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Relay helps Ely boys jump to eighth in state

Ely Echo - Chris Ellerbroek Photos

by Tom Coombe

Ely’s potent sprint relay duo of Aksel Skustad and Silas Solum survived a penalty score and finished fourth Thursday at the state meet at Giants Ridge - and that performance had huge implications for the Nordic Wolves overall.

The relay score lifted the Ely boys by five spots in the team standings, and the young Wolves finished an impressive eight out of 16 teams at the single-class state competition near Biwabik.

The Wolves were in 13th place after Wednesday’s individual competition, but coach Todd Hohenstein indicated afterward that there was room for his team to move up.

He proved to be correct as Skutand and Solum teamed up to take fourth in the finals in 12:15.03, about 20 seconds behind first-place Brainerd, with Duluth East in second and the Wolves less than three seconds behind the pair from Orono/Delano.

But the championship heat appearance nearly didn’t happen, as the Wolves were initially penalized by 15 seconds in Thursday morning’s preliminary heat.

The penalty would have been enough to keep the Wolves out of the final eight and the championship heat, but Hohenstein successfully appealed the decision, which was the result of an awkward handoff.

Ely moved on, and Skustad and Solum came up with a huge effort in the finals.

The top-eight finish at state was perhaps a sign of things to come for the Wolves, who did not have a senior on their roster at state.

The relay was made up of a freshman (Skustad) and a junior (Solum), while junior Dylan Durkin took 52nd overall individually with freshman Oliver Hohenstein 56th and junior Eli Olson 58th.

The rest of the roster was made up of freshmen Milo McClelland and Caleb Larson.

• The Wolves also had a girls relay at state - the all-senior combination of Claire Blauch and Ava Skustad.

They were knocked out after the preliminary heats, finishing 13th in a field of 24 with a combined time of  15:57.62.

They qualified for state after taking second in Section 7.


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