Panthers continue winning tradition
As expected, the winning tradition continued for the Park Rapids girls swimming and diving team this season.
It was another successful season as the Panthers went 7-1 in dual meets, won the Section 8A True Team title, dominated the Mid-State Conference meet and claimed runner-up honors at the Section 8A meet while qualifying eight individuals for the state Class A meet in seven events. The Panthers capped off the season by placing 35th at the state meet with 10 points.
Highlighting the season was having seniors Katherine Erickson, Hannah Williams and Emily Creager; juniors Taylor Graham, Ellen Hoffman and Alex Pederson; sophomore Lauren Rossman; and freshman Kayla Andersen advance to state.
Erickson finished 13th in the 100-yard backstroke and 15th in the 200-yard freestyle and joined Williams, Graham and Rossman to finish 15th in the 200-yard medley relay at the state meet. Erickson’s time of 1:59.82 in the 200 freestyle broke the school record.
Williams finished 18th in the 100 breaststroke while Hoffman finished 24th in diving. The 200 freestyle relay team of Creager, Pederson, Rossman and Andersen finished 24th and the 400 freestyle relay team of Creager, Williams, Erickson and Rossman finished 22nd at state.
“We had a great season,” said Park Rapids head coach Todd Fritze. “We had high goals going into the season and we reached most of them. I’m proud of what the girls accomplished this season.”
The Panthers opened the season by winning the Detroit Lakes Pentathlon with 236.50 points before defeating Warroad (102-73), Thief River Falls (100-64) and Fosston/Bagley (102-71) in dual meets.
At the Park Rapids Invitational, the Panthers finished third with 495 points to trail Melrose (509) and Brainerd (507) in this seven-team meet.
The Panthers followed with dual wins over Crookston (102-72) and Perham (95-50) before dropping a 104-82 dual to Bemidji. Park Rapids closed out the dual season with wins over Staples-Motley (96-63) and Detroit Lakes (97-82).
At the Section 8A True Team meet, the Panthers claimed the title with 1,436.50 points. Bemidji was second in this eight-team meet with 1,321 points. Park Rapids ended up placing 11th out of 12 teams at the state Class A True Team meet with 998.50 points. Visitation won the state title with 2,059 points.
The Panthers dominated the Mid-State Conference meet by compiling 523 points. Detroit Lakes was a distant second with 300 points.
Bemidji captured the Section 8A title with 502.50 points as the Panthers finished second out of 10 teams with 434.50 points.
The junior varsity compiled an 8-0 record in dual meets to extend their winning streak to 23 meets in a row.
For the season, 26 swimmers and divers scored points. In addition to the state qualifiers, the Panthers received solid contributions from seniors Heather Kniss and Elizabeth Nichols; juniors Seri Erickson and Christina Mackley; sophomores Emily Eystad and Jessie O’Hern; freshmen Jada Current, Alyza Edevold, Emma Ellefson, Paige Fritze, Tea Nyland, Isabela Simonson and Carly Waggoner; and eighth graders Caroline Drury, Rachel Konshok, Sarah Merfeld, Joelle Nagel and Myah Schultz.
At the Mid-State Conference meet, Nyland (in the 100 butterfly); Rossman, Pederson, Andersen and Creager (in the 200 freestyle relay); Katherine Erickson (in the 100 backstroke); and Creager, Rossman, Williams, and Katherine Erickson (in the 400 freestyle relay) earned all-conference honors with winning performances.
Earning all-conference honorable mention honors by placing second and third were Katherine Erickson, Williams, Graham and Kniss (second) and Pederson, O’Hern, Nyland and Andersen (third) in the 200 medley relay; Creager in the 200 freestyle (second); Williams (second) and Graham (third) in the 200 individual medley; Katherine Erickson in the 50 freestyle (third); Hoffman in diving (second); Creager (second) and Rossman (third) in the 100 freestyle; Fritze, Graham, Mackley and Edevold in the 200 freestyle relay (third); Pederson in the 100 backstroke (third); Williams (second) and O’Hern (third) in the 100 breaststroke; and Edevold, Nyland, Kniss and Fritze in the 400 freestyle relay (third).
At the section meet, the Panthers had all 19 swimmers score points. Leading the way were the eight state qualifiers.
Katherine Erickson, Williams, Graham and Rossman advanced with a runner-up finish in the 200 medley relay. Katherine Erickson broke the school record and qualified as the section champion in the 200 freestyle. Hoffman qualified by placing fourth in diving. Rossman, Pederson, Andersen and Creager advanced as the runner-up in the 200 freestyle relay. Katherine Erickson finished second in the 100 backstroke to qualify. Williams also advanced as the section runner-up in the 100 breaststroke. Creager, Rossman, Williams and Katherine Erickson won the 400 freestyle relay to advance.
Also placing at the section meet were Creager (third), Fritze (ninth) and Seri Erickson (14th) in the 200 freestyle; Williams (fourth), Graham (sixth), Nyland (ninth) and Kniss (12th) in the 200 individual medley; Rossman (fourth), Pederson (eighth), Andersen (10th) and Edevold (12th) in the 50 freestyle; Kniss (ninth) and Current (11th) in diving; Nyland (fifth), Graham (sixth), Mackley (eighth) and Nichols (14th) in the 100 butterfly; Creager (third), Fritze (13th) and Ellefson (15th) in the 100 freestyle; Seri Erickson (11th) and Mackley (14th) in the 500 freestyle; Pederson (fourth), Hoffman (sixth) and Simonson (11th) in the 100 backstroke; and Andersen (third), O’Hern (seventh) and Ellefson (16th) in the 100 breaststroke. Simonson also competed in the 500 freestyle (24th).
Katherine Erickson was named the Panthers’ MVP and received the team’s Hardest Worker/Most Dedicated Award after leading the team with 490 points. In addition to breaking the school record in the 200 freestyle, Erickson holds the school record in the 500 freestyle (5:23.42), 200 medley relay (1:53.85) and 400 freestyle relay (3:42.96). Erickson also ranks second in the 100 backstroke (1:01.09), fifth in the 100 freestyle (56.40) and 10th in the 100 butterfly (1:07.35) in school history. Erickson competed in four state meets in 13 events.
Creager was second in points with 464 and joined Erickson on the school record 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams. In school history, Creager ranks second in the 200 freestyle (2:01.44) and third in the 100 freestyle (55.75). Creager competed in four state meets in 11 events.
Williams finished third in points with 405 and received the team’s Spirit Award. Williams moved up to the No. 3 spot in school history in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.88) and the No. 5 spot in the 200 individual medley (2:22.55). Williams was a state qualifier two years.
Rossman claimed the No. 4 spot in points with 399 and moved up to the No. 4 spot in the 50 freestyle (25.80). Rossman qualified for her second state meet.
Nyland was fifth with 339.50 points and climbed to the No. 5 spot in school history in the 100 butterfly (1:03.80).
Graham qualified for her first state meet and finished the season with 329 points. Graham took over the No. 3 spot in the 100 butterfly (1:03.02) and the No. 9 spot in the 200 individual medley (2:24.26).
Hoffman qualified for her second state meet in diving and took over the No. 2 spot in that event (220.75 points). Hoffman compiled 282.50 points this season.
Andersen received the team’s Most Improved Award after qualifying for her first state meet and tallying 280 points for eighth place on the team. Andersen moved up to the No. 4 spot in school history in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.39).
Kniss finished the season with 251.50 points and moved up to the No. 9 spot in diving (185.25 points).
Fritze rounded out the top 10 spots in points with 247.50 while Edevold followed with 236 points.
Pederson compiled 226.50 points and moved up to the No. 10 spot in the 100 backstroke (1:06.45). Pederson made her state debut this season.
Scoring more than 100 points on the varsity were Mackley (185.50), Seri Erickson (156.50), Nichols (133), Ellefson (130.50) and Current (104).
Also scoring points on the varsity this season were O’Hern (98.50), Simonson (92.50), Drury (33), Merfeld (28.50), Waggoner (28), Konshok (19.50), Schultz (16.50), Nagel (8.50) and Eystad (1).
“We had a great class of seniors. We’re going to miss them. Losing six seniors is going to be hard to replace. Each one brought something different to the program which is irreplaceable,” said Fritze. “We had more depth than we’ve had in a long time this year and we’ll need those kids to step up and bring something different to the table next year. I’m happy with what we’ve done, but I’m never satisfied. We’re always chasing perfection and we’ll be doing that again next year. I’m excited about next season.”