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Korby's Connections: There are many facets to this star

I got on the phone to find out more about Cloquet High School senior Ellie Evenson, who was involved in the first year of girls wrestling at Cloquet. Evenson broke barriers and brought confidence to herself and teammates as they'd never imagined. In a November Pine Knot story, Kerry Rodd introduced readers to Evenson and the new sport at CHS. I wanted to find out more about her drive, purpose and motivation.

It didn't take me long upon meeting her to recognize what a great (and busy) kid Ellie is, as well as having fine, supportive parents, Angela and Eric.

Ellie grew up in Mankato, spent her middle school years in the state of Virginia, by Richmond, and returned to Minnesota when her family moved to Cloquet when she was in the ninth grade. She's always had a passion for plays, theater and public speaking.

"Even in second grade when the teacher was looking for volunteer readers, I'd be raising my hand and saying, 'Pick me, please pick me,'" Ellie said. In her elementary school years, she was the Three of Hearts Guard in a Prairie Fire Children's Theatre production of "Alice in Wonderland." She loved her role, and was hooked on theater.

Since coming to Cloquet, Ellie has been a part of each school theater production offered. Last fall, she was in the highly acclaimed CHS production of "The Wizard of Oz" as the Wicked Witch of the West. When I asked her for a play line, Ellie jumped into character mode: "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too." The hair stood up on the back of my neck - wow, can she act.

While in middle school in Virginia, she had the role of Glinda, the Good Witch. She liked depicting and sharing the opposite characters. The Cloquet sets were "amazing" and Ellie described how she maneuvered onto a hidden moving escalator after Dorothy threw water on her, leaving her to slowly "melt away" amidst the smoke, with only her hat left to be seen on the stage.

Ellie is now appearing in the County Seat Theater production of "Tracks." She plays a high school girl waiting for a train with fellow passengers, only to learn an unsettling truth. Ellie was also in the one-act play at Cloquet High School that competed in the regional contest.

It's a whirlwind tracking Evenson's athletic prowess. She was in swimming and track until Covid-19 shut down all sports. In the winter, she became a ski instructor at the Mont du Lac Resort in Duluth.

When she was a junior, she walked past the CHS weight room one day, looked in, and became intrigued. Ellie thought she'd give it a try. Bench press, free weights, ellipticals - she experienced them all and had fun tracking measurable strength gains. She became so passionate with the process that she'd often be in the weight room between classes.

People noticed. Her senior year, a passerby asked Ellie if she'd ever thought of trying out for the new wrestling team. She went to the wrestling informational meeting and signed up.

I asked her how she broke the news to her parents. "They're always supportive of my endeavors," she said. "They trust me to not get into something that is unsafe or that I couldn't handle. They always have my back if need be."

Wrestling practice was tough, she said, but she was well-coached and learned a lot about rules and tactics. She had bruises on her arms and legs to prove it. Ellie scrimmaged with teammates using the 3-minute timing similar to wrestling competitions.

Within two weeks she had her first wrestling meet involving other schools. There was a big difference between that and those first practices, she said. She bought purple wrestling shoes and a purple headgear to match her uniform and prepare for the moment.

"Going competitively against an unknown girl was draining, exhausting, and yet exhilarating," Ellie said. "And I liked it all."

She won two out of three matches at one meet, good enough for fifth-place and a medal. Evenson thought the whole wrestling season was wonderful - even riding the team bus, like a classic field trip, and cheering for eighth-grader Aiden Theisen as he qualified for the state tournament.

The next part of Ellie's story was a bit shocking to me when I first heard it, but it makes sense considering her wide range of interests and talents. For several years, she has been involved in pageantry.

After the athletic image I had formed, now I had to picture her picking out formal wear and fitness clothing, walking eloquently before judges and "looking them all in the eye" and answering interview questions.

She has competed in the Miss Minnesota Teen USA competition among others, representing Cloquet and bringing home several trophies. I shouldn't have been surprised. It is, after all, a bit of theater performing in front of judges and an audience at the highest level. There is correlation.

So, what's in store after high school?

"I plan to go to college locally for my first two years to get my undergraduate credits, maybe UW-Superior," she said. "Then I'd like to travel, and I have sought information from the University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba, among others."

She plans to major in English and marketing and continue her passion for theater and stage work. Ellie would also like to wrestle in college if possible, maybe starting a women's program if none is available.

With her drive and determination, Ellie's impressive tally of accomplishments will, undoubtedly, continue to grow.