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Freshman Bailey Wilson (left) and senior Alex Charbonneau ran together to take third and fourth place in the Middle Border Conference boys cross country race last Thursday.

New Richmond sweeps Middle Border Conference cross country championships

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The New Richmond cross country teams achieved a sweep of unprecedented levels at the 2012 Middle Border Conference Meet last Thursday in Amery.

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New Richmond's varsity boys and girls both earned 2012 MBC championships and both New Richmond junior varsity teams also captured conference titles.

The championship is the sixth straight for the New Richmond girls team. For the Tiger boys varsity team, this is their first MBC championship since the 2006 season.

Tiger coach Beth Kelly said the team's secret goal was to earn all four championships. She said the boys and girls have worked with a unified focus all season to achieve this level of success.

"We've stressed that they have a part in both teams' successes because they train together," Kelly said.

The Tigers had specific plans set up for each race, knowing there would be little margin for error in both varsity races. Amery and Osceola both had shown the potential to upend the Tiger girls. The biggest concern was Amery, because Amery had beaten the Tigers the previous week on the same course.

Kelly said the key was to get New Richmond's fourth, fifth and sixth runners to run evenly with Amery's third, fourth and fifth runners. The Tigers were able to do that, especially sophomore Kennedy Kling.

New Richmond's top three girls: Maddie Kelly, Shelby Rolland and Ellen Meisner, ran ideal strategic races. Kelly finished fourth overall, making a major charge in the last mile to pass several runners.

"That strategy seems to work for her," said coach Kelly, who is also her mother. "She's got to be one of the fastest 800 girls in the race, so she uses that in her plan."

Rolland and Meisner have become an excellent 2-3 tandem, using their styles to feed off each other. They placed eighth and ninth in Thursday's race.

"Ellen is a grinder. She runs steady the whole race," Coach Kelly said. "Shelby complements that because she starts so strong. Ellen helps Shelby keep an even pace."

That brings us to Kling, who finished 11th overall as the Tigers' fourth runner. The biggest concern for the girls team was the gap between the third and fourth runners. Kling closed that gap by improving her time by more than a minute from the Amery Invitational.

"Kennedy really followed her race plan to a T," Coach Kelly said.

Having seasoned runners in the fifth, sixth and seventh spots worked out for the Tigers as seniors Ari Ziemer, Amanda Anez and Anne Frank placed 23rd, 26th and 29th.

While the New Richmond girls bear a target each season as the defending conference champions, nobody saw the New Richmond boys as a title threat at the beginning of the season. The incredible progress made by New Richmond's boys team moved them from a fourth place finisher last year to the champions this season.

Defending champion Ellsworth was expected to be New Richmond's main threat for the boys title. The Tigers built an early advantage with sophomore Jack Utzman placing second, freshman Bailey Wilson third and senior Alex Charbonneau fourth. Their strong effort didn't lock up anything for the Tigers because Ellsworth also had three runners finish among the top nine runners.

Coach Kelly said the key to the team's strategy was the second pack of runners. It was the goal for those Tigers to finish ahead of Ellsworth's second pack and this turned out better than the Tigers could have even hoped. Freshman Austin Haseleu and sophomore Erik Gilkison finished together in 11th and 12th, while Ellsworth's fourth and fifth runners took 21st and 22nd.

Coach Kelly said Gilkison provided the pivotal performance for the boys. He made a drastic step forward, improving on his personal best time by 20 seconds on the difficult Amery course.

Senior Ben Norman placed 13th and junior Luke Miller 17th, showing how all the Tigers answered the call to finish ahead of Ellsworth's second pack of runners.

The boys program has gone through a complete transformation in two years. Charbonneau is the only remaining Tiger boy to run in the varsity lineup at the MBC meet two years ago. Young runners like Utzman, Wilson, Haseleu and Gilkison are the lead edge of a completely revamped Tiger boys program.

That carried into the JV race, where the Tiger boys earned a perfect score by having the top five finishers. Sophomore Zach Schoepke was the JV conference champion, followed by freshmen Sam Krueger and Aaron Anderson, sophomore Jake Singerhouse and junior Connor McCann.

The Tiger JV girls matched that perfect score by getting the first six runners to cross the line. Sophomore Meghan Erickson was the conference champion, followed by freshman Harley Leavens, junior Audrey DeKock, senior Emily Bischof, sophomore Andrea Meisner and sophomore Jessica Ibes.

Coach Kelly said the success of the JV teams is a big reason why the varsity teams flourished this season. Because there is such quality depth in the program, there is constant competition for the varsity positions, which motivates all the runners to improve.

The Tigers now turn their attention to the WIAA Division 1 sectional meet, which will be held this Saturday at Menomonie High School. The boys race begins at noon, with the girls race starting at 1 p.m.

Kelly said it will be difficult to compete with some of the top Division 1 programs, so the Tigers are focusing on their individual times and their ability to improve those times.

2012 Middle Border Conference Cross Country Championships

Girls varsity team scores: New Richmond 49, Osceola 66, Amery 72, Prescott 88, Ellsworth 108, Baldwin-Woodville 118, Somerset 179

New Richmond finishes

3. Maddie Kelly 16:32; 7. Shelby Rolland 16:49; 8. Ellen Meisner 16:51; 10. Kennedy Kling 17:11; 21. Ari Ziemer 17:54; 24. Amanda Anez 18:02; 26. Anne Frank 18:05

Somerset finishes

19. Grace Becher 17:40; 38. Yosselyn Moncada 19:36; 39. Carrie Kulibert 19:49; 41. Kat Ryther 20:26; 42. Maggie Becher 20:33; 46. Laura Smith 21:55

Boys varsity team scores: New Richmond 32, Ellsworth 63, Amery 75, Somerset 129, Osceola 131, Baldwin-Woodville 134, Prescott 150

New Richmond finishes

2. Jack Utzman 17:48; 3. Bailey Wilson 18:10; 4. Alex Charbonneau 18:12; 11. Austin Haseleu 18:38; 12. Erik Gilkison 18:38; 13. Ben Norman 18:50; 17. Luke Miller 19:09

Somerset finishes

15. Andrew Thurmes 18:57; 26. Josh Verdeja 19:34; 27. Keenan Strom 19:40; 30. Ethan Baillargeon 19:54; 31. Emmitt Foster 19:55; 37. Cole Harty 20:28

Girls junior varsity team scores: New Richmond 15, Amery 49

New Richmond finishes

1. Meghan Watkins 17:40; 2. Harley Leavens 17:47; 3. Audrey DeKock 18:01; 4. Emily Bischof 18:04; 5. Andrea Meisner 18:17; 6. Jessica Ibes 18:24; 8. Jessica Gillis 18:54

Boys junior varsity team scores: New Richmond 15, Amery 50

New Richmond finishes

1. Zach Schoepke 19:04; 2. Sam Krueger 19:28; 3. Aaron Anderson 19:36; 4. Jake Singerhouse 19:45; 5. Connor McCann 19:50; 6. Nick Lubow 20:07; 7. Christian Martin 20:16

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