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RF CC Invite tests multiple skills, teams' early depth

The River Falls Cross Country Invitational was more like a biathlon this season.

For the New Richmond and Somerset cross country teams, this meet was a great opening meet for the 2003 season. It not only tested a variety of physical skills, it gave the teams an idea of the possibilities they have for the upcoming season.

New Richmond's girls finished second in their half of the meet, while the Tiger boys finished third. Somerset's girls were sixth and the Spartan boys were seventh, but both Somerset teams were short-handed with the Spartan Marching Band performing at the Minnesota State Fair the same afternoon.

For the New Richmond teams, the best news was the ability of both varsity teams to get their varsity lineup to run in packs. For both of the Tiger lineups, the top seven runners were all able to stay within packs. Tiger coach Brent Aukema said this meet had both teams encouraged.

"For that crazy a race, they ran good. Now they are looking forward to getting onto a regular course and seeing what they can do," Aukema said.

The Tiger girls were led by junior Ayla Mitchell, who recorded her third straight win at the River Falls meet.

"She went out early and established herself," Aukema said. "What put everything together was the way the 2-5 girls ran."

Hannah Demulling, Hannah Zimmerman, Natalie Johnson and Rachael Olson ran with a 38-second pack to get the top five Tiger girls across the finish line in excellent position. Ericka Leahy and Liz Scheder also ran strong times to give the Tigers a legitimate top seven runners.

The Tiger boys were just as impressive. Sophomore Alec Slocum went out hard at the start, getting himself in good position as the runners crossed the south fork of the Kinnickinnic River early on the course. Slocum kept up that pace and finished fourth in the boys race.

"To have someone that young to be a lead runner is unique for me," Aukema said.

For runners like Slocum and others who aren't overly tall, crossing the river turned this race into a biathlon. The water was neck-high or higher on most runners, meaning that many of the runners had to swim to get across the river.

The Tiger boys put together a good pack too, with Erik Anderson, Nate Hartigan, Mike Tarman, Zach Wolff, Brian Wojan and Josh Jorstad all finishing between 14th and 28th.

Somerset's girls looked like an established team in placing sixth in the race. Seniors Emily Witzmann and Whitney Langer are back at the front of the pack for the Spartans. They placed sixth and 12th respectively to give the Spartans a strong pair of lead runners.

The third and fourth runners for the Spartans were Britany Haukom and Amanda Plourde. Spartan coach Diane Belter said she hopes those two can close the gap between them and Somerset's lead runners.

Running fifth for the Spartans was Christi Schmitt, who is much improved since last season.

"She's a real go-getter," Belter said. "She's the one who's going to be pushing everyone along and getting our 1-5 split closer."

The Somerset boys were led by senior Jon Reyer, who placed 11th in 21:16. Belter said she was most pleased with the performance of senior David Baillargeon, who placed 18th and had no problems with his asthma after trying a new faster warmup run.

On this week's calendar, New Richmond will be running in the Eau Claire North Invitational on Saturday. Next Tuesday the Tigers will be hosts for their own invitational meet. Every team from the Middle Border Conference except Osceola will be competing in the meet, along with several other area schools.

2003 River Falls Invitational Cross Country Meet

Girls Team Scores: River Falls 25, New Richmond 79, Anoka 91, Chippewa Falls 139, Rice Lake 164, Somerset 166, Prescott 187, Menomonie 217, Ellsworth 269

New Richmond times

1. Ayla Mitchell 19:05; 15. Hannah Demulling 21:14; 17. Hannah Zimmerman 21:15; 19. Natalie Johnson 21:20; 24. Rachael Olson 21:52; 36. Ericka Leahy 22:18; 43. Liz Scheder 22:37; 71. Meredith Neumann 24:56; 96. Meghan Moening 27:11

Somerset times

6. Emily Witzmann 20:34; 12. Whitney Langer 21:07; 47. Britany Haukom 23:07; 48. Amanda Plourde 23:08; 53. Christi Schmitt 23:41; also Chealsey Sword 24:47; Beth Baillargeon 25:19

Boys Team Scores: River Falls 33, Menomonie 79, New Richmond 86, Anoka 134, St. Croix Falls 154, Ellsworth 173, Somerset 197, Prescott 216

New Richmond times

4. Alec Slocum 20:16; 14. Erik Tarman 21:26; 21. Nate Hartigan 22:17; 23. Mike Tarman 22:40; 24. Zach Wolff 22:45; 26. Bryan Wojan 23:01; 28. Josh Jorstad 23:05; 37. Chris Parker 23:54

Somerset times

11. Jon Reyer 21:16; 18. David Baillargeon 22:06; 36. Tyler LeRoy 23:50; 64. Matt Plourde 25:18; 68. Casey Colbeth 25:37

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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