Two-year transformation turns Somerset boys into Middle Border Conference track championsThe Somerset boys track team completed an incredible two-season transformation, winning the 2012 Middle Border Conference championship two years after the Spartans finished last at the MBC meet.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
The Somerset boys track team completed an incredible two-season transformation, winning the 2012 Middle Border Conference championship two years after the Spartans finished last at the MBC meet.
This is the first championship for the Somerset boys team since the Spartans joined the MBC a decade ago.
Somerset’s girls also put together an admirable effort, placing third in the 2012 MBC meet, which was held last Tuesday at Osceola.
The victory by the Somerset boys was even more impressive due to the strong overall talent in the conference this season. Several coaches commented that they thought this was one of the deepest pools of talent in several years. Four boys teams scored more than 100 points and defending champion New Richmond dropped to fifth with 81 points.
Second year Somerset boys coach Mike Holmquist credits the turnaround of the program to the athletes, who recruited actively during the past two off-seasons. Two years ago the Spartans had one of the lowest numbers of athletes in the conference. This year the Spartans started the season with more than 65 athletes.
“We’re on top of the world,” Holmquist said in reaction to the championship. “It takes unbelievable kids to turn a program from worst to first in two years.”
The last conference championship won by the Somerset boys team was in 1995 when Somerset competed in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference.
The large number of athletes turned into exceptional depth for the Spartans. With that depth, the coaches were able to let their top sprinters concentrate on open races. Still, the Spartans were able to take 35 of 40 possible points in the relay events, winning the 400, 800 and 3200 relays and taking fourth in the 1600 relay.
The Spartans were individual champions in two events and both were school record breakers by junior Luke Praschak. He began the meet by setting the record in the 110 hurdles, in 15.05 seconds. He followed that by improving his career-best time in the 300 hurdles by more than a second, setting a school record of 40.15 seconds.
The depth on the Spartan team showed in several events, especially the sprints and hurdles. In the 110 hurdles, Praschak, Shane Miller and Logan Wiederin took first, second and fourth, good for 23 points. In the 100 meter dash Robbie Lang ran second, Mitch McConaughey third and Robbie Flom fourth, providing 19 points. Lang, Flom and Alex Baillargeon placed second, fourth and fifth in the 200 to score 17 points.
Lang, McConaughey and Baillargeon were joined by Bailey White on the winning 400 meter relay team. White, McConaughey, Baillargeon and Praschak combined for the win in the 800 relay.
The event that got the Spartans into a positive mindset was the 3200 meter relay, which beat its previous best time by 15 seconds in the victory. Tyler Kampsula, Josh Verdeja, Emmitt Foster and Jake Wishard combined for that victory.
“They set the tone for us, they overachieved,” Holmquist said. “That was a huge catalyst.”
Somerset’s girls performed well in the MBC meet. New Richmond and Osceola were considered heavy favorites to take the top two places in the meet and the Spartans nearly caught Osceola for second place. Osceola finished with 132 points and Somerset finished seven points behind the Chieftains.
Somerset’s girls were champions in two events, both won by junior Sarah Krig. She won the championship in the high jump with a career-best leap of 5 feet, 3 inches. She won the pole vault by clearing the bar at 9 feet, 3 inches. Krig also took second place in the triple jump and third in the 100 hurdles.
Finishing second to Krig in the pole vault was senior Lizzy Vanasse, who cleared 9 feet. This was the first time Vanasse had tried the pole vault since being injured in the event in last year’s conference meet, an injury that required surgery. Vanasse began running competitively in the past few weeks. The coaches were hoping she could clear the minimum height of 7 feet, 6 inches. She did that and kept going, losing a tie-breaking jumpoff with Krig for the top spot in the event.
“Lizzy found her old self and looked very comfortable on the runway,” said girls coach Dave Praschak. “Every coach has stories that define their program and Lizzy’s story will join the many inspiring stories of Somerset track and field.”
Spartan junior Natalie Broome finished third in the 100 and 200 dashes. She finished behind New Richmond’s Kat Keller and Osceola’s Aimee Rice-Strand in both races and they are ranked among the best sprinters in the state this season.
“I think Natalie gained confidence as a sprinter knowing she stayed with Keller and Rice-Strand,” Praschak said.
Another event the Spartans competed in aggressively was the 800, where senior Sarah Brown led for most of the race before being overtaken in the home stretch by two New Richmond girls. Praschak praised Brown’s “run to win” approach to the race.
Also placing third for the Spartan girls was senior Tia Belter in the 3200 meters.