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Once again, section belongs to Wolves

They don’t have the section’s best runner.Their primary rival had a pair of top-five individual finishers.But on a rainy, muddy day in Cloquet, it was clear that the Ely Timberwolves have something - tremendous overall depth -that none of their area opponents can match.With five of the top-16 overall runners, Ely cruised Thursday to its second consecutive Section 7A championship and earned a berth in this weekend’s state meet.Sophomore Casey Sovil placed seventh and earned an individual state bid, and four of her teammates were close behind as Ely had a section-best 53 points during the 7A event at Cloquet.That eased a season’s worth of pressure for the Wolves, who entered Thursday’s race with a number-four state ranking and on the heels of a regular season in which they regularly beat section foes.“I think this year was a little bit more stressful,” said Ely Head Coach Jayne Dusich. “Last year we just went out and ran well. This year we thought about it a little more.”But Dusich was still wary about the section meet, and those fears seemed to be legitimate once Hermantown placed two runners in the top five.A sea of red followed, however, as the Wolves dominated the next phase of the race.Sovil gained her second consecutive section top-10, taking seventh and completing the 4,000-meter course in 15 minutes, 37 seconds.Senior Jenna Klein was the next Elyite to finish, running a 15:47 for 12th overall.Right behind was sophomore Carolyn Freeman, who placed 13th in 15:57.Ely wasn’t about to be denied its section title, as Jen Zupancich and Taryn Cunningham followed their teammates.Zupancich took 14th in 15:58, and Cunningham had one of her best outings of the season with a 16th-place run of 16:01.“Hermantown had two runners ahead of ours already, but Casey and Jenna and Carolyn and Jen ran really well and they beat the next Hermantown girl,” said Dusich. “Then a Hermantown girl was 15th and Taryn came right in after that and beat their fourth runner.”That was more than enough to lift the Wolves, who finished 18 places ahead of second-place Hermantown (71), which grabbed the second and final 7A team slot at the state meet, set for Saturday at Northfield.International Falls (105), Mesabi East (135) and Esko (159) rounded out the top-five in a meet that included 14 full teams and runners from more than 20 7A schools.The Ely girls entered the race with a clear strategy.“I think we planned it a little better,” said Dusich. “We went out there to beat certain girls, the ones from Hermantown and International Falls. And our girls did a good job of taking care of that. I think we beat all the Falls’ girls.”Also finishing for the Wolves at sections were Mary Anderson (47th, 17:08) and Amelia Donars (50th, 17:13).The overall section winner was Cromwell’s Samantha Smith, who took first in 15:00.The regular season results served notice that the Wolves would be a strong contender for a second straight section team title, but the seeds for the championship may have been planted during the summer, according to Sovil.“We had lost four seniors so I thought it would be difficult to make up for that loss,” said Sovil. “But we met as a team two or three days a week during the summer to work out, and Jayne motivated us this year and made us work hard.”And there’s still some room for improvement when the Wolves compete this week.“The weather (at Cloquet) was miserable and kind of threw off our times,” said Sovil. “Our places were up there but we didn’t have our best times.”

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