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Somerset runners get their perfect result at St. Croix Falls

Sophomore Thor Sanders has been among the top runners for the Somerset boys team in every cross country race this season. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

Perfect conditions led to perfect results for the Somerset cross country teams at the St. Croix Falls Invitational last Thursday.

Across the board, the Spartans saw their times improve, with many improved by two or three minutes. The Spartan girls placed second among six teams in the meet and the Spartan boys placed fourth.

After last Monday's meet at Durand, the Spartans began having discussions about the difference between running and racing. Somerset coach Abby Christensen said it seemed many Spartans had hit a plateau in their times and she thought getting more of the focus on competing might help the Spartans take the next step. It appeared to work.

In the girls race, Somerset fresh Erin Huerta led for the early stages of the race, ending up fourth. She'd never been below 22 minutes before, but she raced this meet in 21:01. Kristen Vensland placed fifth. She'd never been below 24 minutes before and Thursday she finished in 21:53.

The success continued through the girls lineup, with Liv Hoff placing 14th, Anna Bartig 16th and Megan Larse finishing 17th. Larse made a substantial move forward to finish as the Spartans' fifth runner.

The depth in the Spartan girls program showed, with Somerset having 18 of the 56 runners in the girls race.

Senior Ben Schmitt is usually the lead runner for the Spartan boys. Christensen had him hold back because he had his wisdom teeth pulled days earlier. Sophomore Zach Maitrejean and junior Thor Sanders made big advances to finish as the top two Spartans. Maitrejean took seventh in a season-best time of 18:05, with Sanders seven seconds behind him in ninth place. Schmitt still was able to place 14th.

Christensen said this was a huge race for Sanders, seeing that Maitrejean was making a move up in the pack, and going with him to produce his best time.

Alex DeGeest was the Spartans' fourth runner and Tyler Hantsbarger was the fifth runner. Christensen said freshman Landon Wilson improved by more than two minutes to move up to be Somerset's seventh runner.

The Spartans will see several Middle Border Conference teams this Tuesday when they run at the Amery Invitational.

The Spartans ran last Monday at the Durand Invitational, making up the meet that was postponed the previous Thursday. The Spartans finished in the middle of the pack, with the girls team placing seventh among 14 teams and the Spartan boys placing eighth in their half of the meet.

The top finish for the Spartans at Durand on Monday was produced by Huerta, who placed seventh in the girls race. Christensen was encouraged by the effort of Vensland, who broke from her usual pack to place 26th in the girls race.

Several freshmen also showed signs of progress for the girls. Bartig moved up to be the team's fourth runner. Sam DeGeest and Juliana Schimmel also made substantial improvement, moving up to be Somerset's sixth and seventh finishers.

The Spartan boys ran without Schmitt, who was being rested after recent wisdom tooth extraction. That put Maitrejean in the position of Somerset's lead runner, a spot he held in several meets last season. He placed 23rd overall.Hantsbarger and DeGeest continue to push each other, moving them up to Somerset's second and third runners in this race, finishing 34th and 35th.

"They are competitive boys. They are trying to beat each other. It's turning into a fun rivalry," Christensen said.

Senior Sam Koeller made one of the biggest improvements for the Spartan boys. He cut 30 seconds off his time at the recent Rice Lake meet to move up to be the sixth Spartan finisher in the race.

The Spartans don't run again until the Middle Border Conference meet on Oct. 11 at St. Croix Falls.

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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