New Richmond cross country sweeps varsity, JV team conference titles
High hopes abounded for the New Richmond cross country team heading into last Thursday’s Middle Border Conference meet.
Those hopes were justified as the Tigers swept the 2013 MBC varsity and junior varsity team championships.
The New Richmond girls won their seventh straight conference championship, continuing one of the strongest traditions in conference history. The New Richmond boys captured their second straight title.
“We had high hopes and we met our goals,” said Tiger coach Beth Kelly, who said winning all four team titles was the team’s intent.
Senior Maddie Kelly led the Tiger girls, placing second behind Osceola’s McKenzie Fortier, who repeated as MBC champion. Kelly has been a key component in the past four Tiger titles. She placed 11th in the MBC as a freshman, sixth as a sophomore and third as a junior.
Tiger junior Jack Utzman won the boys championship, finishing 14 seconds ahead of Amery’s Tanner Wears. The championship comes a season after Utzman placed second in the MBC race as a sophomore.
Incredible depth was evident throughout the Tiger performances. The boys and girls teams were both able to claim four all-conference runners, given to runners placing among the top 14 finishers in their varsity race. Utzman, Austin Haseleu, Nathan Mortensen and Bailey Wilson are All-MBC runners for the boys with Maddie Kelly, Peyton Olien, Mallory Kelly and Kanya Dwire earning All-MBC honors for the girls.
Seniors Maddie Kelly and Audrey DeKock were the only proven entities for the Tiger girls when they started the season. At that time, Coach Kelly didn’t believe the Tigers were the favorite to win the conference meet. But the runners have been making such immense improvements in their times that they moved to the front of the pack.
Olien and Dwire are two who made rapid improvements. Neither was in the varsity lineup midway through the season. In the past month, both have taken off incredibly, as they finished fourth and eighth in the conference race.
Mallory Kelly was another surprise. After struggling in recent races, she produced her best race of the season to place fifth.
Sophomore Harley Leavens has become one of the most consistent of the Tigers. She finished 15th as the team’s fifth varsity runner, with DeKock one second behind her in 16th place.
Coach Kelly said many of the girls who ran on the Tigers’ JV championship team were part of the varsity squad at some point during the season. She said their contributions were part of the reason the varsity team was so successful. The JV girls swept the top seven places in their race, led by freshman Lexi Brown, who won the race championship in 17:50. She was followed by Meghan Watkins, Sydney Sattler, Jessica Gillis, Lauren Ferguson, Kennedy Kling and Andrea Meisner.
While the Tiger girls had to grow into champions, the Tiger boys returned five of their seven varsity runners from last year’s champions. They came into the season as favorites and they maintained a fierce work ethic to make sure they retained their crown.
Utzman had been battling illness in the weeks before the meet, but he showed no signs of it as he held off Wears to win the 2013 title.
“Jack looked great,” Coach Kelly said. “It wasn’t an easy race, Tanner (Wears) was never out of the picture.”
Behind Utzman and Wears was Haseleu, who the coaches dubbed “Mr. Consistent” because of his ability to run with the leaders in seemingly every race.
The only senior in the lineup for the Tigers was Luke Miller, who placed 16th as the team’s fifth runner.
The Tiger JV boys nearly matched the sweep of the top seven places that had been accomplished by the girls. The Tigers had the top six runners in the JV race. Sam Krueger was the JV champion, followed by Aaron Anderson, Erik Gilkison, Ryan Greer, Jimmy Miller and Logan Warner.
The focus for the Tigers now turns to the WIAA Division 1 sectional meet. This year’s sectional will be run on Saturday in Menomonie. The girls race will begin at noon, with the boys race starting at 1 p.m.
This is an exceptionally strong sectional meet.
Coach Kelly said this may be the best chance the Tigers have had in several years to get a runner to state, saying Utzman and Maddie Kelly could contend for one of the five individual state berths that are available from the sectional meet. As a team, the coaches are hoping the Tigers can improve on their results from last year’s sectional meet.