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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Last week was the peak invitational week of the season for the Somerset track teams. And the results were everything the Spartans could hope for. The Somerset girls earned the team championship in the Amery Invitational last Tuesday. There is also a combined championship trophy given at the Amery meet every year.
Strong play in the second halves of their games led to an unbeaten week for the New Richmond girls soccer team last week. The Tigers earned wins over Barron and Amery during the week and they tied in their game with Somerset. In Friday's win over Amery, the Tigers had to come back twice to get the 5-3 win. Amery scored on its first shot of Friday's game, splitting the Tigers' middle defenders to set up the goal. The Tigers responded quickly. Freshman Dani Juhl scored her first varsity goal 6:40 into the game.
Based on the scoring chances produced by the Somerset girls soccer team in last Thursday's 0-0 tie with New Richmond, Spartan coach Erin Wilson thinks her team's offense has turned the corner. The first half on Thursday was some of the best soccer the Spartans have played in recent weeks. They controlled the action at midfield, which helped them keep the ball in the offensive zone for extended periods. The Spartans had two extremely close calls on goals in the first half. Junior Laura Wells drove a shot from 20 yards out that struck the crossbar squarely and bounced back into the field.
What better way is there to get ready for two games with the Middle Border Conference leader than to play a game against a three-time state champion? The Somerset softball team has games on Thursday and Friday against MBC leader Baldwin-Woodville. To get ready for those games, the Spartans faced New Life Academy on Monday.
It's been a tough cycle for the New Richmond softball team. When the Tigers hit the ball well and they are able to score some runs, they aren't able to keep their opponents from outscoring them. When the Tigers solidify their pitching and defense, which was the case last week, they aren't able to get any runs home. The Tigers held both of their Middle Border Conference opponents to six runs in their games last week.
Competing in last Tuesday's Amery Lions Invitational provided some validation for the St. Croix Central track teams. With many larger schools in the 13-team field, the Panthers stood their ground. They took second place in both halves of the meet. St. Croix Central coach Amanda Webb said it was important to the Panthers that they showed they could compete on even footing with the teams in this meet.
The Somerset School District preliminary budget was passed at a special school board meeting on May 2. The 2011-12 preliminary budget was passed without cutting any school staff. That set off a frantic week of activity in the school district, which resulted in approved contracts for the teaching staff and the support staff for the 2011-12 school year. The May 2 meeting was actually a series of meetings, with dozens of school staff members sitting in for parts of the meetings.
The New Richmond boys track team is using its status as a favorite in the Middle Border Conference to train hard and improve. The Tiger girls don't have the same perch in the MBC currently, but with their times and distances, they've shown they still are a threat to win the 2011 MBC title. New Richmond's boys put together a top quality effort last Friday in winning the eight-team River Falls Invitational, finishing 46 points ahead of second place Osceola. Osceola and New Richmond flip-flopped places in the girls meet. Osceola won the title with 155 points.
New Richmond tennis players brought their fishing equipment to last Friday's match. They were out to land Al "Tuna." Altoona nearly landed the Tigers. The Rails won three of the first four matches to finish. The final three matches, all on the singles side, all stretched for more than two hours. The Tigers managed to win all three of those matches to land their 4-3 win over the Rails. The last three matches to finish were at one, three and four singles. All three of those matches went to four sets. The first of those to be completed was Justice Harvieux's 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win at one singles.
Getting baserunners wasn't a problem for the New Richmond baseball team during the past week. Getting those baserunners home was the challenge. The Tigers had more success with that on Monday, but still needed nine innings to beat Baldwin-Woodville, 5-4. Drew Durham, who got a rare start at catcher on Monday, drove home the game-winner in the ninth inning. Tyler Montgomery led off the ninth inning with a double and he moved to third on a groundout.