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Wolves break from the pack

Ely’s high school girls cross country team picked up right where it left off a year ago.Even without a full roster, the Timberwolves were the class of the field at Thursday’s season-opening meet at Babbitt.Paced by top-four finishes from sophomore Casey Sovil and senior Jenna Klein, Ely finished first among five teams at the Gene Ritsche Invitational.First is a familiar spot for the Wolves, who won several meets in 2003 - including the program’s first Section 7A championship.The graduation of some of their top runners and the absence of two more didn’t deter the Wolves last week.Ely had more than enough depth to top section rivals International Falls, Hermantown, Mesabi East and Proctor.“It was a surprise to all of us,” said Ely Head Coach Jayne Dusich. “I think we did a very good job. I was surprised we won just because we didn’t have everyone there that normally runs.”Sophomore Carolyn Freeman, one of Ely’s top runners last fall, was sidelined with achilles tendonitis while teammate Mary Anderson also missed the meet.Nonetheless, the Wolves were solid all around.Sovil, an individual state meet qualifier in 2003, placed third overall and completed the 4,000-meter course in 16 minutes, 29 seconds.Klein was fourth in 16:31.The Ely runners battled 85-degree heat and humid conditions, and persevered thanks to a steady pace.“We haven‘t run in heat like this all summer,” said Dusich. “That was a big factor in this meet. Jenna and Casey, I told them not to go out too fast right away. They played smart and stayed behind in the second pack, but after the first lap they were second and third.”Hermantown’s Melissa Engmeier was first, blazing past the field to win in 15:22. Samatha Smith of Cromwell passed the Ely duo in the final 800 yards to take second in 16:22.Senior Taryn Cunningham also had a top-10 finish, taking ninth in 17:52. Sophomore Jen Zupancich was 11th (18:16), while Sarah Markwardt (38th, 20:50) and Mary Bruels (44th, 21:53) completed the varsity lineup.“That was the best Taryn has run at this Babbitt meet,” said Dusich. “Jen Zup took it easy and didn’t push it too hard.”Ely had 45 points, followed by International Falls (53), Hermantown (65), Mesabi East (69) and Proctor (101).The Wolves are off until Sept. 16, when they take part in a meet at Virginia.• In the junior varsity race, Ely’s Kit Anderson and Abby Zupancich finished third and fourth, respectively, at 21:17.• The Ely junior high team placed second, with Sarah Anderson leading the squad with a third-place run of 7:14. The seventh and eighth-graders ran 1,666 meters.Also running for Ely were Glenn Hartman-Mattson (eighth, 7:35), Mariah Barker (18th, 8:34), Maggie Jesme (20th, 9:00) and Kahsha Hyde (23rd, 10:05).“It was their first race ever and their goal was to finish,” said Dusich. “They did a good job.“

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