Sections loom for NRE swimmers

by Tom Coombe
An unconventional season will end in unconventional fashion for Northeast Range/Ely.
While the Nighthawks compete Saturday in the Section 7A high school girls swimming meet, they’ll face only rivals Eveleth-Gilbert and Mesabi East in person at the pool in Aurora.
At the same time, eight other teams will participate in the section event at pools in Duluth and Hibbing.
Times in each event will be compiled at each site and at the end of the day, individual and team standings will be determined.
The split section event is one of the numerous changes put in place this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has made for a season full of adjustments for high school athletes across the state, including the NRE swimmers.
“It has been such a challenging year, both mentally and physically,” said head coach Cheri DeBeltz. “Especially once the school went to hybrid. It’s taken its toll.”
Nonetheless, NRE has had a season full of improvement, including some dual meet victories and some narrow defeats - despite matching up most days against much larger schools and swim programs.
“We’ve had some good time and some success with dual meets,” said DeBeltz. “I guess our goal for sections is just to see how we’ll do individually. We’ve talked to all of the girls and they’ve set some goals for themselves.”
The 7A format poses a challenge for the Nighthawks, given that they’ll only be swimming against athletes from Eveleth-Gilbert and Mesabi East rather than a traditional section event, where swimmers would take part in multiple heats against swimmers from several other schools.
“Take somebody like Lily Tedrick, her best event is the 200 IM (individual medley) and she’s only going against Eveleth and Mesabi East and somebody else in another pool could be up against the top two or three swimmers,” said DeBeltz. “Lily may not be pushed as hard as she would going against other swimmers.”
The changes have led to a focus on individual times for the Nighthawks, who have been led in most meets by Tedrick, Kelly Thompson and Morgan McClelland.
The Nighthawks have also received a boost this year from senior and first-time swimmer McKenna Coughlin.
An Ely volleyball standout, Coughlin opted to join swimming after the Minnesota State High School League first decided to move volleyball to the spring. The MSHSL later reversed course and reinstated volleyball, but Coughlin has continued to swim and has done double-duty for several weeks.