectations going into the event and the combination lived up to them with Luke Olson teaming with Faltesek, James Schwinghamer and Dylan Fenske to take second in 8:28.01, setting a new school record in the process.
“Dylan and James got the baton rolling, both running PR splits and hanging closely on the back of Two Harbors, but it was Emmett Faltesek who did the bulk of the work in the third leg,” said Helms. “Emmett ran a PR split of 2:04, pulled away from Esko, and allowed Luke Olson to preserve his legs for the open 800.”
The Wolves also had some near-misses.
Senior Isaac Gawboy flirted with a state bid but settled for third in the 100 dash, with a time of 11:35
“Isaac’s time of 11.35 in the 100 was a mere .03 from making the automatic time qualifier for the state meet,” said Helms. “Isaac finishes his high school career with the fourth-fastest 100 in the Ely record book.”
Schwinghamer also came up just one spot away from advancing as an individual, taking third in the 3,200 run in 9:55.03.
“From the 800m to the mile, 7A is extremely competitive this year,” said Helms. “In a normal year James would easily have moved on to the state meet. Fortunately, James has the opportunity to combine forces with his teammates in the four-by-800 in St. Paul this weekend.”
Exhange student Kjetil Midttun of Norway will go back home with a section ribbon after taking fifth place in the 110 hurdles in 17.47 seconds.
Ely also scored as follows:
• 200 dash - 8. Gawboy, 23.96;
• Long jump - 8. Omerza, 18-5.
In the shot put, senior Jasiah Wigdahl was 10th while he took 11th in the discus.
Raif Olson took 10th in the 110 hurdles while Gabriel Pointer and Faltesek were 11th and 12th, respectively in the 1,600.
Ely fell just one point shy of Mesabi East in the race for the team title and edged out third-place Esko by a point.
“Overall, the results on Thursday came down to a lot of desire,“ said Helms. “The 2019 team is a special group of athletes--they run with a great deal of heart, they hate to lose, and they will sacrifice everything when running for their teammates in a relay. Looking back on the season, I’m still kind of shocked where we’ve finished up. This is a tremendous group of guys.”