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Tiger runners focused on titles in Thursday's Middle Border Conference meet

Sam Charbonneau is one of the Tigers who has shown steady progress throughout the cross country season. 1 / 2
Kanya Dwire (in black) was one of the big surprises of the Amery Invitational for the Tigers, finishing as the team's third runner in the girls' race.2 / 2

The Middle Border Conference cross country meet will be run this Thursday.

Look for lots of orange and black toward the front of the pack.

Both New Richmond cross country teams have goals of winning conference championships. The conference meet will be run at Rolling Hills Golf Course in Durand. The girls race starts at 4:15 p.m. with the boys race beginning at 5 p.m.

The Tigers are coming off a strong effort at last Tuesday’s Amery Invitational. New Richmond’s boys took the championship in the 16-team meet and the Tiger girls finished second behind Rice Lake.

New Richmond’s boys were able to win at Amery despite Brennan Roby and Sam Krueger both sitting out the meet with injuries. Both have been among the team’s top three runners this season.

The incredible depth on the team made sure their absence didn’t affect the final result. Junior Jack Utzman remained as the Tigers’ top runner, placing eighth. Sophomore Bailey Wilson moved up to finish ninth.

“Bailey had a great run,” said Tiger coach Beth Kelly. “He’s hit his stride at the right time.”

Austin Haseleu was two seconds behind Wilson, taking 11th. Nate Mortensen and Luke Miller filled out the top five places for the Tiger boys.

There were six MBC teams running in the Amery Invite. The Tiger boys were 89 points ahead of the second MBC squad, Amery. New Richmond’s JV boys also won at Amery, with eight of the top 10 runners in the race.

The Tiger boys have set goals of winning both the varsity and junior varsity races at the conference meet. They are focused on improving as much as they are on winning.

“We don’t want to be content,” Kelly said. “We want to keep challenging ourselves.”

She said the Tigers will be running in an extremely strong Division 1 tournament field a week later and they will need to be at their best to be competitive in that race.

The Tiger girls continue to be led by senior Maddie Kelly, who placed fourth in the meet. One of the beacons of promise was the move forward by junior Peyton Olien to place eighth in the meet.

“Peyton is learning how to race through discomfort,” Kelly said.

Harley Leavens, Mallory Kelly and Mikayla Gefeke rounded out the top five varsity runners.

Two of the surprises for the girls came from the junior varsity meet. Junior Kanya Dwire won the JV race by 25 seconds. Her time would have been third on the varsity team.

“She had a breakout race,” Kelly said. “She’s been a great addition to the team.”

Senior Audrey DeKock also had a bounce-back race, taking second in the JV meet at 18:22. The Tigers took the top five places in the JV race, with Kennedy Kling, Alli Hamholm and Andrea Meisner rounding out the top five.

The goal for the Tiger girls this Thursday is clear: to win the team’s seventh straight MBC championship.

“Losing the varsity girls we did last year made it seem like a long shot to keep the streak going, but with our hard-working freshmen and our new girls, we have a shot,” Kelly said.

One of the toughest duties for the Tiger coaches is deciding which seven runners will be in the varsity lineup for large races like the conference and sectional meets. Kelly said there are a number of criteria that work into that decision. The coaches keep a grid of the runners’ performances all season and look for trends to see what runners should be performing their best at those races.

Amery cross country invitational

Boys team scores: New Richmond 66, Grantsburg 71, Unity-Luck 113, Amery 155, Rice Lake 164, Webster 164, Osceola 166, Bloomer 169, St. Croix Falls 171, Baldwin-Woodville 216, Prescott 258, Somerset inc.

New Richmond varsity runners

8. Jack Utzman 18:13; 9. Bailey Wilson 18:18; 11. Austin Haseleu 18:20; 16. Nate Mortensen 18:56; 22. Luke Miller 19:09; 29. Sam Charbonneau 19:24; 36. Zach Schoepke 19:54

Somerset varsity runners

12. Brandon Mondor 18:26; 16. Cole Harty 18:45; 34. Ethan Baillargeon 19:30; 75. Austin Headlee 22:00

Girls team scores: Rice Lake 62, New Richmond 91, Osceola 115, Amery 122, Bloomer 129, Baldwin-Woodville 142, Prescott 150, St. Croix Falls 216, Grantsburg 227, Flambeau 265, Elmwood 286, Somerset 295

New Richmond varsity runners

4. Maddie Kelly 16:54; 8. Peyton Olien 17:24; 24. Harley Leavens 18:09; 27. Mallory Kelly 18:16; 28. Mikayla Gefeke 18:35; 30. Lexi Brown 18:39; 34. Meghan Watkins 18:48

Somerset varsity runners

45. Jesse Swanson 19:16; 52. Lauren Sandy 19:40; 53. Katie Berg 19:43; 71. Maggie Becher 21:05; 74. Laura Smith 22:34

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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