Cross country: Early season positives run through St. Croix Central Invitational
Early season cross-country meets are the chances the runners get to show how much they have improved.
Judging from the St. Croix Central Invitational last Thursday, runners in the area have improved a great deal. St. Croix Central's runners swept the team championships in the meet and Central senior Marie Hamlin was the champion in the girls' half of the meet. New Richmond's runners took second place in both halves of the race and Somerset's teams both were in the middle of the pack, a big step forward since last season.
St. Croix Central
Central coach Bill Emery had one word for the performance of the Panther girls Thursday.
The Panther girls had three of the top five finishers, led by Hamlin, who was a dynamo in quickly pulling away from her competition. She won the race in 19 minutes, 21 seconds, 87 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor. Placing third was sophomore Mya Kizer and fifth was senior Kourtney Labeause. Senior Claire Moll ran ninth and sophomore Sydney Carlson tenth, to give the Panthers an eye-popping team score of 28.
"Kourtney was my biggest change from last year," Emery said, "but Marie, too. Her fastest race last year was 21 something."
While this was a great start for the Panthers, Emery said it was just a start.
"I think they've got more," he said, saying the same goes for the boys.
The Panther boys won in a close competition with New Richmond and Durand. Emery said he thought his boys were third midway through the race, before a strong finish pulled the Panthers to the top of the pack.
Sophomore Jacob Eggen was the Panthers' top finisher, placing fifth. Erik Collins ran eighth, Riley Hackbarth 17th, Jacob Murtha 19th and Cougar Holder 23rd.
"I see so much potential that hasn't shown yet," Emery said of the boys team.
The Tigers weren't focused on winning Thursday, but the boys nearly did anyway.
"At the beginning of the season, we're trying to find a way to be the best we can at the end of the season," said Tiger coach Beth Kelly.
The Tigers boys still nearly won the title, finishing six points behind St. Croix Central. Max Fore was the lead Tiger, placing fourth. Tyler Harris placed ninth, Cale Bishop 11th, Max Blader 22nd and Caleb Anton 32nd.
The boys have several new runners ready to make an impact this season, including Blader, a sophomore, and freshmen Noah Hughes, Jacob Doehrmann and Aidan Johnson.
The Tiger girls had six of the top 24 finishers, and they were without one of their top runners, sophomore Kayla Harris. Barb Kling was the top Tiger, placing second, with Willa Rogers taking fourth. Senior Amanda Johnson stepped up to place 11th, with Sophia Ballard 17th and Erika Emerson 21st.
New Richmond and St. Croix Central will both run this Saturday at the Menomonie Relays, where runners compete against their equals from many of the top programs in the area. Action begins at 9:30 a.m.
For Somerset's teams, Thursday's meet was all about progress. The Spartans finished seventh in both halves of the meet. Finishing in the middle of the pack at a meet of this quality is a big step for the Spartans.
"We had a good, good night," said Somerset coach Abby Christensen. "Seventh for both teams is great."
Somerset's boys had three finishers among the top 24 boys in the race. That starts with senior Ben Schmitt, who ranked 12th. Sophomores Zach Maitrejean and Thor Sanders placed 20th and 24th. Juniors Tyler Hantsbarger and Alex DeGeest were 38th and 52nd.
Schmitt's time was a full minute better than at the Central meet last year and Sanders' time was 37 seconds better.
Freshman Erin Huerta led the girls, placing 14th. The junior pack worked together again, with Kristin Vensland, Brycen Chladek and Liv Hoff placing 37th, 39th and 41st. Freshman Anna Bartig was the fifth runner, placing 62nd.
Christensen said one of the highlights of the race was freshman Ella Odell, who cut three minutes off her time from the team's previous race.
Somerset will hold its annual home invitational this Thursday. The junior high race will begin at 4 p.m., with the high school races to follow.