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Somerset track teams flex their muscle at Amery Invitational

Getting the chance to participate in a meet that was the same format as the one used for the Middle Border Conference meet was too much for the Somerset Spartans to pass up.

The Spartans got in an excellent rehearsal for the MBC meet when they competed in the rescheduled Amery Lions Invitational last Wednesday. The Somerset boys were champions in their half of the eight-team field, while the Somerset girls finished second in their half of the meet.

In recent years the Amery meet has been held the night before the New Richmond Relays and the Spartan coaches preferred to save their best lineup for the Relays. With Amery's meet moved back a week because of bad weather, the Spartans were able to run a lineup that was quite similar to what they had planned for this Tuesday's MBC meet.

The Amery meet also is run with preliminaries and finals, using the same structure as that used in the conference meet.

Somerset's boys flexed their strength by winning seven event titles at Amery. Seniors Robbie Lang and Luke Praschak were both double-winners. Lang took the titles in the 100 and 200 dashes while Praschak was the champion in both hurdle races.

Junior Aaron Joppru was a champion in the pole vault for the Spartans, and Somerset's 400 and 800 meter relay teams also rolled to victories. Somerset also racked up points by placing fifth in five other events.

Somerset boys coach Mike Holmquist said the improvement of the team's sprinting depth could be the difference if Somerset wins the MBC title. He said the improvement by Bailey white, Dallas Johnson and Sam Schoenbern has given the Spartans such strong relay sprint teams, that Lang and Mitch McConaughey can concentrate on open events, where they can get maximum team points.

The coaches used this as a final meet for runners to grab places in their tournament plans. Senior Josh Verdeja was one Spartan who caught the coaches' attention, placing second in the 400 meters in 52.94 seconds.

The Spartan girls have relied heavily all season on seniors Natalie Broome and Sarah Krig and they provided the majority of the team's points at Amery. Broome was the champion in the 100 and 200 dashes. Krig won the high jump, pole vault and 100 hurdles and took second place in the triple jump.

A new placewinner for the Spartans was freshman Sam Flandrick. She's missed much of the season with an injury, but showed she's healthy now by placing third in the long jump with a leap of 14 feet, 11 inches.

Somerset girls coach Dave Praschak said having half the meets he'd hoped this season, plus numerous injuries on the team, has made it difficult for the girls to build momentum.

"Our younger girls have had to take on many bigger roles than I expected," he said. "We know we can score points (in the conference meet), but will they come from our experienced girls or a combination of old and new? We are preparing as if we can include a mix of event winners. It will be the team that captures more fourth-eighth place points that wins. We have a chance, but a lot of unknown performances are needed."

Both Somerset teams also sent limited lineups to last Tuesday's Colfax Invitational. The boys sent several athletes who had limited opportunities to compete this season. The girls ran a more competitive group. Broome again was the winner in the 100 and 200 and Krig scored wins in the high jump and 100 hurdles.