Somerset boys repeat as Middle Border Conference track champions
Outstanding depth that carried over to every event led the Somerset boys track team to its second straight Middle Border Conference championship. The Spartans won the 2013 boys title in the meet held at Ellsworth last Tuesday.
The Spartans were able to achieve the championship by being willing to try all events. Even when the team suffered several injuries in the weeks leading up to the conference meet, the Spartans were able to overcome the injuries.
The team's depth was so strong that Somerset scored in every event in the conference meet.
"It's a tribute to the guys not being willing to specialize," said Somerset coach Mike Holmquist. "It's nice to see guys go out of their comfort zone."
The 400 meter relay is a prime example of how the team's depth shined. Sam Schoenborn, the team's third sprinter, pulled a hamstring in a practice the previous Friday. In the 100 meter dash finals, top sprinter Robbie Lang also pulled up with a hamstring issue.
The coaches plugged senior Jared Buchanan and junior Aaron Joppru into the relay along with Tyler Ledbeter and Bailey White and the Spartans earned the 400 meter relay championship.
The Spartans were champions in three individual events in the conference meet. Senior Luke Praschak retained his status as the top hurdler in the conference. Praschak repeated as champion in the 110 and 300 hurdle races, which both were Spartan strongholds. Praschak and Shane Miller took the top two spots in the 110 hurdles, with teammate Logan Wiederin in fifth. Praschak was first and Miller was fourth in the 300 hurdles. Praschak was also Somerset's top finisher in the long jump with his third place finish.
Joppru earned the other individual title for the Spartans. He greatly outdistanced his competition in the pole vault. On his last attempt, Joppru went for a bit of Somerset history. Joppru cleared the bar at 13 feet, 1 inch. That attempt broke the school record of 13 feet that had stood since it was set by Donnie Demulling in 1995.
"He's become such an athlete over the last year and half," Holmquist said of Joppru. "He made himself into an athlete in the weight room."
Miller was one of four individuals who produced second place finishes for the Spartan boys. Lang pulled up with hamstring tightness in the 100 meter finals, but was still able to earn a second place finish.
One of the surprises of the meet was senior Alex Piletich. Discus throwers have had precious little time to practice outdoors, so this event had as many question marks as any in the meet. Two weeks earlier Piletich was throwing the discus 119 feet. At the conference meet, he was able to throw it 141 feet.
Another surprise was senior Josh Verdeja. He was a distance runner most of his career. He was recently moved down to the 400 meters and he was able to generate a second place finish in the event.
Prescott was Somerset's main threat to the title. Holmquist said one of the biggest moves he saw in the meet was by a pair of freshmen in the 3,200 meters. Cole Harty and Brandon Mondor made a charge in the final lap of the race to pass a pair of Prescott runners, moving up to fifth and sixth. Holmquist said that move helped the Spartans gain enough points to finish ahead of Prescott for the team title.
Somerset's girls spent the season hoping to build a team that could battle Osceola and New Richmond for the top spots in the conference meet.
Despite impressive efforts from seniors Sarah Krig and Natalie Broome, the Spartans had to settle for third place in this year's conference meet.
Krig dominated the competition in all three of her events, winning the championships in the 100 meter hurdles, the high jump and the triple jump. Broome took second place in the 100 and 200 meter dashes.
Krig showed she's ready to make a push for another state meet run, setting a personal best by winning the pole vault with a leap of 10 feet, 6 inches. She won a close battle with Baldwin-Woodville's Mara Hanson to earn the title in the high jump. Krig was untouchable in the 100 hurdles, winning by three-quarters of a second.
Broome and Osceola's Aimee Rice-Strand had excellent battles in the sprint races, just as they have all season. They are hoping they can push each other all the way to the state finals, like they did last season.
Girls coach Dave Praschak said he tried to take a reasonable approach to the meet after all the injuries the team has seen this season.
"It became clear mid-season that we did not have the team points to compete for the title. So we decided to be more reserved with the amount of competition each girl took on. In the end we hope to advance girls into the sectional in a variety of events," he said.
Praschak said there were younger girls who performed well in the conference meet. He pointed to the sixth place finish by Heather Hartwick in the 200 meters and the fifth place effort from Rachel Plourde in the shot put as efforts the Spartans can build upon.
2013 Middle Border Conference Meet
Boys team scores: Somerset 145, Prescott 130, New Richmond 112, Osceola 94, Ellsworth 93, Amery 60, Durand 38, Baldwin-Woodville 27
Girls team scores: Osceola 174, New Richmond 169, Somerset 70, Amery 68, Prescott 67, Baldwin-Woodville 67, Ellsworth 60, Durand 17