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Opening meets are fact-finding missions for New Richmond track teams

The hurdles should be a strong event for the New Richmond girls track team with Emma Ongstad (left) and Sarena Shilts showing they are competitive during last Tuesday's meet in River Falls.

The first two meets of the season were more like fact-finding missions for the New Richmond track teams.

The Tigers showed they can be quite competitive with other local teams in the six-team New Richmond Invitational held at the UW-River Falls indoor facility last Tuesday.

The Tigers were without a number of their athletes because of spring break, but the Tigers who competed showed good things in Saturday's Northern Badger Invitational at the UW-Stout indoor facility in Menomonie.

Neither of the Tiger teams has a vast amount of experience in their senior classes. The coaches have praised the leadership shown by the returning seniors on both squads.

For the boys team, Alex Charbonneau and Travis Germain are two seniors who have quickly proven they are ready for big roles on the team. Charbonneau broke a meet record by more than 15 seconds in the 1,600 meters on Tuesday, winning in 4:44.98. Coach Roger Reuvers said he expects the distance events to be one of the team's strengths, with Charbonneau, Jack Utzman, Bailey Wilson and Austin Haseleu leading a skilled group of runners.

Germain grabbed the coaches' attention by running a 24.3 time to place seventh in the 200 meters in Saturday's meet. He ran a nearly identical split in the 800 relay.

"You don't get that time indoors very often," Reuvers said. "Something clicked for Travis last week. He's figured it out."

Two juniors who showed last Tuesday they can contribute in several events were Allan Wollenberg and Cole Olson. Olson looks to be a solid fit for the middle distances and Wollenberg should be a steady producer in the long and triple jumps.

This is a vastly different team for the Tiger girls than in previous years. Kat Keller is now at the University of Minnesota after one of the best track careers in Tiger history. The Tigers also lost key contributors like Morgan Kelly, Nicole Hedlund and Anna McShane.

Coach Judy Weiss said the team will build around a strong group of senior leaders in Erika Bohmke, Anne Frank, Emily Bischof, Heidi Germain and Rose Smith.

Weiss said the team does have strengths to build upon. The long jump with Bohmke, Smith and Abby Blader is one and the high jump with Emily Kukacka and Maddie Kelly is another. Weiss said the Tigers will be strong on the track in the 400 and 800 events, which will also help them to build competitive relay teams.

Some of the younger Tigers are beginning to emerge too. Sophomore Taylor Klemmensen missed last season with an injury. She's ready to be a factor this year, taking second place in a strong field of runners in the 200 meters on Saturday.

Kelly placed third in the 800 meters on Saturday and sophomores Emma Ongstad and Sarena Shilts showed they can make the hurdles a strong area for the team this season.

The next meet for the Tigers will be the All-American Invite at the UW-River Falls indoor facility. The JV half of that meet will be run on Friday, April 5, with the varsity half of the meet held the following day.