Devine sixth at state

Ely junior moves up for best finish yet; girls place ninth as a team

by Tom Coombe
Ely’s Zoe Devine saved her best for last.
Everything seemed to come together for the junior when it mattered most - the freestyle pursuit event at last week’s state high school Nordic ski meet.
Devine climbed two spots in an elite field and claimed elite status herself- sixth place overall in a field of 111 girls and all-state recognition.
With a combined time of 34:52.2, Devine had her best finish yet at a state meet and helped lift the Ely girls - who qualified as a team - to a ninth-place finish among 16 squads.
Devine was in eighth place after the Feb. 16 five-kilometer classic race and put together an even better showing the next day at Giants Ridge, site of the single-class state meet.
“Zoe had the race of her life Thursday,” said Ely Head Coach Paula Anderson. “She moved up two places, but didn’t pass the two girls ahead of her until the very last uphill. No one passes on that uphill, it’s usually soft and it’s a long grinder - plus it’s the final hill after a lot of climbing. Other coaches were telling me all about it afterwards, it was truly impressive. She told me she knew she had to get by them on the hill, otherwise she’d run out of time as the rest of the course was flat or downhill to the finish. That was some smart racing.”
Devine’s previous best finish was a 12th-place spot in the 2020 state meet, and she gained all-state acclaim for the second time in her career.
Another Ely junior, Phoebe Helms, placed 53rd overall with a combined time of 38:35.8, and Ely’s relay combination of Syndey Durkin and Gracie Pointer combined to take 11th among 24 relay teams - with the relay race the newest component of postseason competition.
Sophomore Ava Skustad of Ely made her state debut and placed 67th (39:52), while teammates Claire Blauch (42:15.1) and Anna Dunn (43:11.4) were 91st and 93rd, respectively.
The girls individual title went to Sydney Drevlow of Hopkins (33:40.2), who passed Edina’s Maggie Wagner in the freestyle and made up a 23-second deficit.
Ely also had two boys at state, and an injury slowed senior Gabriel Pointer, who slipped from 33rd place after the classical and settled for 56th overall in 32:35.4.
“Unfortunately, Gabriel had a freak accident while cooling down after his classic race on Wednesday,” said Anderson. “He fell trying to get out of the way of a downhill skier, and injured his shoulder. He was in a lot of pain during his skate race Thursday and lost a lot of time.”
Ely senior Jon Hakala also closed out a brilliant prep skiing career at the state meet, placing 60th in 32:38. He was in 46th place after the opening half of the race.
“Jon’s skate race was fine, but he didn’t feel great during it,” said Anderson. “It’s very intense and you’re skiing with lots of really fast skiers, which can be a shocker the first time.”
Cooper Camp of Minneapolis Southwest ran away with the boys title, winning both the classic and freestyle races and taking first in 28:25.7, topping his nearest foe by 24 seconds.
Duluth East’s Ian Morse was the only northeastern Minnesota skier in the top-10, at 10th overall.