Tiger girls take third at Rice Lake InvitationalIn terms of quantity of runners, cross country races don’t get much bigger than the Rice Lake Invitational.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
In terms of quantity of runners, cross country races don’t get much bigger than the Rice Lake Invitational.
The New Richmond girls cross country team took third place in their race, finishing 11 points behind meet champion Superior.
St. Croix Central senior Brett Johnson also has quite an accomplishment to show off. Johnson was the meet champion at Rice Lake, placing first among 225 boys who finished the meet.
New Richmond’s girls locked into a close battle with Superior, Hudson and Colfax for the meet championship at Rice Lake. Superior earned the team title with 155 points. Hudson finished with 164, New Richmond with 166 and Colfax with 170.
Somerset’s girls also put in a respectable showing in the meet, placing eighth with 242 points. St. Croix Central’s girls took 21st among the 28 full teams.
New Richmond was able to rank so highly because of a strong push from all the runners. The Tigers had six runners rank among the first 54 finishers in the race. The Tigers were the first team to have its five scoring runners complete the race.
Leading the Tigers was junior Morgan Kelly, who finished in 16:00 to place 12th. Freshman Maddie Kelly took 27th in 16:36. They were followed by Marissa Neitzke, Kat Keller, Bailey Matthys, Ellen Meisner and Sonia Utzman.
Neitzke’s step up to the third spot was the biggest move of the week among the Tiger girls. The Tiger junior varsity girls were meet champions, with Shelby Rolland and Anne Frank taking the two top spots. Bria Norton was among the top JV finishers, with a personal best time.
Somerset’s girls were able to put together a formidable top three at the Rice Lake meet. Senior Monica Emerson and junior Tia Belter were again among the lead runners, placing ninth and 15th. The big move for the Spartans was made by junior Sara Henry. She had never run a sub-17 minute race until Tuesday, when she finished in 16:47 to place 33rd.
“She’s seeing more of what she’s capable of,” said Somerset coach Diane Belter. “I don’t think she’s intimidated by the 4,000 meter distance anymore.”
Instead of being shy, Henry is showing she is willing to take on a challenge. She ran with Emerson and Belter for much of this meet.
This was the first time many of the Spartans had run in a meet with this quantity of runners. Coach Belter said she was pleased that her runners weren’t fazed by the mass of competition.
Johnson’s victory was a landmark for the Panther standout. For the first time in his career, he broke the 16-minute barrier, finishing in 15:56. Johnson defeated the defending WIAA Division 3 state champion from Webster, along with tough runners from Hudson and other schools. Panther coach Bill Emery said this will get noticed by college coaches.
“I’m sure that will wake up a few (college coaches), even ones from Division 1 schools,” Emery said.
He wasn’t the only Panther who improved. Stephen Brunshidle has knocked off a minute from his time over the past two meets. Elling Hofland shaved two minutes from his time in those meets, earning a spot on the varsity roster.
Facing many of the best Division 2 teams in the section gave Emery a better idea on who the Panthers will be battling in hopes of getting to the WIAA state meet as a team. He said Ashland has made itself a clear favorite, while Hayward and Amery appear to be the Panthers’ main competition to get the second state berth from this sectional.
New Richmond used the Rice Lake meet as a pack running meet, so some of the top Tigers sacrificed their times to help pull some of their cohorts along. It helped, with huge improvements in a couple cases. Josh Green and Alec Knox improved on their personal best times by more than a minute. Senior Jason Staples had a personal best time for the Rice Lake course, a course that has troubled him in past years.
Jake Wishard led the Somerset boys at Rice Lake, placing 61st overall. Wishard ran his career best time of 18:33. Coach Belter said Wishard pushed himself out of his comfort zone in the first mile of the race and was able to maintain a good pace the rest of the way.
This was the first meet of the season for senior Dakota Belter. With Wishard, Belter and sophomore Josh Verdeja, the Spartans have a competitive top three.