Boys look to offset lack of numbers with quality efforts
With only 19 athletes, Pat Deegan knows the Park Rapids boys track and field team can't rely on depth to produce success.
Instead, the new head coach will be relying on quality performances to help the Panthers finish in the top half of meets this season.
Deegan, who was the head track coach at Pine River-Backus for three years and was the Panthers' assistant coach last season, will be counting on last year's six Section 8A qualifiers to lead the way this spring.
Senior Mike McDowell; juniors Nathan Gebhard, Jake Grimes and Sean Hayes; sophomore Cody Timmons; and freshman Brock Fritze return after competing in last year's section meet.
Hayes, Timmons and Fritze ran on the 4 x 400 relay team that won the Subsection 8-29A title and placed sixth at the section meet. Hayes and Fritze were on the 4 x 200 relay team that took second at the subsection meet and seventh at the section meet. Hayes and Timmons ran on the 4 x 100 relay team that finished fifth at the subsection meet.
Timmons also placed third in the subsection and seventh in the section in the 200 dash while Fritze was fourth in the 400 at the subsection meet.
Grimes qualified for the section meet in both hurdles races after winning the subsection title in the 110 hurdles and placing second in the 300 hurdles. Grimes also placed eighth in the triple jump at the subsection meet.
McDowell placed third in the high jump at the subsection meet and joined Gebhard on the 4 x 800 relay team that finished third at the subsection meet. Gebhard qualified for the section meet by placing third in the 1,600 run at the subsection meet.
Those six helped the Panthers finish 17th at the section meet with 14 points.
At the Mid-State Conference meet, McDowell won the high jump to earn all-conference honors while Hayes, Timmons and Fritze earned all-conference honorable mention honors by placing second in two relays. Hayes and Timmons ran on the 4 x 100 relay while Hayes, Timmons and Fritze were on the 4 x 400 relay.
Also returning with varsity experience are seniors Tom Drury, Devon Ondracek and Trevor Matheny; juniors Caleb Atkins and AJ Spears; and freshman Forrest Drury.
Ondracek, Matheny and Atkins will lead the throwers. Ondracek placed fifth at the conference meet and sixth at the subsection meet in the discus and joined Atkins in some running events.
Tom Drury competed in the 100 and 300 hurdles and ran on the 4 x 100 relay last season. Spears filled in on the 4 x 800 relay team. Forrest Drury placed in the 4 x 400 relay during the season.
Looking to fill varsity spots are seniors Mike Randall and Giacomo Siciliani; foreign exchange student Mehmet Cengiz; junior Sterling Lindahl; sophomore Zac Haugland; and freshmen Luke Hartig and Scott Wolff.
Lindahl will help out in the sprints while Siciliani and Haugland will provide depth in the distance events. Wolff will compete in the hurdles and jumping events.
"We might be able to do some things team wise," said Deegan, who will be assisted by Greg Kuehn. "We have a good shot at making sections in several events. It's going to be interesting to see how we do. These kids have a lot of potential. I'm looking forward to the season."