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Tiger track seniors getting fitting sendoff by competing in 2012 WIAA state track meet

New Richmond senior Eli Kelley hits the finish line as the winner in the 400 meter dash at last week's regional meet in New Richmond.1 / 3
New Richmond's Kat Keller and Maddie Kelly are shown competing in the 400 meter dash at the New Richmond Division 1 regional meet last week.2 / 3
New Richmond senior Amy Kukacka won the regional championship in the high jump and narrowly missed qualifying for state in the event.3 / 3

Performing in front of thousands of fans will be a fitting sendoff for the New Richmond track seniors who qualified for the 2012 WIAA State Track and Field Championships.

The state track meet will be held Friday and Saturday at Memorial Stadium on the UW-La Crosse campus.

New Richmond has six individual events and one relay competing in this week's state meet. Five of the six individual events will be run by seniors and one senior will be part of the girls 3200 meter relay team that competes in La Crosse.

Leading the New Richmond contingent to state is senior sprinter Kat Keller. She overpowered all her challengers in last Thursday's Division 1 Rice Lake Sectional Meet, winning championships in the 100, 200 and 400 meter dashes.

Also advancing as a sectional champion is Tiger junior Anna McShane. McShane left no doubt, winning by a healthy distance in the 100 meter hurdles.

The Tiger girls will also be represented at state by the 3200 meter relay team that took second place at the sectional meet. That team includes senior Morgan Kelly, junior Emily Bischof, sophomore Maddie Kelly and freshman Kennedy Kling.

Two seniors will carry the torch for the Tigers boys at the state meet. Eli Kelley returns to state in the 400 meters after his second place finish at Rice Lake. Colton Simpson gets his first chance to compete at state, advancing in the pole vault.

Keller leads the Tigers into the state meet. She's won three state track medals in the past. She was fourth in the 200 meters as a sophomore and junior and she was fifth in the 100 meters last year. This year she's been running her best times in both of those races. She's also run the best time in the state in the girls 400 meters, a 57.32 time at the Rice Lake Invitational.

Tiger girls coach Judy Weiss said Keller has set lofty goals for this year's state meet.

"She'd like to win one of the high medals in all three events. She expects herself to compete well," Weiss said.

McShane was a major surprise in the hurdles this season after struggling in the event last season. Weiss was concerned that with the wet surface, one slip could mean disaster in the hurdles.

"Anny was phenomenal. She did a lot of running in the off-season, so she's a ton stronger," Weiss said.

The 3200 relay team of the Kelly sisters, Morgan and Maddie, Emily Bischof and Kennedy Kling was able to come away with second place in 9:42.49. They were in fourth when Maddie Kelly took the baton for the anchor leg. She passed runners from Wausau East and D.C. Everest to pull the Tigers into second.

Weiss said Bischof made the difference in this event, running a 2:22 split, which is eight seconds better than her previous best.

"Emily was the hero," Weiss said.

The Tigers had several events that performed well, but weren't able to reach state. Nicole Hedlund leaped 16 feet, 4 inches in the long jump. The 800 and 1600 relay teams both placed fifth. Morgan Kelly took sixth place in the 800 meters.

Weiss said the toughest near miss was senior Amy Kukacka placing fourth in the high jump. Weiss said Kukacka has been one of the leaders of the senior group and everyone wanted to see her get a chance to compete at state.

"My heart hurt for her," Weiss said. "If anybody deserved to go it was Amy. She's a great team leader."

The Tiger boys were able to get two of their sectional entries into the state meet.

Kelley took second in the 400 meters at the sectional meet behind Marquis Johnson of Lakeland, who has posted some of the top times in the state this season. Tiger boys coach Roger Reuvers said Kelley's experience at state last year should help him handle the pressure of the event this year.

"He's got a definite goal to make finals and to get on the podium, and to break 50 seconds," Reuvers said. Kelley ran a 50.32 time at the sectional meet.

Simpson has been battling injuries recently. He was one of three vaulters who tied for third by clearing 12 feet, 6 inches. Because Simpson didn't have any misses to that point and his opponents had, he received third place and the final spot in the state field.

Reuvers said he could tell Simpson was on right away, when Simpson only took a few run throughs in the warmups. Reuvers said one goal for Simpson at state is to break the Tiger team record, which stands at 13 feet, 7 inches. Simpson is the first pole vaulter to advance to state for the Tiger boys since the 1996 and 1997 seasons, when Kyle Hinrichs advanced to state.

The third sectional qualifier for the boys was junior Gabe Harvieux. Harvieux took sixth place in the high jump by clearing 6 feet and nearly cleared the bar when it was set two inches higher. Two jumpers who cleared 6-2 qualified for state. Reuvers said Harvieux's improvement has been one of the brightest lights for the Tiger boys this season.

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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