The Inhuman Awards are announced following each high school sports season to recognize exceptional efforts by our local high school athletes.
This fall, exceptional was an accurate word as we saw major successes in every sport. From state team and individual qualifiers to Middle Border Conference championships, it was a season to remember.
Most Valuable Offense: (Tie) Ryan Larson and Austin Kopacz, St. Croix Central.
Honorable Mention: Jack Peterson, Somerset; Keagen Berg, St. Croix Central.
Larson, Kopacz and Berg accomplished a rare feat of producing three 1,000 yard rushers in one back field. (See story on Larson on B2). You'd be hard pressed to find a team that had three threats this dangerous in its backfield.
Most Valuable Defense: Jack Peterson, Somerset.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Larson, St. Croix Central; Austin Kopacz, St. Croix Central.
(See story on Peterson on B2).
Most Improved: Ethan Wegscheider, Somerset.
Honorable Mention: Tim Salmon, New Richmond; Garret Hinrichsen, St. Croix Central
Another of the awards that could have gone a dozen different directions. Wegscheider was a backup halfback last year. This year, he turned himself into an all-region offensive lineman.
Top Lineman: Nate Berends, St. Croix Central.
Honorable Mention: Ethan Wegscheider, Somerset; Nick Andersen, New Richmond; Bailey Mullenberg, Somerset; Christian Germain, New Richmond.
Berends was placed in a tough spot as the main returnee on both lines for the Panthers. He answered the demand by working incredibly hard in the offseason, earning him all-state honors on offense and defense.
Most Valuable Offense: AJ Johnson, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Erik Osorio, Somerset.
Johnson is rewriting the Tiger record book and he still has his senior season left to play. He's made marked improvement in each season. As one of the top 10 scorers in the state this season, that should send waves of fear through the Tigers' opponents for 2019.
Most Valuable Defense: Nick Cheslock, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Brennan Sheridan, Somerset.
Cheslock was tried in the midfield early in the season, but he was just too good and too valuable on defense. Smarts and poise made him the hub of the Tiger defensive plans.
Most Valuable: Abby Widiker, St. Croix Central.
Honorable Mention: Lauren Smith, New Richmond; Karlee Martinez, St. Croix Central.
Widiker is one of the elite players in the area because of her completeness. She was the Most Valuable Player in the Middle Border Conference because of it. She was one of the best hitters, in strength and accuracy, in the MBC. She was just as important to the Panthers with her play in the back row. She's an excellent passer with quick reactions, making her able to cover more of the court than many players.
Most Improved: Karlee Martinez, St. Croix Central.
Honorable Mention: Leah DeYoung, New Richmond; Hope Baillargeon, Somerset.
Setter in volleyball is one of the most unappreciated positions in high school sports. It's not just making an accurate, well-timed set, it's distributing the ball equitably among the hitters, while making sure to feed the hot hitter. Martinez orchestrated the Panther attack this season, working around teammates' injuries and helping blend young players into the offense.
Boys Cross Country
Most Valuable: Erik Collins, St. Croix Central.
Honorable Mention: Max Fore, New Richmond; Cougar Holder, St. Croix Central, Jakob Eggen, St. Croix Central; Ben Schmitt, Somerset.
Collins doesn't rank as the leading runner on the Panthers' results sheet, but his maturity is one of the key reasons to the Panthers' success this season.
Most Improved: Jakob Eggen, St. Croix Central
Honorable Mention: Thor Sanders, Somerset; Ben Schmitt, Somerset; Cale Bishop, New Richmond; Max Blader, New Richmond.
With only one senior in this group, it shows that there will be several strong programs in the area in the future. Eggen emerged late this season to become a match for sophomore classmate Cougar Holder at the front of the pack for the Panthers. They are both competitors with runners' builds, leading to high hopes for the Panthers for the next two seasons.
Girls Cross Country
Most Valuable: Marie Hamlin, St. Croix Central.
Honorable Mention: Willa Rogers, New Richmond; Mya Kizer, St. Croix Central; Kayla Harris, New Richmond; Barb Kling, New Richmond.
(See story on Hamlin on Page B2).
Most Improved: Mya Kizer, St. Croix Central.
Honorable Mention: Willa Rogers, New Richmond; Kristin Vensland, Somerset.
Hamlin's rise to prominence was nearly matched by Kizer this season. In 2017, Kizer was the Panthers' fifth runner at the Middle Border Conference meet. This year, she placed 26th at the Division 2 state meet. Kizer's rise was similar to Hamlin's for another reason, she has the heart and guts to get the most out of her skills, just like Hamlin.
Most Valuable: Maggie Veenendall, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Jessica Hagman, New Richmond; Haley Myers, Somerset.
(See story on Veenendall on Page B2).
Most Improved: Jessica Hagman, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Hanna Wehausen, St. Croix Central; Sally Vangsness, St. Croix Central
After missing her sophomore season due to a knee injury, there was no telling how well Hagman would bounce back. She won the first Middle Border Conference match this season, showing she was fully recovered. She was strong and steady, finishing as the third player in the MBC.
New Richmond Girls Tennis
Most Valuable: Anna Hop and Kerrigan Storie.
The leadership of these two seniors was the most important feature in a successful season for the Tigers.
Most Improved: Mia Bakke.
Honorable Mention: Sophie Fuchs.
Bakke made the move to the one singles flight and she did it flawlessly. She elevated her physical and mental skills to handle the pressures that face top players from all over the state.
Coaches of the Season: Tony DiSalvo, St. Croix Central football.
Honorable Mention: Neal Ziller, New Richmond girls golf; Mindy Widiker, St. Croix Central volleyball; Bill Emery, St. Croix Central cross country.
There were some outstanding coaching performances in the area this season, but putting a team in the state championship game for the third straight season trumps them all. The Panther football coaching staff has gained a high level of respect for the program's consistent level of success.