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Cross country: Young Tigers win MBC girls meet

The Middle Border Conference champion girls cross country team from New Richmond includes (l-r) Maggie Bau, Erika Emerson, Colette Harrold, Barb Kling, Sophie Ballard, Kayla Harris and Willa Rogers. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

The dynamic young runners on the New Richmond girls cross country team showed no fear or emotion in winning the Middle Border Conference championship last Thursday.

The 2017 MBC meet was run at Prescott and the Tiger girls ran a nearly perfect meet in winning the conference title. All seven Tigers finished among the top 15 finishers in the race, as the Tigers ended with a winning team score of 32 points. St. Croix Central put up an excellent effort, but the Panthers couldn't catch the Tigers. Central finished with 41 points.

New Richmond's boys also put together a sharp showing, finishing in second place at the conference meet. Led by MBC champion Dylan Wachter, the Tigers ended with 63 points, giving a major challenge to the Osceola team that won the meet with 48 points.

The meet carried a heavy emotional burden for the Tigers. NRHS junior Megan Bennig was killed in a car accident the day before the conference meet. Bennig had been a member of the cross country team during her freshman and sophomore years.

"They did a really good job of focusing their energy and emotion for the race," said Tiger coach Beth Kelly. "I'm sure it had some effect on their performance."

A moment of silence was held in Bennig's memory before the awards presentations at the meet.

You would never guess the Tiger girls team is so young after seeing them run such a tactical race at the conference meet. The Tigers flocked around SCC senior Liv Moll for the first mile of the race. Moll went on to win the race, but this kept the Tigers in a pack near the front of the race.

Tiger sophomore Kayla Harris went with Moll when Moll broke from the pack. Moll was the meet champion, with Harris earning second place, seven seconds behind Moll.

Freshmen Barb Kling and Willa Rogers were the fourth and fifth place finishers, joining Harris on the All-MBC first team. Freshman Sophie Ballard placed ninth, with sophomores Colette Harrold and Erika Emerson placing 12th and 13th, putting all three on the All-MBC second team. Maggie Bau was the Tigers' seventh runner, placing 15th. To put that in context, she finished ahead of the top runners from four of the teams.

The Tiger girls have earned fans wherever they've run this season because of the poise and purpose they've shown in every meet.

"They are level headed beyond their years," Kelly said. "They don't get too shook up or emotional."

The Tiger boys went into the conference meet knowing they were expected to finish second behind Osceola. But they did their best to pull off the upset. Osceola ran with an incredible pack, getting their top six runners all in between the fifth and 15th places.

Wachter earned his second straight MBC championship on Thursday. Last year he was closely pursued by Prescott's Philip Pena. This year, Wachter ran away from the competition, winning by 36 seconds ahead of Amery's Jude Ingham.

Sophomore Chase Chiarle and junior Max Fore were the Tigers' second and third runners. They were able to break into Osceola's pack, with Chiarle placing 11th and Fore 14th, so they both earned second team All-MBC honors.

Caleb Anton placed 16th, Joe Smallidge 21st, Tyler Harris 24th and John Haasch 41st as the Tiger varsity runners.

The competition gets much tougher for the Tigers this Saturday when they compete at the WIAA Division 2 sectional meet at Menomonie High School. The girls race will be held at noon, with the boys race at 1 p.m. Coach Kelly said the girls and boys teams will both face major competition as they try to qualify for the state meet, as a team and individuals.

Dave Newman

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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