Skiers prep for sections

by Tom Coombe
Tuesday at Hidden Valley may have been a sneak preview of things to come.
Ely’s Nordic Wolves hosted their section rivals in what served as a dress rehearsal of sorts for the Feb. 9 Section 7 competition at Giants Ridge.
Combining the traditional pursuit format with a brand-new relay division, the skiers braved the wind and cold and Ely once again served notice that it will be a section contender in both the boys and girls ranks.
The Ely girls took second among nine teams, while the boys were in third, just a point behind runner-up Proctor-Hermantown.
Top individual finishers at the home event were senior Gabriel Pointer, who placed second in the boys division, and junior Zoe Devine, the fifth-place girls finisher.
Both have previous state meet experience, but several other Wolves will also be gunning for state berths when the section contenders gather at Giants Ridge.
The teams that were at Ely will be joined by Mora in what figures to be a very competitive day.
“In the pursuit our section is super competitive individually right now, with Duluth East back at the top of their game,” said Ely Head Coach Paula Anderson. “For us teamwise, the race will be for second place.”
While the traditional pursuit, combining times in classic and freestyle five-kilometer races, remains the key component of postseason competition, the new relay races provide a new wrinkle and make up 40 percent of the team store.
It was part of the event at Hidden Valley with Ely teams taking third in each gender. Gracie Pointer and Sydney Durkin formed the girls team while Silas Solum and Otto Devine made up the boys unit.
“It was crazy but illuminating,” said Anderson. “The sprinting was very popular and super exciting to watch. Spectators loved it and my skiers, who were very unsure going in, gained a lot of confidence and skill and loved it. It makes skiing something to watch, which hasn’t always been the case.”
The Ely girls took second overall on Tuesday also on the strength of five placers among the top-31.
Devine was fifth, combining for a time of 35:44.9, while fellow junior Phoebe Helms placed 14th in 39:27.6.
Sophomore Ava Skustad (20th, 41:44.9) followed, with sophomore Claire Blauch (29th, 43:44.8), freshman Anna Dunn (31st, 44:51.5), freshman Rena Johnston (40th, 46;29.1), freshman Anna Larson (48th, 48:29.4) and junior Juliet Stouffer (49th, 49:48.9) next.
Everyone was chasing Duluth East’s Oliver Miatke in the varsity boys races, but Ely’s Gabriel Pointer came closest. He took second in 32:47.4, about a minute out of first.
Senior Jon Hakala picked up a top-10 finish and was ninth in 34:32.3 with classmate Micah Larson not far behind in 11th (35:05.6).
Also impressing was freshman Dylan Durkin, who was 21st (37:59.2).
Next up for the boys were:
23. Liam Lacey, 38:30.0;
25. Eli Olson, 38:52.3;
32. Nathan Hoffmeister, 41:57.4;
34. Tory Hughley, 42:20.3;
• In junior varsity action, Ely’s Raymus Cavalier finished second in the girls, 4.8K race in 18:18.3.
The top Ely JV boys finisher was Milo McClelland (seventh, 18:11.7).
• Ely recorded a one-two-three sweep in the boys junior high event.
Seventh-grader Oliver Hohenstein placed first in 11:18 on a 4K course, with classmate Aksel Skustad a second behind. Seventh-grader Caleb Larson took third.
Among junior high girls, Addison Forsman finished second in 13:33, while teammates Aila Harding (fifth), June Nelson (sixth) and Elsa Ellerbroek (seventh) were next.