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Togetherness nets Tiger boys second place in state relay

The New Richmond boys 800 meter relay team took team togetherness to the extreme at the 2003 WIAA State Track and Field Championships.

Before Saturday's state championship race, all four of the Tiger runners were physically ill. The Tigers then ran an outstanding race, finishing second in the 800 meter relay state championship.

Tiger boys coach Roger Reuvers said the illness was likely due to the nerves of the moment, though he said it was the only show of nerves from the Tiger team of Mike Powers, Scott Emerson, Garret Fletch and Bryan Tschudy.

"They were so serious, I was proud of how they handled themselves all weekend," Reuvers said. "When it came time to warm up, they handled everything by themselves and they handled it well."

The relay team had to rank as one of the big surprises of the state meet. They entered the state meet with the sixth best time from sectionals. Their goal was to just make it through Friday's preliminaries and get into Saturday's finals. Instead, they blew away their competition and won their heat by a comfortable margin.

The boys hit their handoffs about as well as possible during Friday's prelims. The winner of the other heat, Brodhead, went into Saturday's finals with the only time better than the Tigers. Brodhead had two relay members who placed in the top five at state in the 200 meters. Reuvers said the Tigers fit the classic term of a "relay team," as runners who weren't able to get to state individually but came together to make their success happen as a group.

In Saturday's finals the Tigers ran even better, finishing in 1:30.96. Brodhead set a Division 2 state record of 1:29.71 to beat the Tigers. Brodhead was also the 2002 state 800 relay champion, running the same four runners in this year's relay.

This is also the second fastest 800 relay time in New Richmond school history. The 1982 state championship team of Keith Gehring, Dave Marson, Steve Hanson and Mike Preece holds that record at 1:30.6.

"I always look at that as a record I never thought would be broken, but these boys nearly did it," Reuvers said.

The Tigers also benefitted from their state meet last year. Powers, Emerson and Fletch competed at state last year and the experience clearly had them better prepared for this year's trip.

"Last year they were a little in awe," Reuvers said.

Powers is the only senior on the relay. He's always been a care-free spirit, but Reuvers has seen him change since coming out as a sophomore who only wanted to throw the shot and discus.

"As a junior he figured out he wanted to work at sprinting," Reuvers said. "This year he's been the model kid. It's been fun watching him progress, to see him become a leader."

Powers, Richard Haffner and Ryan McCarty were the only seniors the Tigers are losing from this season's team.

Reuvers said there are young sprinters like Mike Martinez and Dan Powers who are already showing the possibility of stepping into Mike Powers' place in the sprint relays. The same four runners also set a school record in the 400 relay this year.

"I think these kids are looking ahead and seeing we can make it back (to state) and bring more kids down," he said.

With talented junior and sophomore classes ready to move up, plus several freshmen who made important contributions this season, the Tigers should be returning one of the strongest teams they've had in many years next season.

The Tigers also have voted on their team awards for this season. Mike Powers was voted as the Most Valuable Tiger. Tschudy received the honor as the Most Improved Tiger. Rookie of the Year went to freshman Alec Slocum. Haffner received the Coaches Award. He was the only member of this year's senior class to compete in track for all four high school years.

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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