2012 Preview: Huge interest in New Richmond cross country programWhen the number of athletes out for cross country matches the number out for the football program, you know running has become a popular sport.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
When the number of athletes out for cross country matches the number out for the football program, you know running has become a popular sport.
That’s the case at New Richmond High School. There are 56 athletes out for the NRHS cross country program this fall: 31 boys and 25 girls.
What’s the key to attracting so many kids into running? Tiger coach Beth Kelly said it involves taking the focus off the running.
“Running isn’t fun, but that’s what we do,” Kelly said. “So we try to make it fun. We do a lot of team building and leadership training. It’s fun to bring in those other elements.”
While running is the essence of the program, the team is always planning its next event, whether it is a bonfire, a team dinner or a team movie outing.
The plan has clearly worked. Approximately 75 percent of the runners went through the summer running program to get ready for the season. Kelly said the summer program has become crucial because it lessens the chance of injuries happening during the season.
Health will be important for the Tigers this season. The Tiger girls are gunning for their sixth straight Middle Border Conference championship. They graduated three of their top runners (Morgan Kelly, Kat Keller and Bailey Matthys) and the conference is packed with top quality runners.
Seniors Ellen Meisner and Marissa Neitzke took on the captain’s responsibility and they played a big part in the recruitment drive. Coach Kelly is looking at Meisner and junior Maddie Kelly to be the top two runners to start the season. Neitzke and senior Emily Bischof both start the season with injuries but are expected to be contributors in the second half of the season.
With so many girls on the team, a number have stepped up to be contenders for the seven varsity positions. Seniors Shelby Rolland and Anne Frank, junior Audrey DeKock, sophomores Kennedy Kling and Meghan Watkins and freshman Emma Kling have all shown the ability to be varsity runners. Coach Kelly said she expects there will be considerable turnover for the varsity spots because there are so many strong runners on the team.
Kelly said the girls need to be ready for a tough challenge when the Middle Border Conference meet is held at Amery on Thursday, Oct. 11.
“This year will be a lot closer than in the past several years,” Kelly predicted. “I’m very hopeful, we have a lot of potential.”
Speaking of potential, for the first time in several years the Tiger boys are being viewed as contenders for an MBC title.
The boys team went through a cycle of being extremely young, but those runners are growing up now.
The Tigers have an established top trio of runners who should match up well against any runners in the conference. Seniors Alex Charbonneau and Ben Norman and sophomore Jack Utzman have become a formidable group of runners who can compete with the top runners in the conference.
There are a number of other runners who are stepping up to be options to fill out the seven varsity slots. Among the early contenders are junior Luke Miller, sophomores Erik Gilkison and Zach Schoepke and freshmen Bailey Wilson and Sam Krueger.
There are many others who could step up to contend for those spots. The coaches are excited about the 15 new freshmen and sophomores out for the boys team this season. Among them, sophomores Aaron Anderson, Hunter Charland, Jake Singerhouse and Nick Lubow are quickly showing the potential to make it to the varsity level.
With the new-found athletic ability within the boys program, the goals are higher for this team than they’ve been in several years.
“I think we can be right up there,” Kelly said about the Tigers’ chances in the MBC race. “I’m excited about our chances of winning or being in the top two.”