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New Richmond runners do the lineup shuffle

With injuries, illness and other wear and tear that affects runners late in a season, the New Richmond cross country teams are taking a different lineup into every meet they run.

That was the case last Thursday when they competed in the Chippewa Falls Invitational at Lake Wissota State Park.

The Tigers did welcome junior Jake Wickham back into the lineup for the Chippewa Falls meet, but varsity runners Hannah Utzman, Katelyn Walker, Andy Steffen and Jason Staples all sat this one out for differing health reasons.

Even with two of their top four runners sidelined, the Tiger girls were able to place fourth among the 12 teams in the meet. The Tiger boys don't have quite the same depth and they finished ninth among 13 boys teams.

Getting Wickham back after several weeks of being treated for an injury was a key step for the boys team. Wickham started the meet gradually, then got stronger as he moved deeper into the race. He finished fifth overall. With Wickham and junior Nick Stenske, who placed 11th, the Tigers have one of the strongest 1-2 tandems in the Middle Border Conference.

The MBC is at the front of the Tigers' thoughts because their next meet is the 2008 MBC Meet, which will be run next Thursday in Osceola. In the absence of Staples and Steffen, runners like Dylan Novitzke and Tyler Wilson are pushing themselves to be stronger varsity runners.

Another addition to the boys lineup is junior Zeb Johnson. He ran his second race of the season at Chippewa Falls after being sidelined with a leg injury. He's another runner who could push his way into the varsity lineup, depending on hs recuperation.

Leading the Tiger girls at Chippewa Falls was senior McKenzie Kelly. She ran one of her strongest races of the season, taking third overall. Kelly held back in the first half of the race, then showed an excellent energy level as she passed runner after runner in the second half of the race.

Coach Beth Kelly said freshmen Kat Keller and Morgan Kelly stepped up their performances. Keller in particular has been making a fast ascent among the Tiger runners.

"She's learning how to run the distance," Coach Kelly said.

The Tiger coaches have the Tigers work on strategic themes during many of their races. In this race, each Tiger runner was expected to break out of their normal pace and run hard for 15 steps at three different times during the race. Coach Kelly said this was done to help the runners' ability to change gears. With the conference meet and WIAA sectionals ahead of them, the Tigers are working at honing their competitive racing skills.

2008 Chippewa Falls Cross Country Invitational on Oct. 2

Girls Team Scores: Marshfield 62, Hudson 76, Eau Claire Memorial 103, New Richmond 110, River Falls 126, Menomonie 141, Eau Claire North 154, Chippewa Falls 197, Baldwin-Woodville 244, Rice Lake 274, Marathon 367, Gilman-Cornell 397

New Richmond finishes

3. McKenzie Kelly 19:51; 18. Anna Zietlow 20:56; 23. Kat Keller 21:01; 27. Morgan Kelly 21:09; 39. Bailey Matthys 21:33; 41. Maria Soderquist 21:36; 49. Maggie Evans 22:06

Boys Team Scores: Hudson 46, Eau Claire Memorial 62, Marathon 105, River Falls 132, Marshfield 141, Rice Lake 162, Menomonie 183, Chippewa Falls 204, New Richmond 217, Eau Claire North 237, Gilman-Cornell 331, Baldwin-Woodville 393, Altoona 405

New Richmond finishes

5. Jake Wickham 17:02; 11. Nick Stenske 17:26; 62. Dylan Novitzke 19:18; 63. Tyler Wilson 19:22; 76. Ben Matthys 20:11; 78. Charlie Kleiner 20:16; 79. Josh Green 20:19