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Somerset track teams are young and younger

Sam Schoenborn reaches back to accept the baton from teammate Bailey White in a relay event for the Somerset boys track team at UW-River Falls last Tuesday.1 / 2
Susan Schmitt is one of the more experienced track athletes on the Spartan girls team.2 / 2

The Somerset track teams start the season on the young side, but that doesn't mean the teams won't be competitive.

Under new coach Terry Otradovec, the Spartans began their season with a pair of meets last week.
The Spartans showed their ability in the 2014 Northern Badger Classic at UW-Stout on Saturday. The Spartan boys took third place among 24 schools competing in the small school division at the Somerset girls placed 13th.The Somerset teams start the season in different places, experience-wise. The Spartan boys have several top athletes who can be counted on for points in every meet. The Spartan girls don't have a senior on their roster. And while the team is young, the girls aren't letting inexperience temper their goals for the season.
Otradovec isn't rushing the Spartans. His goal isn't to win the early meets. His goal is to have the team as ready as possible to compete for the Middle Border Conference title.Somerset's boys are led by seniors Max Praschak, Aaron Joppru and Dallas Johnson, who are proven producers. Joppru was the pole vault champion on Saturday and Praschak was the winner in the 55 meter hurdles. Johnson gives the Spartans a proven sprinter.With those three athletes forming the base, the team is building for success later in the season. The Spartans also have a strong troop of distance runners who are looking to build off the success they saw in the cross country season.“I think we're pretty solid, across the board,” Otradovec said of the boys team. “We've competed well in the first two meets.”
The girls team has athletic ability and just needs seasoning. Otradovec compared the team to the Spartan girls basketball team, which started the season 1-8 and then played above the .500 level the rest of the season. With no seniors on the team, the leadership role has been taken up by the junior girls.“The juniors are doing a great job keeping the girls together. They're making it a team,” Otradovec said.The girls do have athletes who are ready to make an impact. Sophomore Sam Flandrick was the champion in the 55-meter hurdles on Saturday. Susan Schmitt and McKenzie Erickson were also placewinners in individual races and the Spartan 800 meter relay team placed fifth.Quad meetSomerset's first meet of the season was held last Tuesday at the Knowles Center. The Spartans took part in a quad meet with New Richmond, Osceola and Baldwin-Woodville.
The Spartan boys proved to be very competitive, winning five events and showing that there is depth in many events. The Spartan girls didn't win any events, but several younger athletes showed that they could be forces later in the season.
Notching wins for the Spartans were Joppru in the pole vault and triple jump, Johnson in the long jump and Praschak in the 55-meter hurdles. The Spartans also won the 800 meter relay.This meet showed how the Spartan lineup should have balance this season. Johnson and Praschak both placed in the 200 and Mitchell Foster took fourth in the 400. Brandon Mondor and Cole Harty both placed in the 1600. The Spartans took two places in the triple jump and three in the long jump.For the girls, freshmen Kaitlyn Struemke and Jessie Swanson were bright spots. Swanson showed the Spartans have a good option in the sprints, placing in the 55 and 200 meters. Struemke took second place in the 800 meters.Otradovec said the girls may not have great depth with less than 20 girls on the team. But if the talent continues to be balanced among the events, he said the team can still be a factor in the conference meet.The Spartans are now planning for their first outdoor meet. That will be held on Thursday, April 10, at St. Croix Central.
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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