Long wait ends for Nordic Wolves

by Tom Coombe -

Mother Nature has teased and tormented the Ely Nordic Wolves.
Despite an early arrival of winter in late-October, the high school ski teams have yet to compete this season.
A season-opening event at Hidden Valley set for Dec. 9 was scrapped because of a lack of snow, after temperatures moderated in the region and melted the white stuff that provided an early winter’s blanket.
The Wolves were unable to put together a meet for this weekend and, weather permitting, they’ll finally get the 2017-18 campaign underway Wednesday at Grand Rapids.
Despite the setbacks, the Wolves are taking everything in stride, according to longtime head coach Paula Anderson.
“It’s been frustrating but not that unusual,” said Anderson. “My motto is that if we get one meet in before Christmas we are doing fine. We’ve done a time trial and some of the kids are going to ski in the Junior National Qualifier races in Houghton this weekend so they’ve had something to shoot for. ”
Once the Wolves finally hit the trails this week and compete against other foes, there’s a good chance they’ll be in a familiar spot: at or near the top of the heat.
The Ely girls return much of a team that won the state title last winter, and the boys figure to be right in the mix in Section 7 again.
Turnout is strong, with more than 50 participants out for the program and Ely usually reloads each winter, relying on a deep base of talent that is groomed through the community’s noted youth ski program.
Five Wolves - Ben Guastafson, Elijah Olson and James Schwhingamer from the boys’ team and Emma Terwilliger and Julia Schwinghamer from the girls - are taking part in the qualifying event this weekend at Michigan.
Most of the Wolves will also ski up to 50 kilometers at a team camp that will be held at Giants Ridge over Christmas break.
“There will be lots of volume in store for the team these next two weeks,” said Anderson.
The Ely girls figure to have the most depth of the two Wolves’ squads.
While individual state champion Erin Bianco graduated, Ely returns a pair of top-20 state skiers in seniors Emma Terwilliger (11th) and Ryne Prigge (18th).
They form a nucleus who knows little but success, gaining state meet experience not only in skiing but in cross country and track as well.
Senior Laura Pasmick was 29th in the state last year, while sophomore Brooke Pasmick and senior Evelyn Bercher also boast state meet experience.
Others returning to the varsity level include senior Lindy Dalberg and sophomore Kalyssa Eilrich.
Senior Simon Stouffer is the lone returning Ely boys skier who qualified for state last year.
He’s part of a strong group of seniors, joining Gustafson, Ethan Hasz and Elijah Olson, who will lead a talented group of younger Elyboys.
Sophomores James Schwinghamer, Raif Olson and Nate Netifee figure to climb the ladder for the Wolves,
Schwinghamer was 19th in the section last winter, while Olson took 23rd and Gustafson was 24th.
Senior Chase Eilrich is also looking to move into the varsity lineup.
The Wolves are part of a deep Section 7, and the girls will look to topple area foes including Duluth East, Mesabi East and Grand Rapids. The boys are part of a pack of section contenders that features Duluth East, Grand Rapids and Cloquet-Esko-Carlton.
Ely will be on the road for much of the season but will host a meet at Hidden Valley Feb. 1, just prior to the section and state competitions.