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Griak Invitational an eye-opener for young cross country runners

Tiger senior Shelby Rolland (1031) is shown in action in the recent Osceola Invitational.

Competing at one of the largest cross country meets in the country was an eye-opening experience for the New Richmond and Somerset squads on Saturday.

Both teams were part of the incredible field of runners at the Roy Griak Invitational hosted by the University of Minnesota. Ten college and high school races were held over the course of the day at the Les Bolstad Golf Club at the university.

The local team that likely benefitted most from the experience was the New Richmond boys squad. The Tiger boys had three freshmen and three sophomores running on Saturday, with senior Ben Norman as the only upperclassman in the group. The Tiger boys were able to place 29th among the 50 teams in the Maroon Division race, a huge step up from the team's 45th place finish a year ago.

The Tigers made this finish without lead runner Alex Charbonneau, who was held out of both of the team's races last week due to an inflamed Achilles tendon.

Sophomore Jack Utzman took on the lead role for the Tigers, placing 63rd among the more than 450 runners in the race. Freshmen Austin Haseleu and Bailey Wilson were the Tigers' second and third runners, followed by Norman. Freshman Sam Krueger was the fifth Tiger, followed by sophomores Erik Gilkison and Zach Schoeppke.

New Richmond's girls also placed 29th in the meet. Junior Maddie Kelly and seniors Shelby Rolland and Ellen Meisner continue to be a consistent top three for the girls team. Tiger coach Beth Kelly said she is looking for fourth and fifth runners who can step up and narrow the gap by the time the Tigers run in the Middle Border Conference meet on Oct. 11.

Running fourth and fifth for the Tigers at the Griak meet were seniors Ari Ziemer and Amanda Anez. Freshman Harley Leavens made her varsity debut running at the Griak meet, finishing sixth for the Tigers. Senior Anne Frank was the Tigers' seventh runner.

Somerset's boys were without several of their varsity runners for Saturday's race, which caused the Spartans to drop back to 47th in the race. Senior Josh Verdeja was the top finisher for the Spartan boys, placing 231st.

Somerset's girls ranked 49th in the Maroon race. Senior Grace Becher placed 179th as the top finisher for the Spartans.

Chippewa Falls

Several of the runners who competed for New Richmond at the Griak Invitational got into the varsity lineups based on their performance in last Tuesday's Chippewa Falls Invitational.

New Richmond's varsity girls placed fourth at Chippewa Falls, based on a powerful showing from Kelly, Rolland and Meisner. Kelly placed sixth in the 5K race, with Rolland crossing ninth and Meisner 11th.

Coach Kelly said several girls performed quite well in the junior varsity race at Chippewa Falls. They were led by Anez and Leavens, who were able to earn spots in Saturday's varsity lineup with the times they posted on Tuesday.

The Tiger boys ran up against a strong field at Chippewa Falls, led by Eau Claire Memorial, which won the meet with 28 points. The Tigers were able to place fifth among the nine teams entered.

Utzman led the Tigers by placing 19th and Haseleu was 15 second behind him as the second Tiger runner, placing 21st.

2012 Chippewa Falls Cross Country Invitational

Girls team scores: Marshfield 48, Menomonie 69, Rice Lake 74, New Richmond 85, Eau Claire North 135, Baldwin-Woodville 157, Hudson 167, Chippewa Falls 178

New Richmond finishes

6. Maddie Kelly 21:20; 9. Ellen Meisner 21:39; 11. Shelby Rolland 21:43; 29. Ari Ziemer 22:58; 30. Audrey DeKock 23:19; 42. Anne Frank 23:57; 43. Kennedy Kling 23.59

Boys team scores: Eau Claire Memorial 28, Marshfield 73, Eau Claire North 74, Menomonie 98, New Richmond 148, Chippewa Falls 153, Baldwin-Woodville 202, Rice Lake 209, Hudson 214

New Richmond finishes

19. Jack Utzman 18:16; 21. Austin Haseleu 18:31; 33. Ben Norman 19:18; 37. Bailey Wilson 19:24; 38. Zach Schoepke 19:27; 44. Sam Krueger 19:41; 45. Luke Miller 19:42