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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After getting a typical first game out of the way on Saturday, the New Richmond softball team looked like the team that reached the 2005 WIAA sectional tournament. New Richmond hosted a four-team tournament on Saturday. In the opening round, the Tigers faced Elmwood, one of the best small school programs in the western part of the state. Elmwood had already played two games, while it showed this was the Tigers' first game. Elmwood was able to get away with a 2-0 win. In the second round of the tournament the Tigers faced Unity.
The New Richmond track teams are moving into Division 1 in the WIAA tournaments. The performance by the Tigers at the Eau Claire Memorial Indoor Invitational last Tuesday shows that the Tigers aren't the least bit worried about moving up to Division 1. Facing opposition that was nearly all Division 1 teams from this sectional, New Richmond's track teams swept the team championships at the meet, which was held at the UW-Eau Claire indoor facility. New Richmond's boys easily outdistanced its opposition.
Administrative secretary Marilyn (Schuette) Averbeck has seen a great deal of change in her 25 years with the New Richmond school district. Averbeck has been the secretary to six district administrators since taking that position in 1992. Before that, she worked 11 years as the secretary at New Richmond Middle School. On Friday, Averbeck will retire from the school district. The changes Averbeck has seen in the district fall into two areas, personnel and technology.
Teachers in Somerset have a new two-year contract, which calls for a 3 percent pay raise for the 2005-06 school year and a 3.5 percent increase for the 2006-07 school year. The teachers also gave back something to get the wage increases. They agreed to take on 2 percent more of their health insurance premium costs as part of the new contract. The new contract was approved by the Somerset Board of Education at its March 27 meeting. The big change in the teacher contract comes as each school district works to deal with the skyrocketing health insurance premiums.
The wet conditions that have beset all spring sports teams aren't holding back the New Richmond track teams. Both Tiger track teams took second place in a six-team meet at Knowles Center at UW-River Falls last Thursday in a meet where the Tigers faced stiff competition. In their second place finishes, both of the Tiger teams showed that depth is going to make them a formidable opponent all season. In the case of the Tiger boys team, there were nine events Thursday where the Tigers took more than one place.
They cut their losing margin in half from last season, but that's little consolation to the St. Croix Central softball team. Last year the Panthers lost to Elmwood in their season opener 20-0. This time the Panthers kept the game against Elmwood close until the fifth inning, when Elmwood was able to pull ahead for a 10-0 win. Because of the wet grounds this spring, the Panthers had not practiced outside at all before Monday's opener, which was played at the SCC Middle School field. Central didn't look bad in Monday's game.
The Somerset softball team found a dry place to play ball on Saturday. The Spartans opened their 2006 season on Saturday, splitting games against Clear Lake and Pine City, Minn. at the Stillwater Dome. In their opening game, the Spartans beat Clear Lake 6-1 as pitcher Kim Kazle threw a no-hitter. In the second game, Somerset fell to Pine City 10-0. Jen Nickowski returns for her second season as coach of the Spartans. Having a year's experience with the team is an immeasurable help to Nickowski.
New Richmond junior Israel Neumann took third place at 189 pounds at the annual Bi-State Wrestling Classic, held last Thursday and Friday at UW-La Crosse. Two other Tigers, seniors Brian Volkert and Victor Wozniak, placed in the top 16 in their weight classes at Bi-State. There were 54 competing in this year's tournament. Neumann won seven of his eight matches in the tournament to earn his third place finish.
Seniors Justin Neumann and Drew Baillargeon reached the championship flight at the 2005 Northern Badger Wrestling Classic. Neumann won the championship in the 215-pound match, while Baillargeon took second place at 135 pounds. There were 37 teams competing in the tournament, which was held last Wednesday and Thursday at River Falls High School. The Spartans placed 20th in the team competition. Neumann was seeded second at 215 pounds, but that was before top seed James Patchen of Chetek-Prairie Farm pulled out of the tournament with an injury, making Neumann the favorite.
The game between Somerset and St. Croix Central was looked at as a measuring stick for both boys basketball teams. And after Central knocked top-seeded Somerset out of the boys basketball regionals last winter, there was more than a little bit of emotion involved in last Tuesday's game too. Somerset was the team that had the edge early, grabbing a 13-4 lead and holding the lead until late in the third quarter.