Nordic Wolves open season

by Tom Coombe
Just days after the area’s first significant snowfall of the season, Ely’s Nordic Wolves were on the trails with the rest of their section foes.
Results took a backseat to getting a chance to be out in the snow, and in a meet that more resembled previous seasons rather than the 2020-21 campaign that included limited participation events because of Covid-19.
Paced by three finishers among the top-25 individuals, the Ely girls were third among nine teams at the Dec. 9 Proctor-Hermantown Invitational.
The Ely boys placed seventh in an eight-team field with senior Gabriel Pointer taking ninth individually.
The event was the first of nine regular-season meets for the Wolves, including two at home, and came only a few days after Mother Nature finally cooperated by leaving several inches of snow on the trails.
It made for an odd, but long-awaited start for the Wolves, according to longtime head coach Paula Anderson.
“It was good to get the first meet done,” said Anderson. “It was a bit rough in that we had only been on snow two days before racing, which has never happened before. But the skiers rose to the occasion and put their best efforts out there and had some fun as well. It was wonderful to be together as a section again and have everyone there, all 400 skiers. Crazy, but wonderful.”
Ely’s top returning skiers largely picked up where they left off and led the Wolves in the opener.
Junior Zoe Devine finished 13th in a field of more than 60 varsity girls, completing the 5.4-kilometer course in 19:53.9, about a minute off the pace set by winner Della Bettendorf of Proctor-Hermantown.
Fellow Ely junior Phoebe Helms took 18th in 20:27.5, and sophomore Ava Skustad was six spots back in 24th (21:14.3).
Senior Gracie Pointer (33rd, 22:02.4) and junior Syndey Durkin (44th, 23:04) followed, and Ely placed behind only Duluth East and Grand Rapids in the team standings. The Wolves edged past Mora by two points to claim third.
Among the boys, Ely’s Gabriel Pointer took ninth in 17:18.3, as he and the rest of a field of more than 40 chased Duluth East junior Oliver Miatke (first, 15:55.2).
Another Ely senior, Jon Hakala, took 17th in 18:06.7, and senior Micah Larson (34th, 22:26) rounded out the Ely lineup.
In junior varsity action, Ely had five finishers in the top-15, with eighth-grader Otto Devine taking third (12:44.7) in a 3.6-kilometer event. Freshmen Dylan Durkin (12:54.7) and Eli Olson (13:01.2) were eighth and ninth, respectively, and freshman Silas Solum wound up 14th (13:33.6).
Ninth-grader Rena Johnston placed ninth (15:40.3) in the JV girls race, with ninth-grader Anna Dunn (15:55) in 12th, followed by ninth-grader Raymus Cavalier (16th, 16:09.1) and junior Cedar Ohlhauser (18th, 16:14.1).
Ely was well-represented in the junior high races, which were 1.8K in length.
Seventh-grader Aksel Skustad was fifth in 6:43, with classmates Oliver Hohenstein ninth (6:58.8), Caleb Larson 11th (7:06.8) and George Sponholz 23rd (8:10).
The top-four Ely girls finishers in the junior high competition were seventh-grader June Nelson (14th, 8:04.6), eight-grader Aila Harding (25th, 8:53.3), seventh-grader Molly Brophy (34th, 9:31.5) and eighth-grader Alison Poppler (43rd, 10:21.8) following.
The Wolves are set to compete today at Grand Rapids before taking a holiday break. A home meet is slated for Jan. 4 at Hidden Valley.