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Inhuman Awards recognize top athletic achievements

The addition of Anna Hop solidified the singles lineup for the New Richmond girls tennis team this fall. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 5
Nobody enjoys winning more than St. Croix Central senior Katie Koerper, who was happy to celebrate the team's successes this season with her teammates. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 5
Elliot Olin (11) took a clear leadership role on the field for the Somerset boys soccer team this fall. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 5
Chris Matteson (75) was a warrior in the trenches for the St. Croix Central football team on offense and defense this season. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 5
Philip Neblich (10) is one of the many Tigers who made substantial progress as the Tigers grew into a state tournament team this season. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 5

The 2017 fall season was packed with exceptional efforts from area athletes in every high school sport. Those efforts resulted in numerous honors at the conference, region and state level.

The News has been presenting The Inhuman Awards for more than 20 years to recognize outstanding athletic achievements from the athletes at the New Richmond, Somerset and St. Croix Central high schools, to further honor noteworthy efforts from our high school athletes.

Here are the Inhuman Awards for the fall 2017 season.

Football

Most Valuable Offensive Back/Receiver: (tie) Collin Nelson and Ryan Larson, St. Croix Central.

Honorable Mention: Jack Peterson, Somerset; Blake Kretovics, New Richmond.

After leading the Panthers to two straight state championship games, Nelson and Larson deserve to be recognized together. In the option offense, they fill two of the most important roles. And by the measure of the team's success, they both filled them incredibly well over the past two seasons.

Most Valuable Lineman: Chris Matteson, St. Croix Central.

Honorable Mention: Hunter Schmidt, St. Croix Central; Dominic Shelley, Somerset; Josh Boyd, New Richmond.

Matteson has a straightforward mindset. That results in a virtue that coaches love: consistent production at a high level. Matteson rarely left the field, but the level of his play never wavered. He was tough and reliable, every play, every game.

Most Valuable Defensive Back/Linebacker: Jack Peterson, Somerset.

Honorable Mention: Blake Kretovics, New Richmond; Mike Steinmetz, St. Croix Central; Ryan Larson, St. Croix Central; Dylan Minke, New Richmond.

Peterson is everything coaches want from a linebacker. He's quick, he's a crushing hitter and he makes big plays. He ranges from sideline to sideline. When there was a big play made by the Spartans this season, you can bet Peterson was in the middle of it.

Most Improved: Keagen Berg, St. Croix Central.

Honorable Mention: Nathan Berends and Peyton Nogal, St. Croix Central; Christian Germain, Clayton Van Dyk and Nick Anderson, New Richmond; Peter Lepper, Somerset.

Get over the fact that Berg is small in stature. At running back and linebacker, he made a ton of big plays. You can't measure explosiveness from a player's size.

Most Versatile: Blake Kretovics, New Richmond.

Kretovics deserves special mention for all the roles he filled for the Tigers this season. He saw action on offense as a running back, tight end and wide receiver. On defense, he saw time in the line, at linebacker and in the secondary. There are very few players with the athletic ability to handle so many roles and play at a high level in each of them. Kretovics was injured in the Tigers' regular season finale and his absence was felt in the Tigers' loss in the opening round of the playoffs.

Volleyball

Most Valuable Player: (tie) Katie Koerper and Abby Widiker, St. Croix Central.

Honorable Mention: Brooke Beuthling, Somerset.

The doubly-dynamic hitting duo from St. Croix Central deserves to be recognized together. What the Panthers accomplished this season could not have happened without the relentless hitting attack the Panthers could field with Koerper and Widiker in opposite rotations. They are different style hitters who could be called "Thunder and Lightning." Koerper's hard hits sounded like thunder and Widiker's hits blazed through defenses with lightning quickness.

Best Defense: Abby Widiker, St. Croix Central.

Honorable Mention: Kat Praschak, Somerset; Mary Buckel, St. Croix Central.

Widiker has the all-around ability to play collegiate volleyball at a high level. And not solely because she is an outstanding hitter. She is a complete player, with quick reactions and a soft passing touch that would make her fully capable of playing all-around in college ball.

Most Improved: Katherine Cottrell, St. Croix Central.

Honorable Mention: Mykenzie Patten, New Richmond; Karlee Martinez, St. Croix Central; Brit Buchanan, Somerset; Hannah Waskosky, Somerset.

Cottrell's emergence as a middle hitter really completed the well-rounded team that the Panthers became this season in finishing with a 29-1 record. With Cottrell and Martinez stepping into key roles this season, the Spartans were able to take their attack to another level.

Girls Cross-Country

Most Valuable: Olivia Moll, St. Croix Central.

Honorable Mention: Kayla Harris, New Richmond.

Moll has been a premier runner for several years. But this year, she matured into a runner who could handle the pressure of any situation. Not only did she place 17th at the Division 2 state meet, her leadership was also a key factor in the success of the Central team, which placed seventh at the WIAA state meet.

Most Improved: Sydney Carlson, St. Croix Central.

Honorable Mention: The five freshmen from the New Richmond varsity lineup; Marie Hamlin, St. Croix Central; Kristen Vensland, Somerset.

Carlson showed some promise at the start of the season. But over the final month of the season she made incredible progress, rising to be the Panthers' second runner and placing 58th at the state meet.

Boys Cross-Country

Most Valuable: Dylan Wachter, New Richmond.

Honorable Mention: Will Spitzmueller, Erik Collins and Cougar Holder, St. Croix Central; Seth Erickson, Somerset.

Wachter has grown into a tough-minded competitor who can tackle any challenge. Present him with a running challenge and he's likely to face it head on, and achieve it.

Most Improved: Chase Chiarle, New Richmond.

Honorable Mention: Spencer Goodwin, St. Croix Central; Joe Smallidge, New Richmond.

The Tigers had several runners who had the possibilities of stepping up to be the team's second runner behind Wachter, but it was Chiarle who stepped up when the meets mattered.

Boys Soccer

Most Valuable Player Defense: Mason Marek, New Richmond.

Honorable Mention: Blake Getschel, New Richmond; Brennan Sheridan, Somerset; Nick Cheslock, New Richmond; Elliot Olin, Somerset.

Marek and Getschel were the glue that held the Tiger defense together this season. Their strong play gave the coaches the freedom to try different players in the other defensive roles, until the right combination was found. Marek played with toughness and poise, exactly what you need from your defensive leader.

Most Valuable Player Offense: AJ Johnson, New Richmond.

Honorable Mention: Tyler Blattner, New Richmond.

Johnson has some of the most pure offensive skills seen in this part of the state in years. It's become commonplace to see opponents devote two or more players in hopes of stopping Johnson. The 49 goals he scored this season shows that he might get even more defensive attention in future seasons, because he is still just a sophomore.

Most Improved: Phillip Neblich, New Richmond.

Honorable Mention: Herbie Struss, Jack Stuedemann, Kyler Bengtson and Dave Miller of New Richmond.

There are a number of directions this could have gone. Pretty much anyone in the defensive half of the field for the Tigers at the end of the season deserved consideration. Neblich gets the honor because of how he grew into the midfield role, especially over the final month of the season.

Girls Golf

Most Valuable: Maggie Veenendall, New Richmond.

Honorable Mention: Ashley Swiggum, New Richmond.

Veenendall has golf skills that rank with the best in western Wisconsin. A knee injury this fall was the only thing that kept her out of the state tournament. She's got one more shot at reaching state next year. With her drive and will, you've got to think she'll make it happen. Veenendall averaged a score of 40.65 this season, a team record.

Most Improved: Brooklyn Mishler, St. Croix Central.

Honorable Mention: Molly Hassler, New Richmond; Ashley Swiggum, New Richmond; Abby Edelman, St. Croix Central.

Mishler advanced her play to become a legitimate No. 1 player for the Panthers. With her as the leader, the Panthers have a solid returning group for next season.

New Richmond Girls Tennis

Most Valuable: Greta Bakke

Honorable Mention: Mia Bakke, Katey Eickhoff.

Bakke got better in each of her four years in the Tiger lineup. And it was distinctively better. She's highly competitive, but she never let her emotions get the better of her. She was too busy assessing her opponent, looking for weaknesses she could exploit. Watching her matches was fun because you could see her tennis intelligence/analysis at work.

Most Improved: Teresa Tenner

Honorable Mention: Katrina Riba

Tenner stepped into the three singles slot this season and showed skill and tennis savvy. If she's needed to move up in the lineup next season, she certainly appears to have the game to make that move.

Coaching

Coaching Staff of the season: St. Croix Central football (Tony DiSalvo).

Honorable Mention: St. Croix Central volleyball (Mindy Widiker); New Richmond girls golf (Neal Ziller); St. Croix Central cross-country (Bill Emery); New Richmond boys soccer (Darian Blattner); New Richmond girls tennis (Denise Devereux).

The competition for this honor was fierce, with several teams charging deep into the playoffs this fall. The Central football team has been a fixture in the WIAA playoffs over the past decade and now the Panthers are making themselves a fixture at Camp Randall Stadium in the state championships. DiSalvo's ability to find the fun in football for his players, while also getting them to understand the work it takes to be a state power, has elevated Central to one of the top programs in western Wisconsin.

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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