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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By finishing in the upper half of the boys and girls divisions of the Northern Badger Invitational Indoor Track Meet on Saturday, you can tag the New Richmond track teams as ready to roll for the 2009 season. The Tigers finished sixth among 17 teams in both halves of the large school portion of the meet. The Tiger boys are coming off a 2008 season where they won the Middle Border Conference championship. The Tiger girls placed third at last year's MBC meet. New Richmond's boys return a strong group of veteran athletes.
It's called "Project Lead The Way." For Somerset High School students, it could lead them to a career in engineering related fields. The Somerset School District recently received a $30,000 grant from the Kern Family Foundation.
After 17 years of coaching in the Somerset girls basketball system, Spartan varsity coach Bill Powers announced his retirement from that position last week. Powers will continue to serve as the Spartans boys and girls golf coach and will continue teaching at Somerset High School. In his first two seasons after taking over the Spartan varsity team, Powers' teams had a record of 1-40. Fortunes have changed considerably since then. In the past five years Powers' teams have an 81-33 record.
Ayla Mitchell: NCAA national champion. New Richmond's Ayla Mitchell added another chapter to her incredible running career when she won the national championship in the mile run at the NCAA Division 3 Indoor National Track Championships on Saturday. Mitchell competes for UW-Oshkosh. She won the national championship in the mile run with a time of 4:45.80. Her title marked the 23rd national title in an individual event in school history. Mitchell was one of five Titan women competing at the NCAA national indoor meet over the weekend.
The Somerset boys basketball team gained a large measure of respect, and self respect, with its performance in the opening round of the WIAA Division 2 regional tournament last Tuesday. Very few people gave the seventh seeded Spartans any chance of winning against Middle Border Conference co-champion New Richmond. The Spartans, underdogs as they were, never gave up. They cut New Richmond's margin to three points with 22 seconds left in the game.
Defense was the make-or-break factor for the New Richmond boys basketball team. The Tigers' inability to defend Osceola's sizzling outside shooters was the breaking point in last Thursday's WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal. Osceola rained down nine three-pointers, eight of them in the first half, to defeat the Tigers 58-35. The Tigers finish the 2008-09 season with a 15-7 record and a share of the Middle Border Conference championship.
The heart-pounding charge in the final month of the season by the St. Croix Central boys basketball team was capped when they upset number one seed Grantsburg in a wild overtime game last Thursday, 68-67. By beating Grantsburg, the Panthers moved into Saturday's regional championship game against Prescott. The Panthers led in Saturday's game at halftime, 22-19. Prescott started the second half with a huge energy boost and the Panthers could not match it. Prescott scored the first 10 points of the second half.
As a sixth seed, the Somerset girls basketball team was the lowest seeded Division 2 girls team in the state to reach the regional championships. They did so by putting together two outstanding performances against higher ranked teams, following long road trips. The Spartans made the three-hour trip to Ashland last Tuesday, then used their quickness to thoroughly outplay the Oredockers. Somerset scored a 64-50 win over the third-seeded Oredockers. That win meant the Spartans would have to make the trip to Hayward for the second round of the WIAA playoffs.
The hottest team in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference over the final three weeks of the regular season was the St. Croix Central boys basketball team. The Panthers finished the season with five straight conference wins. The regular season finale came on Friday, when the Panthers barged past Colfax, 66-53. The late run at the end of the season raises the Panthers' record to the .500 level in conference play. They had been 4-9 in the D-SC until their surge in February. Central coach Mike Fern said the turning point for his team was the Feb. 9 win over conference champion Mondovi.
The New Richmond boys basketball team is a conference champion, but it was an awkwardly earned Middle Border Conference title. All the Tigers needed to do to win a share of the MBC title was win at Amery last Friday. That did not happen. The Tigers played perhaps their worst game since the calendar turned over to 2009, falling at Amery, 59-47. This game was moved ahead two hours to accommodate the regional championship game for the Amery girls team, which had been postponed a day.