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Fifth runners heighten the success of Somerset cross country teams

Somerset sophomore Zach Maitrejean (front) has been the second runner for the Spartans throughout the 2018 season. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

Major improvement by the fifth runners is one of the reasons why the Somerset cross country teams are pushing their way up in the team results in recent meets.

That was clearly apparent in last Tuesday’s Rice Lake Invitational. The Somerset boys put together one of their strong performances in years by placing sixth among 29 teams in the meet held at the UW-Barron County campus. The Spartan girls finished in the middle of the pack at the meet.

The sixth-place finish by the Spartan boys put them in the top quarter of the competition, defeating a number of teams including Division 1 teams from Menomonie, Eau Claire North, Chippewa Falls and Superior.

The challenge was placed upon the Spartans’ fifth runners in both races to push themselves outside their comfort zones. Both did, and both were big reasons for the Spartans’ success at Rice Lake.

Somerset coach Abby Christensen said junior Alex DeGeest has always run at an almost clockwork steady pace through his races. The challenge was put to DeGeest that he run with fourth runner Tyler Hantsbarger in this race through the first two miles. DeGeest was able to maintain that pace, finishing just 12 seconds behind Hantsbarger. That’s an improvement of a minute over his previous best time.

“For your number five runner to do that, it’s huge,” Christensen said.

The same assignment was given to freshman Anna Bartig in the girls race. She was given the challenge of running with junior Liv Hoff. Bartig too answered the challenge, sticking with Hoff for most of the race to cut off more than 30 seconds from her time. Freshman Megan Larse also improved by a minute as the Spartans’ sixth runner, as the depth in the team continues to grow.

Senior Ben Schmitt continues to push his limits as the Spartans’ lead runner, placing 17th at Rice Lake. Zach Maitrejean was 32nd, Thor Sanders 49th and Hantsbarger 68th.

Freshman Erin Huerta led the Spartan girls by finishing 36th. Kristen Vensland made a big time reduction as the Spartans’ second runner to place 71st. Hoff was 97th, Bartig 102nd and Brycen Chladek 124th.

The Spartans had more than a week between meets, giving the coaches some time to work on speed aspects that could help the Spartans continue their improvement. The next meet for the Spartans is this Thursday when they run at the Durand Invitational.

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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