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Sunny skies, clear fields, make for uncommon spring

Ely Echo - Staff Photo - Create Article
FIRST DAY OF PRACTICE - Ely head softball coach Cory Lassi works with Clara Luthens, Kayla Larsen, Lucy Oelke and Lindi Zemke on the field during unseasonal conditions. Photo by Parker Loew.

by Tom Coombe

Ely’s spring sports teams - be they high school or college - have been in unfamiliar territory in recent days.

That’s outside, and on the field.

Unlike last year or in 2022, when snow still blanketed fields and tracks well into late-April, conditions for spring sports were prime on Monday on the official start of workouts for baseball, softball and track teams.

As temperatures vaulted into the 50s on Tuesday, the high school softball field was filled first with the Timberwolves and later the Ironhawks from Vermilion Community College.

The same held true at Veterans Memorial Field, where a handful of high school baseball pitchers and catchers were followed on the diamond by more than 25 Vermilion players.

Ely’s track teams and golfers waited to get a start on their respective action, but all signs point to a spring almost completely opposite of 2023 - when no local team had a home event until the end of April.

At least in Ely, the spring sports season arrives with snow still on the ground and a seemingly annual routine with area athletes and coaches confined to the gymnasium for indoor workouts to start the season, and hopes for a rapid snow melt,

If anything, that has been exaggerated in 2022 and 2023, where long winters extended well into April with a series of snowstorms, forcing either several-week delays in the start of regular seasons, or long layoffs between contests.

Ely’s high school baseball and softball teams hosted “home” events in Proctor and Aurora, where they found fields with artificial turf, on April 27 last year and neither team played in town until May.

The high school track teams had four consecutive meets postponed by weather, while golfers waited until May to get underway.

The weather woes made things even more difficult for the athletes at Vermilion.

The community college softball team did not play in Ely last spring while the Vermilion baseball team had just two dates at Veterans Memorial Field - the first on May 4.

While the Vermilion women’s softball season is already underway, and Vermilion baseball (see related story) has already played nine games and got a chance to scrimmage Aurora prior to its Florida trip, the remaining local teams are just beginning to get into their practices.

Ely’s track teams under the direction of longtime boys coach Will Helms and new girls coach Jill Ellerbroek will open up April 11 with a meet at Deer River.

Between the two programs, roughly 70 students are participating in track including defending Section 7A discus champion Kaylin Visser, a freshman.

A handful of Ely participants are expected to play golf, which is coached by Rob Simonich and is part of a cooperative with Northeast Range.

Ely’s baseball team is also paired with Northeast Range and the Timberwolves could have as many as 45 participants counting the varsity, junior varsity and junior high teams.

The baseball season-opener is set for April 9, at home, against Littlefork-Big Falls.

Turnout is also up for the Wolves’ softball team, led by head coach Cory Lassi.  The program has just over 30 participants and will field a separate junior high team for the first time in several years.

The Wolves open April 11 against Greenway.


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