Ely Juniors open with win

by Tom Coombe
Solid pitching, impressive defense and just enough work at the plate proved to be a winning combination Wednesday night for Ely’s Junior League baseball team.
As baseball returned to Veterans Memorial Field for the first time in nearly a year, a good-sized home crowd had plenty to cheer about as Ely edged Eveleth-Gilbert 4-1 in Iron Range Baseball action.
The 14-and-under team rode the pitching of Ty Walker and Brecken Sandberg to the win.
Walker pitched four shutout innings, striking out seven and giving up one hit while Sandberg escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fifth with back-to-back strikeouts.
E-G nicked the reliever for a run in the sixth but that was it, as the two Ely pitchers combined on a three-hitter with 11 strikeouts.


Fall sports outlook brightens at VCC

by Tom Coombe
The first obstacle has been cleared on the road to a fall sports season at Vermilion Community College
On June 19, the National Junior College Athletic Association cleared the way for fall sports, including football and volleyball, to move forward in 2020.
But the national approval is just an opening step in the process.
Nicki Kosik, athletic director at VCC, said the seasons must also be approved by the Minnesota Community Athletic Conference - an alliance of more than a dozen junior colleges - as well as the state’s college and universities system.
A green light also figures to be necessary from the Minnesota Department of Health, which allowed youth activities to proceed with games in many sports, including volleyball, effective June 24.
Earlier in the month,VCC notified its students that the school year will begin on time in late-August, with classes being held in-person and students residing in on-campus housing.


Play ball!

by Tom Coombe
Opening day was a little bit later than usual, but slow-pitch softball has returned to Ely.
The local slow-pitch softball league, which has been in existence for several decades, resumed play Monday with six teams.
Defending champion Anderson/Nickerson Construction opened with two decisive victories but wins and losses were just a small part of the story at the three-field complex on Ely’s eastern edge.
“Everyone was just happy to be down there,” said Jerome Debeltz, a member of Ely’s city council and longtime organizer of the softball league.
After a spring full of uncertainty because of the coronavirus, the league remained on the shelf through May but organizers got together in early-June and formulated plans for a 2020 season.
They’ve taken several steps to enhance safety.


There’s no joy in Mudville

by Tom Coombe
Summer nights in Ely will have one very noticeable void this year.
Little League Baseball, which dates back to the 1950s in Ely, will go dark this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Although Ely Little League officials may yet form a travel team to play later in the summer, the traditional four-team in-house league as well as two programs for younger players will be scrapped for 2020.
“The board felt, after discussing the current youth sports guidelines, that any sort of season would be incredibly difficult to implement at the Little League level and the player ages,” said Derek Johnson, president of Ely’s Little League organization. “We also wanted to keep player safety in mind, and this was also a factor in the decision.”
In addition to four “majors” teams for those ages 9-12, the Little League in Ely also has five “coach pitch” teams and sponsors a twice-weekly T-ball program.


Summer ball season arrives

There may yet be some sort of summer baseball season in Ely.
While spring sports were cancelled and the American Legion baseball season was scrapped as well, all because of the coronavirus, Ely is joining numerous communities across the state in planning for a unique summer baseball campaign.
Practices are slated to begin Tuesday for three Ely area youth teams - although just when or even if they will play games remains uncertain.
Under Phase 2 of Minnesota’s “Stay Safe” initiative, youth sports teams may begin organized practice June 1, under guidelines released by the Minnesota Department of Health.
A special school board meeting in Ely is set for the same day to consider the Ely Baseball Association’s request to reopen the ballpark, which is owned by the school district.
It’s the first step toward a more traditional return to summer baseball, a longtime staple in Ely.


Normal never felt, or looked, so good

by Tom Coombe
Echo editor
Back to normal.
In today's new world, those three tiny words carry an oversized meaning.
Shagawa Lake and some invaluable, memorable family time made that clear to me on a sunny May afternoon.
Let's face it: since mid-March or so, nothing has been normal in Ely, in Minnesota, the United States or anywhere in the world for that matter.
For a time, Ely and much of the nation all but shut down, closing schools and businesses, ceasing travel and crippling airports and vacation hot spots.
Instead there were horrific images and mind-numbing statistics about the impact, and potential future impacts, of the coronavirus.


McKenna Coughlin wins ExCEL Award

by Tom Coombe
McKenna Coughlin of Ely is one of 36 high school juniors across Minnesota to receive a unique award from the Minnesota State High School League.
After excelling in numerous activities, Coughlin was named Section 7A’s female winner of the MSHSL ExCEL award.
Standing for Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership – ExCEL is a recognition program designed exclusively for Minnesota high school juniors who are active in school activities, who show leadership qualities, and who work voluntarily in their community.
While Coughlin has received her award, she and other winners missed out on a formal recognition event. It was going to take place in mid-March during the state girls basketball tournament in Minneapolis, but was cancelled the day before because of the coronavirus.
“I was really excited for that,” said Couhglin. “There was also a kid who won it from my old school (Orono) so that would have been fun.”


Legion ball strikes out

by Nick Wognum
American Legion baseball, which has been played in Minnesota for nearly 100 years and has a storied history in Ely, will go dark this summer.
The 2020 season was cancelled Saturday following action by the national and state American Legion organizations related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was a sad day, probably the worst I’ve been a part of in all my years of baseball,” said Tom Coombe, Ely’s longtime Legion coach and a member of the state American Legion Baseball board of directors.
Yet while there won’t be American Legion baseball in Ely or across the nation this season, activity continues around the state to hold a summer youth baseball season, if circumstances allow and perhaps under the umbrella of another youth baseball organization.
The American Legion season, however, is over before it began for more than 350 teams across the state, including two in Ely.


Ely Marathon on as scheduled

by Tom Coombe
At least for now, the Ely Marathon and its associated events are still on as scheduled.
The 26.2-mile race that wraps up at Ely’s Whiteside Park is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26, and organizers are proceeding - and have even announced unique prize packages for the winners - with their plans.
“Although no one knows what course COVID-19 will take in September, we are hopeful about our little race taking place,” said Wendy Lindsay, who has organized the event since its inception several years ago.
Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, which is held each June, has been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic while numerous other sports and community events have also been scrapped or delayed.
In Ely, the Blueberry/Art Festival set for July has been cancelled but the Harvest Moon Festival, slated for Sept. 11-13 is still on.
The marathon follows two weeks later and Lindsay says she will hold out before making a decision to postpone.


No school, no sports for Wolves

by Tom Coombe
There were more than enough hints and the proverbial handwriting had been on the wall for at least a couple of weeks.
Yet that didn’t make things any easier for high school athletes in Ely, or elsewhere in Minnesota.
When Gov. Tim Walz announced last week that students wouldn’t return to school this spring, he also ended any hope that high school spring sports would take place this year.
Within minutes of Walz’s announcement, the Minnesota State High School League made it official, cancelling seasons that had been put on hold since mid-March.
The ramifications in Ely were far reaching.
Senior Luke Olson wouldn’t get the opportunity to defend his State Class A title in the 800 meter run, while classmates Raif Olson, Eric Omerza and Brielle Kallberg lost their opportunity to punch return tickets to state.


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