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.


Vermilion adds third Ely player

When the Vermilion Ironmen return to the baseball diamond in 2021, there will be some familiar faces on the team.
Nils DeRemee became the latest local player to commit to Vermilion, following fellow Ely High School senior Dalton Schreffler, who committed earlier in the month.
The two current Ely Timberwolves will join 2019 Ely graduate Tyler Housey, as well as senior Danny Crockett of North Woods, on the Vermilion roster next season.
All four local players are teammates on Ely’s American Legion baseball team.
“We’re thrilled to have so many local guys on our roster,” said Tom Coombe, head baseball coach at VCC. “While students and baseball players come to Vermilion from all over the state and elsewhere in the nation, there’s a great high school baseball program in Ely and it means a lot to us that these guys are sticking around to play at home.”


Johnston skis at nationals

by Tom Coombe
Ely skiing sensation Jasper Johnston wasn’t at his best at a national event in California in early-March, but conditions and circumstances were less than ideal.
The three-time all-state Nordic skier had already qualified for the U.S. National Training Camp this summer, but he traveled west after the high school season to take part in the USSS Cross Country Junior Nationals at Donner Summit.
There, Johnston not only dealt with high altitudes and warm temperatures, but the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which cut short the weeklong event.
Before the competition was shelved, Johnston placed 34th in a 10-kilometer classic event and 73rd in a 1.2K skate sprint.
The Ely junior said this week that neither finish was satisfying, and that the competitions were scrapped before the race he was most looking forward to - a 10K mass skate.
“I think if I had time to acclimate I would have had better races,” said Johnston.


Howling from Home a hit in Ely

by Anne Swenson
An effort to bring people together by howling at a full moon was a hit not just in Ely, but other areas of the world as well.
Created by Adam Bisbee, the event grew via Facebook and likely included over 500 participants for, “Howl from Home - Community in a time of Social Distancing.”
Bisbee was more than pleased with the results on Monday night.
“If I estimated I’d say about 300 people participated in Ely, Winton and around area lakes. Another 50-200 around the state and country. The event was shared and duplicated by so many people it became tough to track,” said Bisbee.
The original question from Bisbee was, “Is the sound of community recordable? Can we hear our support of one another?”
With that in mind he picked Monday night’s full moon at 9:35 p.m. as the time for people to go outside and give their best howl to community members.


In darkness, lights of hope

Starting this week, Ely High School will turn the lights on at its baseball and football fields and join a campaign that now includes approximately 250 Minnesota high schools.
Both Monday and Friday evenings, the lights at Veterans Memorial Field and Ely School Stadium will go on at 8:20 p.m., and stay on for approximately 20 minutes and 20 seconds.
With high school athletic activities suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic, #BeTheLightMN started last week and has quickly picked up steam.
From north to south, schools and in some cases entire conferences have come on board to turn on the lights one or two nights each week to show support for and solidarity with their students, staff and communities.
Lights have gone on at football/soccer/lacrosse stadiums, baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, all over the state.


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