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Spartans experience a team-wide "runner's high"

The Somerset boys made the biggest impact in a meet in several years on Thursday, led by Ben Schmitt (front) and Tyler Hantsbarger. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

Members of the Somerset cross country teams were jumping around like they'd won the meet following the St. Croix Central Invitational Thursday, Aug. 31.

And in ways, they had. After not being competitive as a team for several years, new additions and major improvements have made the Spartans relevant. Finishes in the middle of the pack were big news for the Somerset program. The Somerset boys tied for sixth place in the 11-team meet, while the Somerset girls finished in seventh place in their half of the meet, one point behind sixth-place Durand.

Somerset's girls again were led by senior Anya Swanson. She earned another meet championship, finishing 44 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor. And though she was exhausted after the race, she stayed in the chute and greeted runners from every team after they crossed the finish line. Somerset coach Abby Christensen said that's just the type of person Swanson is.

"She's a very kind, good-hearted person," Christensen said.

Sophomores Brycen Chladek, Liv Hoff and Kristen Vensland were Somerset's next three finishers. Chladek was 43rd, in 25:10. Christensen pointed out Chladek's vast improvement, recalling her time being over 30 minutes in the same race a year ago.

Hoff, in her first high school race, placed 47th. Vensland was 54th.

Christensen said the next challenge is to get another of the girls to move up to be a higher finishing fifth runner. She said it's a group of runners that's ready to grow together.

The boys also had excellent results from the top four runners. Sophomore Ben Schmitt was Somerset's top finisher in his first high school meet, placing 24th. Senior Seth Erickson was 29th.

Christensen said they should benefit from working together, because Erickson started a bit too fast in Thursday's race, while she thought Schmitt was a little too conservative in his start.

Sophomore Tyler Hantsbarger and freshman Thor Sanders finished together in 20:07, placing 31st and 32nd. Hantsbarger took off more than three minutes from his run at Central last year, while Sanders was the most impactful freshman in several years for the Spartans. And just like the girls, the boys are now looking for a fifth runner to step up and cut down the margin so the team can continue to be more competitive.

The Spartans will get to compete in front of their home fans this Thursday. The Spartans will hold their home invitational at 4:30 p.m. Other teams competing in the meet are Ellsworth, Prescott, Spring Valley and Baldwin-Woodville.

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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