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Slocum, Mitchell are MBC champs; both NR CC teams are second

New Richmond's Ayla Mitchell and Alec Slocum are the 2003 Middle Border Conference individual cross country champions.

For the second straight year New Richmond had the individual champions in each of the MBC races. In the team finishes, New Richmond took second place in both races. The closest finish was in the girls race, where Amery edged the Tigers by three points for the conference title.

In each race this season where the Tigers faced Amery, New Richmond's girls have gotten closer to Amery. With the margin down to three points, the Tigers are looking forward to this Friday's Osceola Division 2 sectional meet, with the goal of finally overtaking Amery.

"It's definitely possible," said New Richmond coach Brent Aukema.

In Mitchell and Natalie Johnson, the Tiger girls had the first and third place finishers in the MBC meet. The next five Tiger runners then formed a solid pack finishing between 18th and 29th. Hannah Demulling was 18th, Heather Zimmerman 21st, Rachel Olson 25th, Ericka Leahy (who celebrated her 18th birthday the day after the race) 26th and Liz Scheder 29th. Aukema referred to Mitchell and Johnson as the "top of the mountain" and the pack of five runners as the foundation.

"Right now we've got a really good foundation," he said.

The Tigers battle with Amery because Amery also has a strong pack, but the Tigers have made progress in breaking into the Amery pack.

"The girls are really coming together as a team," Aukema said.

Mitchell led the entire race and won with a 24-second margin over Somerset's Whitney Langer.

Johnson continues to be one of the surprises of the season. She was running in a pack behind the leaders for most of the race. She was running fifth with 300 meters left, then made a strong final push to move up to third place.

Boys trail Osceola

The Tiger boys were solidly in second place at the conference meet, trailing Osceola by 19 points, but finishing 30 points ahead of third-place Amery.

Slocum ran the best race of his career in taking the boys title. The sophomore ran in the lead pack with two Osceola runners for most of the race. With 1,000 meters to go, he made his move, building up a 13-second margin over the second place finisher.

"To see somebody pull away and be able to maintain could just see him accelerate the last 300 meters," Aukema said.

The Tigers then had a strong 2-6 pack, getting their top six runners all across the finish line among the top 18 runners in the race.

Senior Erik Anderson finished 12th, in 17:20. He was followed by Mike Tarman in 15th, Zach Wolff in 16th, Brian Wojan in 17th and Nate Hartigan in 18th. This pack all came in ahead of Osceola's fifth runner.

"The boys ran as well as they could run," Aukema said.

Last year the Tiger boys were MBC champions. This is the second straight year that New Richmond has placed second in the MBC girls meet.

Sectional hopes

Both New Richmond teams are aiming at earning one of the top two team spots at Friday's sectional meet, which would qualify them for the 2003 WIAA State Cross Country Meet. The top five runners not a part of those two qualifying teams will also qualify for state.

The girls race will be run at 4:15 p.m. on Friday at Osceola. The boys race will be run at 5:15 p.m.

Aukema said both teams are hoping to do better against the teams they know best, the other teams from the MBC. The Tiger girls are expecting to face battles from Amery, Medford and Hayward for the right to run at state. The boys are expecting Osceola, Stanley-Boyd and Spooner to be their primary obstacles in trying to get to state.

"I know they are setting goals," Aukema said. "They are excited, it'll be a hard race but they are ready for it."

2003 Middle Border conference Cross Country Meet

Boys Team Scores: Osceola 42, New Richmond 61, Amery 71, Ellsworth 95, Somerset 112, Prescott 152, Baldwin-Woodville 186, Durand inc.

New Richmond placewinners

1. Alec Slocum 16:19; 12. Erik Anderson 17:20; 15. Mike Tarman 17:37; 16. Zach Wolff 17:42; 17. Brian Wojan 17:46; 18. Nate Hartigan 17:49; 38. Kai Abrahamson 19:26

Somerset placewinners

4. Lon Reyer 16:47; 25. Tim Wenzel 18:10; 27. Josh Hecht 18:15; 29. Matt Hanzlik 18:30; 31. John Mitchell 18:34; 32. David Baillargeon 18:35; 33. Tyler LeRoy 18:44

Girls Team Scores: Amery 63, New Richmond 66, Osceola 96, Ellsworth 102, Prescott 115, Somerset 115, Durand 140, Baldwin-Woodville inc.

New Richmond placewinners

1. Ayla Mitchell 15:43; 3. Natalie Johnson 16:10; 18. Hannah Demulling 17:08; 21. Hannah Zimmerman 17:16; 25. Rachael Olson 17:25; 26. Ericka Leahy 17:26; 29. Liz Scheder 17:38

Somerset placewinners

2. Whitney Langer 16:07; 11. Emily Witzmann 16:45; 31. Britany Haukom 17:48; 33. Christi Schmitt 10:04; 41. Katie Rivard 18:58; 43. Beth Baillargeon 19:05; 46. Amanda Plourde 19:44

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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