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Pack running produces big results for New Richmond cross country team

Teamwork was the plan for the New Richmond runners in Saturday’s meet in Osceola, with the Tigers running in packs for much of the race. Here Ali Hamholm (2508) and Jessie Gillis (2506) run stride-for-stride in the early stages of the race.1 / 2
New Richmond’s Brennan Roby leads a pack of runners into the final stretch of the course at the Osceola Invitational on Saturday.2 / 2

The concentration was on pack running.

But the trophies were a nice bonus.

The New Richmond cross country team runs at the Osceola Invitational every year, not competing for team honors but to work on pack running and helping their squad to improve as a group.

So finishing in first place in the boys large school division and in second place in the girls large school division was a pleasing bonus for the Tigers.

New Richmond’s boys won the large school division with 29 points, finishing ahead of Mahtomedi which finished with 45 points. The Tiger girls finished second to an impressive Mahtomedi team.

Tiger coach Beth Kelly said the boys’ championship was a just reward for the team’s lead runners, Jack Utzman and Brennan Roby, who ran with teammates for 4,000 meters of the race. They were trying to help their teammates to improve their pace and aggressiveness. At the 4,000-meter mark the restrictions were lifted and the Tigers could try to pass as many runners as possible. Utzman was able to move up to seventh place and Roby ninth place.

The strong balance in the Tiger lineup showed with Austin Haseleu placing 11th, Bailey Wilson 13th, Nate Mortenson 14th, Luke Miller 24th and Sam Charbonneau 26th.

Tiger coach Beth Kelly said the unselfish acts of the lead runners showed the importance of the team aspect in cross country.

“Cross country really is a team sport. There are individual successes built in. The kids think it’s awesome to help their teammates,” Kelly said.

The girls race Saturday gave the Tigers a look at their future and the future is quite bright. Seniors Maddie Kelly and Audrey DeKock were attending the ACT testing on Saturday, leaving the Tigers without their two most experienced runners. The rest of the Tigers proved that the program is in good hands.

In the girls race the Tigers also concentrated on pack running and it wasn’t until the final 1,000 meters that they began to break away. Leading the Tigers was junior Peyton Olien, who placed 18th. Olien underwent a major transformation within a week’s time. She was the Tigers’ top junior varsity finisher at Rice Lake last Tuesday, her best race to that point. Olien ran in a pack with Mallory Kelly, Mikayla Gefeke, Harley Leavens and Lexi Brown at Osceola. The pack mentality helped them all maintain their pace, and they finished within a 20-second span. Kelly was 21st, Gefeke 22nd, Leavens 23rd and Brown 24th in the race.

“It is a huge percentage easier to run with someone than to run by yourself,” said Coach Kelly, who has extensively studied the benefits of pack running.

There were packs of runners everywhere when the Tigers competed at the Rice Lake Invitational last Tuesday.With nearly 30 teams in each half of the meet, this race provided the Tigers with the experience of running in large waves of runners. They will experience that again this Saturday when they run in the Roy Griak Invitational at the University of Minnesota and when they compete in the WIAA sectional meet.

The Tigers proved they aren’t intimidated by large packs of runners. The Tiger boys placed second in the meet and the Tiger girls placed fourth.

Roby stepped up to lead the Tiger boys in this meet, taking 12th overall. Utzman finished 20th, Haseleu 23rd, Mortensen 31st, Wilson 52nd and Charbonneau 62nd.

Coach Kelly said the boys remembered that they didn’t run well at Rice Lake last year and they wanted another chance at proving themselves there. She said the move from the sixth place finish last year to second this year shows that they accomplished their goal.

Hudson’s girls grabbed everyone’s attention at the meet by taking five of the top six places in the race. The only non-Hudson runner in that top pack was Maddie Kelly, who placed fourth.

Mallory Kelly placed 31st as the Tigers’ second runner. Leavens finished 38th, Brown 44th, Andrea Meisner 55th, Gefeke 62nd and Jessie Gillis 78th.

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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