GIANTS RIDGE— Ely sophomore Jasper Johnston was the top finisher for the Timberwolves boys Nordic ski team during state competition held here Thursday, Feb. 14. Johnston finished 11th overall …
GIANTS RIDGE— Ely sophomore Jasper Johnston was the top finisher for the Timberwolves boys Nordic ski team during state competition held here Thursday, Feb. 14. Johnston finished 11th overall against a field of 160 racers from across the state of Minnesota to help lead the boys team to a sixth-place finish among the 16 teams that took part in the meet.
“Jasper had a really good day,” said Ely Nordic Ski Coach Paula Anderson. “He was very happy with 11th place.”
Johnston scored a combined time of 31:11.8 in pursuit competition, which includes both freestyle and classic races. Junior James Schwinghamer, meanwhile, finished in the 48th position overall with a combined time of 32:55.4, while classmate Kjetil Midttun was close behind in 52nd place with a time of 33:14.9. Fellow junior Nate Netifee finished 71st with a time of 33:55.1.
As a team, Ely was in seventh-place following the freestyle competition, but strong finishes by the Ely skiers helped them improve in the standings following the classic portion of the competition. The Ely boys skiers had been ranked sixth or seventh in the state for most of the season, and Anderson said the rankings proved pretty accurate.
Unlike many high school sports, there are no classes in Nordic skiing, which means that small schools like Ely must compete against some of the largest schools in the state, and Anderson said the competition was tougher than they had faced so far this season in the section. “They’ve got a lot of kids down there in the Twin Cities, and some are very good skiers,” noted Anderson.
In girls competition, Ely eighth-grader Zoe Devine was the top Ely finisher, with a combined time of 39:54.4, good for 61st place. Devine had finished 47th in the freestyle portion of the competition, an outstanding finish for an eighth-grader, according to Anderson.
Ely junior Kalyssa Eilrich finished in the 96th position with a combined time of 41:16.3. Anderson said both Devine and Eilrich were pleased with their performances in their first-ever state Nordic ski meet.
While the girls team narrowly missed qualifying for the state meet, Anderson sees plenty of potential down the road. “The entire girls team is really young,” she said. “There’s some potential coming up, some eighth- and ninth-graders who are showing a lot of promise.”
Anderson also sees promise for the boys team next year. “They’re all coming back next year and are ready to work really hard this summer,” she said.
Johnston not only finished 11th in state competition, he recently qualified for the Midwest Junior National ski team, and did so as a 15-year-old, which is unusual. Johnston will be joining his team in the Junior National competition March 11-16 in Anchorage, Alaska.