HAMMOND, Wis.-- Since area cross country teams will be running mostly against the same competition this season, St. Croix Central coach Bill Emery figures any subtle changes designed to keep the kids fresh is a good thing.

So Emery formatted last Thursday’s St. Croix Central Invitational as a series or races run in “flights,” with each team’s No. 1 and 2 runners competing against each other in one flight, followed by the two’s and three’s starting three minutes later, and so on through the seven, eight and nine runners.

“I kind of designed it so my kids who were the number ones and twos, that they still got a chance to run against the one and twos from the other schools,” he said. “And the ones who were the seven, eight and nines got a chance to maybe lead a race for awhile.”

When the races were finished and the scores tabulated, the top three teams in the eight-team field were the same for both the boys and girls, with New Richmond, Osceola and St. Croix Central taking one-two-three in the boys race and Osceola, St. Croix Central and New Richmond grabbing the top three spots in the girls’ competition.

New Richmond seniors Max Blader and Cale Bishop head towards the finish line to take the top two spots in the boys’ race with times of 16 minutes, 45.5 seconds and 16:47.3, respectively, at the St. Croix Central Cross Country Invitational Thursday, Sept. 3, at the Annabelle D. Hanson Sports Complex in Hammond. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia
New Richmond seniors Max Blader and Cale Bishop head towards the finish line to take the top two spots in the boys’ race with times of 16 minutes, 45.5 seconds and 16:47.3, respectively, at the St. Croix Central Cross Country Invitational Thursday, Sept. 3, at the Annabelle D. Hanson Sports Complex in Hammond. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia

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New Richmond seniors Max Blader and Cale Bishop had the top two times in the boys’ races at 16 minutes, 45.5 seconds and 16:47.3, respectively, while St. Croix Central’s Nya Kizer had the top time of 19:53.2 in the girls’ races.

New Richmond’s boys had four of the top six finishers to take the team title with a total of 25 points while Osceola was a distant second with 54. St. Croix Central was third with 102 followed by Prescott with 124, Amery and Ellsworth with 125 each, Somerset with 190 and Baldwin-Woodville with 241.

Senior Tyler Harris contributed a fourth place time of 17:55.1 to the Tigers’ team score and junior Jacob Doehrmann was sixth in 18:28.9 while senior Eddie Noyes rounded out the Tiger scoring with a 12th place time of 18:57.4.

New Richmond’s girls were led by sophomore Anna Fitzgerald in fifth place with a time of 21:00.7 and senior Kayla Harris in sixth in 21:35.9. Freshman Katelyn Doehrmann finished 14th in 23:23.7 and sophomore Mariah Russell was 22nd in 24:42.3 while junior Kaisa Engstrom was 23rd in 24:45.1 and sophomore Madison Russell was 38th in 26:04.6.

Junior Colin Hackbarth paced the St. Croix Central boys with a fifth place time of 18:24 while senior Cougar Holder finished ninth in 18:40.6. Sophomore Brian Woehrle was the next Panther finisher in 27th place with a time of 20:49.8, and senior Cameron Tredal was right behind in 28th in 20:50.5 while freshman Max Kusilek was 33rd in 21:06.3.

St. Croix Central senior Mya Kizer (4832) gains ground on Osceola’s Rachael Ulrich midway through the girls’ race at the St. Croix Central Cross Country Invitational Thursday, Sept. 3, at the Annabelle D. Hanson Sports Complex in Hammond. Kizer went on to beat Ulrich by over 12 seconds to win the race with a time of 19 minutes, 53.2 seconds. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia
St. Croix Central senior Mya Kizer (4832) gains ground on Osceola’s Rachael Ulrich midway through the girls’ race at the St. Croix Central Cross Country Invitational Thursday, Sept. 3, at the Annabelle D. Hanson Sports Complex in Hammond. Kizer went on to beat Ulrich by over 12 seconds to win the race with a time of 19 minutes, 53.2 seconds. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia

Kizer caught Osceola’s Rachel Ulrich halfway through the girls’ race and went on to win with a time of 19:53.2. Teammate Kaitlyn Carlson was less than a minute behind in fourth place in 20:45.9 and senior Sydney Carlson gave the Panthers three of the top ten finishers with a ninth place time of 22:47.1.

Freshman Sidnie Roshell placed 12th in 23:03.6 and freshman Libby Collins finished 24th in 24:55.4 to give the Panther girls a second place score of 50, 12 points behind Osceola. New Richmond was third with 70.

Emery said the anticipation and anxiety level in the first race of the season was high after most of the athletes missed out on last spring’s track and field season.

“I’m guessing all the schools, they’re good runners were anxious and chomping at the bit to get a race in,” he noted.

Emery said the Panthers were pleased to post a pair of top three team finishes at their home invite.

“They’re excited about it and all smiles,” he said. “We took third and we took second. We didn’t win, but boy they’re excited as can be. They know the handicaps we started with.”

First-year Somerset coach Geoff Carter also thought his athletes handled their first race well, considering the obstacles they have faced this season.

“Our athletes have made the best of the circumstances and are doing all they can to perform to their max potential and build a season full of memories they can fondly look back on,” he said. “I think our performance at SCC showed me, as a new coach, what we need to do moving forward. I'm proud of our team for their performances as individuals and as a team.”

Senior Zach Maitrejean was the top Somerset runner in the boys’ competition with an 18th place time of 19:27.7 while junior Freddie Richert was 43rd in 21:49.0. Senior Bobby Churchich was 46th in 22:00.3 and junor Landon Wilson finished 48th in 22:37.9. A total of 65 runners competed in the boys’ race.

Junior Erin Huerta and freshman Julia Rybacki led the Spartan girls with 19th and 20th place times of 24:03.5 and 24:20.3, respectively.

Seven of the eight teams that ran at St. Croix Central will see each other again at the Somerset Invitational Thursday, Sept. 10, and Panther coach Emery said while the format may be different than last week, his athletes will be ready for whatever lies ahead.

“The other coaches are really paying attention to the way we did it and how it turned out to figure out what they’re going to do,” he noted. ““We’re going to see the same teams every week. But to keep the kids refreshed, changes are OK. If we have to change the course, change the start, whatever. That’s what makes this better. So I’m OK with the subtle changes.”