Welcome back, Jasper
by Tom Coombe
Jasper Johnston didn’t miss a beat.
The Ely senior was absent from the Nordic Wolves’ first two meets of the season because of some regional CXC level events, but he was back in the lineup for event number three: the Jan. 28 Ely Skiathlon at Hidden Valley.
To no one’s surprise, Johnston won the 7.2-kilometer freestyle/classic skiathlon, completing the course in 20:15 to take first with ease.
Johnston’s finish wasn’t enough to secure a team win as the Wolves were second in the three-team event and two points shy of Cloquet-Esko-Carlton.
The Wolves claimed the team title in the girls event, with Zoe Devine claiming the top spot in 25:31.
Brutally cold weather - including overnight temperates of 27-below - prompted a one-hour delay in the event but by start time at noon the temperate was above zero and the sun was shining at Hidden Valley.
It made for a good day for both Ely teams.
“It was a super fun event, we did a skiathlon, which is a continuous pursuit, which we’ve never done before,” said Ely Head Coach Paula Anderson. “The kids really worked hard going head to head and it was challenging both physically and mentally which gave it tremendous training value.”
Johnston’s victory was part of a strong day for the varsity boys, with juniors Gabriel Pointer (third, 21:57) and Jon Hakala (sixth, 23:57) not far behind.
“Gabriel and Jon had great races,” said Anderson. “If either one of them would have beaten the CEC boy ahead of them we would have tied and then won in the tie-breaker So it should be exciting at Sections. CEC was second last year and will be the team to beat, although Duluth East will be strong too.”
Micah Larson rounded out the Ely boys lineup and took 10th in 26:28.
Devine led the Ely girls to a 10-point win over CEC, with the Wolves claiming four of the top-five spots.
Sophomore Phoebe Helms took third in 27:34, with Ava Skustad in fourth (28:59) and Julia Schwinghamer fifth (29:07).
“All of the girls raced well, Zoe won by a minute and a half which was a big confidence boost for her,” said Anderson.
“The girls’ team is relatively young, but they’ve been working hard and have strong leaders in Julia Schwinghamer and Gracie Pointer. Their goal is to qualify for state again; Duluth East and Grand Rapids will be the teams to beat this year.”
Following in the Wolves’ lineup were Sydney Durkin (10th, 30:28), Gracie Pointer (11th, 31:47), Claire Blauch (12th, 31:57), Cedar Ohlhauser (15th, 35:16), Morgan McClelland (17th, 37:45).
The girls did well, Zoe won by over a minute and skied very strong. Duluth East and Grand Rapids will be tough this year on the girls’ side. Ninth grader Ava Skustad made a jump, finishing third on our team, 4th overall.
In the junior varsity race, Liam Lacey won the boys event in 19:25 on a 4.8K freestyle course.
Henry Lowe was fifth (22:20) and Sam Favet took eighth (23:29).
Among the girls, Esther Anderson placed sixth (24:21) and Amelia Pluth took seventh (26:17).
Ely was also well represented in a pair of 3.4K junior high freestyle events.
Junior High Girls
1. Anna Dunn, 15:54;
2. Anna Larson, 16:02;
4. Rena Johnston, 17:01;
6. June Nelson, 17:18;
9. Aila Harding, 17:26;
12. Evelyn Cavalier, 17:40;
13. Elsa Ellerbroek, 18:11;
14. Madison Jonas, 18:47;
17. Molly Brophy, 19:49;
18. Alison Poppler, 19:57;
21. Molly Lindsay, 20:56;
22. Lyla Kelley, 24:52;
Junior High Boys
1. Otto Devine, 12:48;
2. Silas Solum, 12:54;
3. Eli Olson, 13:28;
4. Dylan Durkin, 13:43;
5. Nathan Hoffmeister, 14:32;
6. Oliver Hohenstein, 14:51;
7. Aksel Skustad, 15:20;
9. Jonathon Ruoho, 15:33;
10. Tory Hughley, 15:36;
12. Caleb Larson, 16:15;
18. Milo McClelland, 18:50;
20. George Sponholz, 20:21;
21. Tyde Brecke, 20:42;
22. Brooks Brenny, 20:49;
23. Brennan Rue, 21:03;
25. Mason Kurnava, 22:37;
26. Zach Robbins, 22:53.