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Spartans hope for impact at state, girls win sectional title

With a little luck, the Somerset girls track team thinks it can make an impact in the 2009 WIAA State Track and Field Championships.

The Spartan girls are taking 10 entries to the 2009 state track meet, which will be run this Friday and Saturday at UW-La Crosse. That entry total is one of the highest in team history.

Somerset's boys will also be in action at state, with three boys competing in individual events in the state meet.

Spartan girls

Somerset's girls added to their award-winning season by winning the team championship in last Friday's WIAA Division 2 sectional meet in Medford. Winning the sectional title wasn't a focus of the team, it was merely a by-product of another overwhelming team performance.

The Spartans' string of successes at the sectional is impressive. They were champions in the 400 and 800 meter relays. They also had individual champions in the 100 meter dash and the triple jump.

Somerset's top athletes will be busy at the state meet. Somerset coach Dave Praschak said that's good, because the girls are accustomed to having busy schedules at meets. He said this will help them deal with any nervousness.

Leading the performance at the sectional for Somerset was junior Alicia Potting. She was part of three sectional championships and placed second in another event. She ran in both of the Spartans' winning relays. She was the champion in the triple jump and she was just edged out of the title in the 200 meter dash.

Three Spartans will be competing in three events at state. Senior Christina Flandrick is part of the 800 meter relay team and she advanced in the 100 hurdles. She also qualified for state in the pole vault. Flandrick's vaulting has been off a bit ever since she cleared 11 feet, 6 inches in a meet. Praschak said the coaches think Flandrick has found where her problem was and the coaches expect her to vault well at state.

Senior Gina Hanzlik is part of the 400 meter relay team. She will be taking part in the 100 hurdles and the long jump. This will be her fourth season of competing in the long jump at the state meet.

Junior Lauren Westerdahl continues to be incredibly solid in the sprints. She was part of both sectional winning relay teams. She also was the sectional champion in the 100 meter dash. Westerdahl had the best time in the 100 prelims, at 12.8 seconds. She bettered that significantly in the finals, running away from the pack to win in 12.61 seconds.

Junior Tasha Kandakova will be running in both of Somerset's state relay teams. Kandakova had a scare in the 100 meter dash finals at the sectional. She had the second best time in the prelims behind Westerdahl. Kandakova stepped awkwardly as she came out of the blocks in the 100 finals, causing her surgically repaired knee to buckle momentarily.

After a couple tentative strides Kandakova found she didn't have any pain in the knee and continued on with the race. Those few strides knocked her back from second to seventh.

"I was just glad she wasn't hurt," Praschak said. "For a moment I thought we lost her because of the knee."

A big surprise for the Spartans was sophomore Monica Emerson in the 800 meters. Emerson made a huge improvement in her time to qualify for sectionals. At the sectional meet she shaved another five seconds off her time, finishing at 2:24, to place fourth and earn a place in the state meet.

Somerset's 10 state entries tie West Salem for the second most in Division 2. Arcadia has the most D2 girls state entries, with 16.

With 10 entries in the state meet, the Spartans have potential to score a fair amount of points. Praschak said the team could use some luck to go its way. Other than former state champion high jumper Megan Plourde, who graduated last year, the Spartans have had miserable luck trying to get girls on the state awards podium.

"There is some need for luck, but with all the skill we have, there shouldn't be any excuses to not make the podium," Praschak said.

Praschak said the team can create its own luck by performing with the same attitude it had for the sectional meet.

"It was by far our best performance of the year," he said.

Spartan boys

Seniors Cole Cloutier and Darrin Emmeck and sophomore Dylan Rivard will be representing the Spartan boys at the state track meet.

Rivard is advancing as a sectional champion, after winning the 400 meter dash at Medford on Friday.

Cloutier and Emmeck will both be competing in field events. Cloutier placed fourth in the high jump in the sectional meet and Emmeck took fourth place in the shot put.

Rivard broke the school record he set at the regional meet, winning the sectional 400 meter race in 50.55 seconds.

Somerset coach Diane Belter said Rivard got the ideal lane for the state meet. He will be running right next to the Arcadia runner who has the best qualifying time in the race.

"Dylan's such a competitor, he'll thrive on (running next to the top runner)," Belter said.

Cloutier was able to qualify for state despite hurting his heel in the triple jump event at the sectional meet. Even with the sore foot, Cloutier was able to clear 6 feet, getting him the fourth place spot in the sectional meet.

Emmeck has been hovering right around the 50-foot mark in his recent meets. He was able to launch the shot 49 feet, 5 inches, which got him fourth place in the sectional meet.

Seniors Alex Praschak and Carris Bible missed qualifying for state in their hurdle events. Praschak placed fifth in the 110 hurdles and Bible was eighth in the 300 hurdles. The Spartans' 1,600 meter relay team missed advancing, ending up in sixth place.

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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