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Close calls for Somerset runners at sectionals

The step up to Division 2 left Somerset's top runners just a few steps of qualifying for the 2003 WIAA State Cross Country Meet.

Somerset's Jon Reyer and Whitney Langer both came within seconds of qualifying for this year's state meet. Reyer and the Somerset girls team both competed at state in 2002, when Somerset was a Division 3 school.

As a team, Somerset's boys finished eighth among 17 teams and Somerset's girls were ninth in the teams competing in the sectional meet at Osceola on Friday.

Langer missed qualifying for this year's state meet by two seconds. She finished 11th overall, but she was two seconds behind Prescott's Kaycee Murphy, who was the final girl to qualify for state as an individual.

Reyer finished sixth among the boys who would have been individual qualifiers, missing the state spot by 21 seconds.

Still, the 17:36 time that Reyer ran was a career-best, eclipsing his sectional time of last year by 18 seconds. He beat several runners at the sectional who he has never beaten before.

"He's such a good kid. That was really hard, to tell him he was the sixth runner," said Somerset coach Diane Belter. "His whole attitude is just wonderful."

Belter was hammering the point to the runners all week that a fast start was critical at the sectional meet. The boys got a flying start, including Reyer who ran with the leaders through the first stretch of the race.

She said the fast start resulted in strong races for several of the Spartan boys. Senior Jon Mitchell was Somerset's second runner, finishing 54th. He was followed closely by Matt Hanzlik, Tim Wenzel and Tyler LeRoy.

For the Spartan girls, it was a race of emotional turns. Missing qualifying for state by such a short distance left Langer speechless.

"She just cried on my shoulder," Belter said. "We bawled. We both did."

Senior Emily Witzmann, who has joined Langer as a premier running tandem for the Spartans for most of their four high school seasons, started strongly. She then faded finishing 29th.

Two Somerset runners who did have good days were sophomores Chealsey Sword and Christi Schmitt. They finished 58th and 59th in the girls race.