Runners-up, on to state, Johnston top placer

ELY BOYS NORDIC SKI TEAM: (front) Ethan Hasz, Ben Gustafson, Elijah Olson, Chase Eilrich; second row: Paula Anderson, Nate Nettifee, Raif Olson, Jasper Johnston, James Schwinghamer, Ethan Bremner, Tyler Fish. Photo by Diane Dalberg.

by Tom Coombe -

Clear more room in the trophy case for Ely’s Nordic Wolves.
The high school ski teams are heading back to the state meet, again, after a big day Thursday at Giants Ridge.
Both the boys and girls teams finished second at the Section 7 meet and collectively, the program had five top-10 individual finishes.
Next up is the state meet, back at Giants Ridge, on Thursday, Feb. 15.
Ely entered section competition on the heels of a strong regular season but the meet had some mystery to it, as it was the first time the Wolves faced their section foes while they were at full strength.
While Grand Rapids rolled to a section boys title, Ely earned the silver medal with a combination of youth and experience.
Freshman Jasper Johnston provided the youth, and the team’s highest finish, by taking fifth overall among more than 60 competitors.
He climbed up a spot from sixth place after the morning freestyle race and wound up fifth in the pursuit with a combined time of 32:40.3 over 10.5 kilometers.
Senior Ben Gustafson was sixth (33:04.2) while sophomore James Schwinghamer wound up seventh (33:08.8).
Ely’s team finish was cemented by seniors Elijah Olson and Ethan Hasz, who made the most of their final section competition by taking 12th and 14th, respectively.
Sophomore Nate Netifee jumped three spots after the freestyle to finish 16th and Raif Olson shook off a rough first race and moved up nine spots to take 42nd.
All seven will form the lineup at state, where the Wolves will chase section champion Grand Rapids, which had the top three individual skiers, including section titleist Garrett Beckrich.
The Ely girls were behind only perennial powerhouse Duluth East, and the senior-laden Wolves were well represented near the top.
Ryne Prigge was fourth after the freestyle and held her ground to take fourth overall (36:41.2).
Emma Terwilliger made the biggest move of the day of any Ely girl, climbing from 12th after the freestyle and passing several skiers on her way to a sixth-place finish in 37:51.9.
Seniors Laura Pasmick and Evelyn Bercher finished back-to-back and six seconds apart to grab the 13th and 14th spots in the standings. Their times were 38:48.4 and 38:54.5.
Ely’s Kalyssa Eilrich was 20th, Brooke Pasmick took 22nd and Julia Schwinghamer wound up 28th to put every Wolves skier in the top half of the 66-skier field.
Hannah Bettendorf of Proctor-Hermantown cruised to the individual win and Ely placed behind Duluth East and nine points ahead of third-place Grand Rapids.