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Stan Barr Relays draw large field of talented track athletes

New Richmond’s Jack Utzman leads the runners in the 6,400 meter relay during Friday’s running of the Stan Barr Relays. 1 / 3
Sammy Struss has helped to make the jump events one of the strengths of the New Richmond girls track team.2 / 3
Junior Serena Shilts powers her way over a hurdle during the running of the low hurdle relay during Friday’s Stan Barr Relays. 3 / 3

The 48th annual Stan Barr Relays brought an incredible number of top track athletes to the New Richmond High School track last Friday.

The gray skies and chilly winds gradually subsided, illuminating a number of entertaining events throughout the meet.

The talent in the meet was supplemented by the addition of two strong programs, from Superior and Anoka, Minn. The Anoka girls were able to win the meet title in an ongoing battle with River Falls. Anoka finished with 105 points while the Wildcats scored 102 points.

Nobody could contend with Hudson in the boys half of the meet. The Raiders finished with 101 points while Anoka finished second with 79 points.

New Richmond’s teams both finished sixth in the 15-team meet. Somerset’s boys placed eighth in their half of the meet while the Spartan girls were 14th.

The New Richmond boys had a number of performances that were standouts. The Tigers were champions in the throwers 400 relay, where the team of Keegan Wefel, Ben Peterson, Liam Mehls and Dom Ficociello took the title.

The Tiger distance runners had another big night. The team of Jack Utzman, Bailey Wilson, Brennan Roby and Austin Haseleu took second place in the 6,400 meter relay. Utzman, Wilson and Roby were joined by Erik Gilkison in the 3,200 meter relay, where the Tigers finished third.

The triple jump was another shining light for the Tigers. Jimmy LaVenture, Allan Wollenberg and Zach Schoepke combined for a third place finish. LaVenture leaped beyond 39 feet and the two others both cleared 38 feet.

New Richmond’s girls were also able to earn the meet championship in the throwers relay. The girls were able to earn points in every running event, but their highest finishes came in field events. The Tigers took second place in the high jump behind big leaps from Maddie Kelly, Emily Kukacka and Sammy Struss. Abby Blader’s leap of 15 feet, 2 inches led the Tigers to a third place finish in the long jump, where she was teamed with Kennedy Kling and Hanna Weinzerl. The Tigers also got season-best jumps from Kling and Blader to take fifth place in the triple jump.

Somerset’s performances at the Relays were led by the effort of senior Aaron Joppru in the pole vault. Joppru was battling Hudson’s John Uchytil, who currently has the top-ranked vault in Division 1 in the state. Joppru was able to top Uchytil by producing the top Division 2 vault in the state, winning the event by clearing the bar at 14 feet, 3 inches. This breaks Joppru’s school record in the vault.

Because this was Somerset’s third meet of the week, coach Terry Otradovec held the Spartans out of several events, not wanting to risk overusing young athletes. Where the Spartans competed, they were competitive. The hurdle team of Max Praschak, Ethan Lammers and Cade Colbeth took third in the 140 meter hurdle relay and fifth in the 110 meter hurdle relay. Somerset’s boys took fourth place in a highly competitive 400 meter relay.

The Spartans had two of the five top long jumpers in the boys meet. Dallas Johnson placed second with a leap of 20 feet, 7 inches and Joppru was fifth at 19 feet, 8.5 inches.

MBC meet

The Middle Border Conference track meet will be run next Tuesday at Osceola. There’s a great deal of intrigue in the meet, especially on the boys side, because there is no clear-cut favorite in the meet. Osceola, New Richmond and Somerset are all being viewed as teams that could end Tuesday’s action with the boys championship.

“I think it’s a huge tossup,” Tiger boys coach Reuvers said. “I think it’ll be one of the closest meets we’ve seen in years.”

Each of the three contenders has distinct strengths. New Richmond is led by its deep group of talented distance runners. Somerset has the edge in the hurdles and several of the field events. Osceola also has several field events where it should dominate.

In the girls half of the meet, Osceola is considered the favorite in the meet. New Richmond is likely the only team that has the athletes to push the Chieftains for the conference title.

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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