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Spartans anxious to compete as a team

Somerset cross country runners are shown going through a warmup run at the start of a practice last week. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

In recent seasons, low numbers have forced the Somerset cross country teams to concentrate on individual goals.

But with their numbers up, and many of their top runners returning, this is a season the Somerset runners can focus as much on their team goals as their individual goals.

The Spartans did find success individually last year, particularly Anya Swanson. Swanson is the reigning Middle Border Conference girls champion. She placed second in 2015 behind Amery's Alicia Monson, who went on to win the WIAA Division 2 state championship.

Swanson is highly motivated to succeed in her senior season. She placed 27th at the Division 2 state championships. For most runners, that would be a dream finish. For Swanson, it was more of a nightmare after finishing 14th at state in her sophomore season.

"With how she finished at state last year, she's hungry to get back," said Somerset coach Abby Christensen.

Swanson went unchallenged every race last season until the state meet. Swanson is hoping that girls rise up to challenge her, but she's learned to set her focus based on her inner sense of speed.

"She is a master of running even-paced races," Christensen said.

In each of Swanson's three seasons, the Spartan girls have placed seventh at the MBC meet.

Also returning for the Spartans are sophomores Kristin Vensland and Brycen Chladek, who were the team's second and third runners last season. Christensen said they've both worked extensively over the summer. Another sophomore who should make an immediate impact is Liv Hoff.

"There's definitely a lot of potential. She's an athlete, a competitor," Christensen said.

Three other new additions for the girls are Kaylee Erickson, Allison Struemke and Katie Schroeder. Christensen said that trio is working together to learn the sport.

"We do have the potential to be better," Christensen said of the girls team. "I feel Kristin and Brycen will be that much stronger and we've got depth."

Like Swanson for the girls, the boys have a definitive team leader in senior Seth Erickson. The boys return five of their top six runners from last season. There are also additions, like Ben Schmitt, who should make an immediate impact. Schmitt's been running with Erickson in the team's workouts.

Tyler Hantsbarger and Alex DeGeest return after being the team's third and fourth runners as freshmen. They look stronger already this season and freshman Thor Sanders is running with them in workouts, giving the team the makings of a solid top five.

There are several other boys who could move up to make a varsity impact. Sam Koeller, Eric Forsberg and Devin LeQue are new to the team. Seniors Jacob Crotty and Brady Williams could also move up.

Christensen said the Spartans are excited in the hope of being impactful in the team sense this season. They will get their first chance this Thursday, when they compete at the St. Croix Central Invitational.

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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