Season Preview: Somerset runners rely on handful of veterans as leadersA few returning veterans on each team will be counted upon to lead the Somerset cross country teams this season.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
A few returning veterans on each team will be counted upon to lead the Somerset cross country teams this season.
Somerset’s girls ranked second in the Middle Border Conference last season, with three of the seven girls from that team returning this year. The Spartan boys placed seventh in the MBC meet last season, with four of their seven runners returning.
The biggest change for the Spartans is the graduation of Monica Emerson. For the past three years Emerson and senior Ontario “Tia” Belter have been the lead tandem for the Spartan girls. Last year Belter finished second in the conference meet and Emerson finished fourth.
Also returning from the second place team last year are senior Sara Henry and junior Grace Becher.
Spartan coach Diane Belter said her daughter and Becher have put in a significant amount of miles over the summer and are ready to lead the girls team this year. She said Henry hasn’t gotten in as many miles so it might take her some time to return to her rank as one of the team’s lead runners.
There is considerable competition for the other four spots in the Spartan varsity lineup. Coach Belter said seniors Sarah Brown and Kaylin Peterson, sophomores Yosselyn Moncada, Carrie Kulibert and Nicole Hastings and freshman Laura Smith are all putting up hearty efforts to get a varsity spot.
“That group is working hard and they really want to improve,” Belter said.
Seniors Steph Kelsey and Lizzy Vanasse are others who could be pushing their way into the competition for varsity spots before long.
Coach Belter was worried that the team might not have enough girls to fill out a varsity roster. But with several soccer players joining the team to keep in shape for their spring season, there are now 13 girls out for cross country.
There are seven runners out for the Spartan boys team, so they’ll all be running varsity this season. Leading the team are senior Jake Wishard and junior Josh Verdeja. Belter said she believes both of them have the ability to be all-conference runners this season.
Belter said she expects Wishard to improve steadily through the season.
“Jake likes to get into the meat of the season. He has really good intentions,” she said.
Verdeja may be one of the most changed runners in the conference. He placed 37th in the conference meet last year, but wasn’t the most confident runner. He’s a more mature, self-assured runner this season.
“I think he’s got goals in mind and he’ll do the work to reach those goals,” Belter said. “I can see him right up there with Jake.”
Also returning to the varsity lineup are senior Tyler Lindquist and junior Emmitt Foster. They are both reliable runners who will push for spots in the top five.
Senior Tyler Kampsula, junior Alex Meyer and freshman Austin Headlee are all capable of making the top five. Kampsula showed in track last spring that he could be the Spartans’ third varsity runner. Meyer hasn’t competed since his freshman season, but has shown promise. Headlee is the only freshman on the roster.
“That kid has the potential to really shake things up on the varsity squad,” Belter predicted.
Because both Spartan teams return a limited group of runners, Belter is being tentative in predicting how the Spartans could fare in the conference this season. She said Ellsworth, which returns four of the top seven runners from last season’s conference meet, is a clear favorite in the boys meet. Prescott also returns several top runners. Belter said she thought the Spartan boys could compete evenly with New Richmond and Osceola this season.
Belter said New Richmond brings back its entire lineup from last year’s conference championship team, so the Tigers are odds-on favorites. Several teams bring back a few top runners, so there should be close competition for the spots behind New Richmond.