For the first time since the New Richmond cross country team moved to Division 1, the Tiger boys and girls will both be represented at the WIAA state championships.
New Richmond senior Dylan Wachter and freshman Kayla Harris both qualified for the 2017 WIAA Division 1 state championships with their eighth place finishes at the Division 1 sectional meet run at Menomonie on Saturday, Oct. 21. It will be the first chance for both of them to compete at the state cross country meet.
New Richmond's girls placed fifth among the 12 teams at the Division 1 meet on Saturday while the Tiger boys placed ninth. Tiger coach Beth Kelly said the fifth place finish was the best team performance for the Tigers since they moved up to Division 1.
New Richmond's girls were one of the youngest squads in their race, with five freshmen and two sophomores competing. The only team that was younger was second place Onalaska, which had a lineup totally consisting of freshmen.
The Tiger girls knew they'd have a tough challenge to qualify for state as a team, with such strong teams as Hudson, Onalaska and Eau Claire Memorial in this sectional. But the Tigers gave it everything they had, finishing three points out of fourth place.
Harris emerged as the lead runner for the Tigers early in the season. She had to run a strategic race, knowing which girls she needed to beat to advance as an individual. Harris passed runners from Tomah and Chippewa Falls in the final stages of the race to be the fourth individual qualifier, finishing in 20:11. The girl from Chippewa Falls was the fifth state qualifier in 20:13, but the Tomah girl who finished in 20:16 missed out on qualifying.
"She was flawless," Kelly said of Harris' execution of the race strategy. "She ran like a warrior. She was out of her comfort zone, but she stayed where she needed to be."
Willa Rogers was the Tigers' second runner, placing 18th. Barb Kling placed 33rd, Erika Emerson 37th, Sophie Ballard 43rd, Colette Harrold 51st and Maggie Bau 52nd.
Coach Kelly is clearly tickled to have these girls for several more years.
"It's a unique set of qualities. They have no drama. They're focused, driven," she said.
Wachter knew a strong start was crucial on Saturday and he ran a sub-five minute pace for the opening mile. He maintained a secure spot among the top 10 throughout the race, passing an Onalaska runner late in the meet to move up to eighth place. Kelly said Wachter's plan was quite similar to Harris' plan.
"They both raced with some edginess and a willingness to be uncomfortable the whole race," she said.
Chase Chiarle was the Tigers' second runner, placing 60th. He was followed by Joe Smallidge in 65th, Cale Bishop in 74th, Max Fore in 75th, John Haasch in 79th and Caleb Anton in 80th.
Kelly said there were individual performances that stood out. She said Smallidge ran with conviction in wanting to give a strong showing in the senior's final race. For the girls she recognized Emerson, who improved by more than 90 seconds over her previous time at Menomonie.