Last week was the peak invitational week of the season for the Somerset track teams.
And the results were everything the Spartans could hope for. The Somerset girls earned the team championship in the Amery Invitational last Tuesday. There is also a combined championship trophy given at the Amery meet every year. And because of the improvements made by the Spartan boys this year, the Somerset squads had enough points between them to earn the combined team championship.
Somerset boys coach Mike Holmquist said that success is a reflection of the overall year-round efforts of the male and female Spartan athletes.
The Spartans produced a number of wins on both sides of the ledger. For the boys, one of the biggest wins came in the final event. Dylan Rivard made a huge kick in the final leg of the 1,600 meter relay, leaning at the finish line to beat Prescott's anchor runner by a split second.
"Dylan chased Prescott from 30 meters back," Holmquist said.
The Spartans were also champions in the 800 meter relay and Rivard won the championship in the open 400.
Senior Monica Emerson provided the biggest individual highlight for the Spartan girls on Tuesday. She's been close to breaking several school records. On Tuesday she got her name onto the record board for the first time. She won the 800 meters in a time of 2:22. That breaks the record previously held by Amanda Meyer.
The 100 hurdlers had a big night at Amery. Sarah Northey won the event for the Spartans in 16.44 seconds. Lizzy Vanasse placed third and Sarah Krig took fourth to make this the Spartans' most productive event.
Vanasse and Krig teamed together in the pole vault too. Krig won the event by clearing 9 feet and Vanasse took second place with a vault of 8 feet, 6 inches.
Girls coach Dave Praschak has been working with junior Sara Henry to help in the 400 meters. To improve her starts, he had her run in the 100 at Amery. She took fourth in the 100, then came back to place second in the 400 and second in the 200. She also was a third place finisher in the high jump, where Northey and Krig tied for fourth place.
Somerset took part in the New Richmond Relays on Friday. The Spartan girls took fifth place among 12 teams and the boys ranked ninth among 13 teams.
Holmquist, in his first season as the Spartan boys coach, isn't that far removed from his days competing in the Relays as an Osceola track athlete.
"I remember loving the idea," Holmquist said. "It's a break from the norm."
The Spartans didn't have the depth to compete with teams like Hudson, but they did have a number of areas where they stood out.
Leading the successes for the Spartans were the hurdle events. The Somerset trio of Lizzy Vanasse, Sarah Northey and Sarah Krig won both the 100 and 140 hurdle relays. The Somerset boys placed third in the 110 hurdle relays. The Spartans were running right with the leaders in the 140 hurdle relay until the last hurdle. Spartan hurdler Luke Praschak hit the last hurdle and crashed hard to the pavement. He managed to get back up, but that difference in time bumped them back to sixth.
Holmquist said the success that Somerset continues to have in the hurdles is due to hurdle coach Bill Jahner.
"Coach Jahner does a wonderful job. That really showed Friday. That guy's incredible," Holmquist said.
The Spartan girls also did well in the field events. Vanasse and Krig combined to take second in the pole vault relay. Krig, Northey and Henry were the second place team in the high jump relay.
Both Spartan coaches said they were already focusing on next Tuesday's Middle Border Conference Meet as they set the lineup for the Relays. Because the boys team has so many runners nursing injuries, Holmquist elected to hold many of them back on Friday.
Praschak has been searching every possibility to maximize the points the girls can earn for the conference meet. He's considering the Spartans as possible contenders for the conference title, right along with Osceola, New Richmond and Ellsworth.
"It'll be close. It's how you use your kids and how they respond to being put in that particular event," Praschak said.