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Schulze, relays shine at prelims

For Ely’s high school girls swimming and diving team, the results of Thursday’s section preliminaries were decidedly mixed.Senior Ali Schulze put herself in strong position for a bid to the state meet, and the Wolves’ 400 freestyle relay team stayed in contention as well.But the Wolves didn’t qualify nearly as many finalists as they hoped, tempering some of the enthusiasm generated by the Schulze and relay performances.“We didn’t have the section meet that I thought we would,” said Ely Head Coach Nancy Smrekar. “We just couldn’t quite get to where we wanted to.”Part of that can probably be attributed to the competition - Ely competed against swimmers from larger schools such as Hibbing and Grand Rapids in the section event - and part can be attributed to Hibbing’s 25-yard pool.Ely’s pool is just 20 yards long, and the Wolves have traditionally struggled to make the adjustment.“When you go against teams that practice in there day in and day out, they have a nice advantage,” said Smrekar.Ely nonetheless managed some solid showings Thursday.Schulze has been one of the area’s top breaststroke swimmers all season long, and she lived up to that billing with a second-place swim of 1:15.48 in the 100.“I look at Ali and she’s telling you that she’s going (to state) and I have faith in her,” said Smrekar. “She knows what she has to do.“Schulze was also part of a 400 freestyle relay team that’s in third place going into the weekend section finals. She joined Meghan Furnstahl, Betsy Guck and Angie Mackie on a foursome that finished in 4:03.57.“Right now if Angie and Ali can get a 58 and 59 and the other two girls cut a minute we could go to state,” said Smrekar.Ely’s 200 medley relay team of Mackie, Schulze, Kelly Chaudoin and Furnstahl placed sixth in 2:03.95, but a fifth-place finish by the 200 freestyle relay of Furnstahl, Chaudoin, Marlayna Whiting and Mackie was wiped out by a disqualification.“It was just one of those things that happened,” said Smrekar. “We dropped five seconds. We were motoring.”Also advancing to the championship heat in their respective events were Mackie in the 100 freestyle (eighth, 1:00.55) and Schulze in the 200 individual medley (2:29.23).Advancing to the consolation heats were Whiting (16th, 200 freestyle), Furnstahl (11th, 50 freestyle), Chaudoin (12th, 100 butterfly), Audrey Kothe (12th, 500 freestyle) and Maren Gotchnik (16th, 100 breaststroke).Ely also placed swimmers in these events:• 200 individual medley - 20. Nicole Charles;• 50 freestyle - 25. Gotchnik; 26. Beth Wilmunen; 29. Michelle Houle;• 100 freestyle - 25. Sarah Berg; 30. Emily Weisinger; 31. Houle• 500 freestyle - 17. Whiting; 23. Amber Adams; 25. Laura Schulze;• 100 backstroke - 19. Wilmunen; 26. Weisinger; 29. Berg;• 100 breaststroke - 23. Charles.The diving finals were also set for Saturday in Hibbing, and Ely senior Candice Smrekar was shooting for her second straight bid to the state meet, which is set for next week at Minneapolis.

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