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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Boys and girls track teams generally practice together, so it serves the track program well when both teams are competing at a high level. That is the case for the Somerset track teams, which both enjoyed a high level of success in their meets last week. At the St. Croix Central Invitational last Thursday, the Spartans were champions in both halves of the 12-team meet.
The track at St. Croix Central was swirling with activity last Thursday as 12 teams anxiously took advantage of the spring weather to take part in one of the first outdoor track meets in the area this season. The meet was greeted especially warmly by the Central athletes. While many of the teams in Thursday's meet had already competed in indoor events, Central is one of the few area teams that refrains from competing indoors. The Panthers performed successfully in both halves of the meet.
The names change through the years in the St. Croix Central softball program, but the success keeps coming. The Panthers started the 2012 season with a pair of sharp wins last week, beating Prescott and River Falls. Central has gone 40-5 in its Dunn-St. Croix Conference games the past three years. The Panthers had several significant losses due to graduation last year, especially pitcher Nikki Brooks. But the team has come back looking just as strongly this season. Junior Kelly Harrington has taken over as Central's pitcher and she has made a smooth transition to the varsity level.
The annual All-American Invite Track Meet at UW-River Falls is an early season showcase for some of the best track talent in the Twin Cities area and western Wisconsin. The 2012 All-American meet on Saturday certainly upheld the strong tradition of the meet. New Richmond's girls had the strongest showing among the local squads at the 2012 All-American, taking fifth place among 15 teams. Somerset's boys took seventh place.
The only senior on the New Richmond girls soccer roster is a foreign exchange student. That isn't stopping the Tigers from having high expectations for the season. The Tigers were defeated in their first three games of the season over the weekend, but second-year coach Steve Tesar expects rapid progress from the team. The Tigers started the season with a 1-0 loss against Osceola last Thursday. On Saturday the Tigers played in a tournament at Chippewa Falls.
Facing the defending Middle Border Conference champion in the opening game of the season proved to be a difficult assignment for the Somerset girls soccer team. The Spartans opened the season against Hayward, which won the MBC title with a 13-1 record a year ago. Hayward returned many of its players from that team and the Hurricanes delivered a 5-0 defeat to the Spartans last Thursday. The next night, the Spartans played at Rice Lake in a 7 p.m. start.
The football world is abuzz because the Wisconsin Badgers were able to reel in quarterback Danny O'Brien, who is currently at the University of Maryland. If you want to know about O'Brien, there isn't a better source than 1990 St. Croix Central graduate Todd Willert. Willert was O'Brien's coach at East Forsyth High School in Kernersville, N.C. Willert has been the head coach at East Forsyth since 2004. Willert helped O'Brien make the decision to join the Badgers.
Last year's Somerset baseball team advanced to the WIAA sectional championship game. While the Spartans graduated their three top pitchers in Jared Dettmann, Sean Conrad and Dakota Belter, Somerset coach Brandon Kadlec still has high expectations for the Spartans this year. That played out on Monday, when the Spartans opened their season against a young Plum City team. The Spartans thrashed Plum City, winning the opening game 11-0. That was just the warmup.
The St. Croix Central baseball team is quickly figuring out its identity. The Panthers played their first game of the 2012 season on Monday, losing on their home field against Eau Claire Immanuel, 9-1. This game was tight until Immanuel broke free with six runs in the sixth inning. New Central coach Jason Koele is finding out what he has to build around and how he has to mold the team to fit its strengths. One of the strengths for the team is having two veteran pitchers to build around.
Somerset High School has been approved as a host site for ACT testing. Somerset's first official ACT testing will be held on June 9. There will be 160 spots available in Somerset for students wanting to take the ACT test. Trish Sheridan, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for the school district, said there were several reasons why Somerset sought the opportunity to be an ACT test location. Improving student achievement was one of the key initiatives in the school district's new strategic plan, which includes improvement in the ACT scores.