Johnston fifth at state

Ely’s standout senior finishes with fourth straight all-state award

by Tom Coombe
Jasper Johnston closed out a stellar prep career with yet another stellar finish.
For the fourth year in a row, the Ely senior earned all-state acclaim in Nordic skiing and had a grand finale at the Mar. 12 state meet at Giants Ridge.
After taking seventh in the opening race, Johnson saved his best for last and was fourth in the four-kilometer freestyle and settled for fifth overall, in a field of 160, in the boys division.
Johnston, who is bound for Michigan Tech, was one of four Wolves to compete in the two-day state event, joining Ely boys teammate Gabriel Pointer as well as individual qualifiers Zoe Devine and Phoebe Helms from the Wolves’ girls team.
Johnston was the only Ely skier to gain all-state recognition, and was within 1.4 seconds of third place overall.
“Jasper had a solid classic race and the top six boys in that race were separated by seconds,” said Ely Head Coach Paula Anderson. “He had a great skate race and ended up in fifth place, out of third by 1.4 seconds. Third through fifth was a tie, basically.”
Roger Anderson of Robinnsdale Armstrong won the state title, racing the combined eight kilometers in 20:11.1.
Johnston finished in 10:51 in the classic and 9:39 in the freestyle for a total time of 20:30, which was .4 seconds in back of fourth-place Jackson Grant (Little Falls) and 1.4 behind Cooper Camp of Minneapolis Southwest.
Wayzata’s Colin Freed was second.
Pointer returned to the state meet and had a strong day, finishing in the top half of the field at 69th, with a total time of 23:11.7.
“Gabriel had two solid races,” said Anderson. “The courses didn’t favor him as much as he would have liked, he is mostly a climber and the course was pretty flat. He did very well though.”
The girls were on the course the day before, and conditions were more of a factor.
“The girls state meet on Thursday was super challenging with the warm temperatures,” said Anderson. “It became a wax race in the classic race, with most of the girls in the field using zeros which are a waxless racing skis for 32 degrees and above. Unfortunately, our girls don’t own zeros so we struggled in the classic race. Both girls had solid skate races though. ”
Devine moved up after a slow start and wound up 35th overall, finishing in the top quarter of the field with a total time of 27:17.5, encompassing 14:37.6 in the classic and 12:38.1 in the freestyle.
Helms was in the top half at 76th overall,with races of 15:50 and 13:02.9 for a total of 28:52.9.
“Zoe was a little frustrated with not feeling as competitive as she would have liked, but she gave it her best anyways,” said Anderson. “Phoebe would have preferred that the race be on the Silver course as her strength is climbing, but she did just fine.
Molly Moening of St. Paul Highland Park repeated as the girls individual winner with a first-place time of 23:53.4.
Mesabi East’s Lydia Skelton was 17th (26:25.7).
The state meet was held about a month later than usual after the start of the 2020-21 season was delayed by several weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.