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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Anticipation ran high through the Somerset track teams as they prepared for the Hudson True Team Invitational last Friday. This is a meet that measures depth on the team and the Spartans, especially the boys team, was almost giddy at the chance to prove what it could do against much larger schools from western Wisconsin and the Twin Cities. The Spartans proved they can compete evenly with some of the best programs in the area. The boys team placed third in the meet, behind Hudson and River Falls, while beating vaunted programs like Hill-Murray and Park of Cottage Grove.
A triangular meet at UW-Stout last Thursday became the perfect opportunity for the New Richmond track coaches to become prospectors. The coaches worked a number of younger athletes into their lineup for this meet, hoping to strike gold in the form of identifying athletes who can help them in the pursuit of the Middle Border Conference championships. Both Tiger coaching staffs found several prospects who showed they have the potential to help the team in the long run.
After two non-conference wins to start the season, the St. Croix Central softball team went up against two of the top programs in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference and suffered their first two losses of the season. The Panthers were stung in an 11-5 loss at Elk Mound last Tuesday. That was followed by an eight inning 3-2 loss to the newly combined Spring Valley-Plum City cooperative team. The loss to the co-op team was damaging because none of the runs the Panthers allowed were earned. Five errors were crushing for the Panthers, none more than two errors in the eighth inning.
With more experience in the lineup this season, the New Richmond softball team is looking to be more of a factor in the Middle Border Conference race. The Tigers earned the first win of the 2012 season last Tuesday, winning an offensive slugfest at Durand 8-7. The Tigers continued their promising offensive output on Thursday, losing to Prescott 10-6. On Friday the Tigers played a non-conference game at Hudson. Hudson showed it will be strong again, beating the Tigers 13-4. The win at Durand was scoreless through the first three innings, but the offenses took over from there.
There were plenty of highlights for the St. Croix Central track teams at the Rice Lake Invitational last Friday, but none was going to top the performance by sophomore Kayla Pabst. Pabst shattered one of the longest-standing records at Central, breaking the 34-year-old record in the girls discus throw. Pabst launched the discus 127 feet, 7 inches at Rice Lake on Friday. That breaks the record of 117 feet, 11 inches that was set by Cindy Grupe back in 1980. Pabst's throw was one of several highlights for the Panthers in a strong tournament field on Friday.
Ellsworth and Prescott were two top Middle Border Conference teams the Somerset softball team couldn't beat last year. So when the Spartans faced both those opponents last week, they knew the games would measure whether the Spartans can reach their goal of being MBC contenders this season. The Spartans reached that goal. They lost 5-1 at Ellsworth on Thursday, but they knocked off Prescott 3-1 at Larry Forrest Memorial Park last Tuesday. This was Prescott's first MBC loss and it leaves Prescott and Somerset tied for second place in the MBC standings with 2-1 records.
The first five games for the Somerset girls soccer team might have looked like a train wreck, but the Spartans were searching for a rotation that would lead to sustained over the rest of the season. The Spartans think things fell into place in last Thursday's 1-1 tie against New Richmond. The Spartans were outscored 31-3 in the first five games, but the young team had run up against some substantial opponents. The team's defense showed some flaws in the first games, so Coach Erin Wilson decided to completely retool the team's defense for last week's games.
The first Middle Border Conference boys golf match of the 2012 season showed that New Richmond and Somerset will be contenders for this season's conference championship. New Richmond won the team title in last Thursday's MBC opener, held at Krooked Kreek Golf Club in Osceola. Osceola placed second in the match, with Somerset finishing third among the eight MBC teams. Seniors from New Richmond and Somerset shared the medalist honors in the opening round. New Richmond's Kyle Montgomery and Somerset's Jake Green shared the top honors, each shooting a 39.
The health situation for the Somerset baseball team is so bad, the Spartans brought up a junior varsity player so they'd have one substitute available for last Tuesday's game against Prescott. And as the Spartans' luck has gone this season, the JV player sprained his ankle, leaving the Spartans to play with nine players against Prescott. The Spartans kept the game competitive, but lost to the undefeated Cardinals 7-1. Somerset was able to earn a non-conference win on Thursday, traveling to Barron to tackle the Bears, 4-2.
A little confidence has gone a long way for the St. Croix Central baseball team. The Panthers started the season with a new coach and a shortage of varsity experience, so nobody was sure how long it would take them to get up to speed. It took four games. After the four opening losses, the Panthers have now reeled off three straight wins. That streak started last Thursday when the Panthers defeated Osceola 5-3. On Friday the Panthers and Spring Valley waged an offensive showdown, but the Panthers prevailed 12-11.