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Megan Grimes (right) competed at the state Class A meet in three events and was named the Panthers’ MVP.

Panthers deliver another stellar season

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     It was another predictably successful season for the Park Rapids girls track and field team.

     The Panthers won two invitational titles before placing second at the Section 8A True Team meet and third at the Mid-State Conference meet. Corey Hill’s team capped off the season by winning the Subsection 8-29A title for the ninth year in a row, capturing the Section 8A title for the fifth straight year and qualifying eight individuals in six events for the state Class A meet.

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     Leading the Panthers to another successful season were the eight state qualifiers: senior Mady Vaudrin; junior Megan Grimes; sophomores Paige Hill, Abby Mueller and Megan Olson; freshmen Lydia Kantonen and Ellery Overmyer; and eighth grader Tori Hilmanowski.

     Olson, Kantonen, Overmyer and Hilmanowski earned all-state honors by placing ninth in the 4 x 800-meter relay to account for the Panthers’ 1 point at the state meet. Mueller finished 10th in the 200 dash, Vaudrin finished 13th in the 100 dash and Grimes finished 18th in the 100 hurdles while the 4 x 100 relay team of Vaudrin, Mueller, Hill and Grimes took 11th while the 4 x 400 relay team of Mueller, Olson, Overmyer and Grimes placed 14th at the state meet.

     Also scoring points for the Panthers this season were seniors Ellen Hoffman, Kayla Johnk, Christina Mackley and Justine Rittgers; juniors Fenja Boesch and Bria Wolff; sophomores Sarah Harshman, Bailee Hoffard, Brynna Johnson, Jada Johnson and Tayah Otterness; freshmen Lydia Christensen, Caroline Drury, Haley MacPherson, Madison Steffel and Katelynn Warmbold; eighth graders Kennedy Carlson, Rebekkah Cunningham and Jaiden McCollum; and seventh graders Kendra Coborn, Coral Johnson and Whitney Steffel.

     The Panthers opened the season by placing sixth at the 18-team Paul Bunyan Invitational at Bemidji State University with 36 points. Grand Forks Red River took first with 109.50 points.

     At the 12-team Little Amik Invitational at BSU, the Panthers placed fourth with 89 points. Bemidji took first with 137.50 points. Kantonen won the 3,200 to account for the Panthers’ lone winning effort.

     Winning performances by Vaudrin (100), Mueller (200), Olson (1,600), Kantonen (3,200), Hoffman (pole vault) and the 4 x 100 relay team of Vaudrin, Mueller, Harshman and Hill led the Panthers to the title at the 10-team Perham Invitational with 132 points.

     Park Rapids followed by placing fifth at the 12-team Beaver Relays at BSU with 66.67 points as International Falls led the way with 155.60 points.

     At the Park Rapids Lions Invitational, the Panthers topped the nine-team field with 168.75 points as Mueller (200), Grimes (100 hurdles and 300 hurdles), Kantonen (3,200) and the 4 x 800 relay team of Olson, Overmyer, Madison Steffel and Kantonen clocked winning efforts.

     International Falls won the title at the 11-team May Day Invitational at Walker with 154 points as the Panthers placed third with 119 points. Mueller (200) and the 4 x 800 relay team of Olson, Madison Steffel, Hilmanowski and Kantonen took first.

     The host Lakers claimed the title at the eight-team Detroit Lakes Invitational with 150.50 points as the Panthers finished third with 86.75 points. Kantonen had the Panthers’ only winning time by leading the field in the 3,200.

     Park Rapids was seeking to win the Section 8A True Team title, but had to settle for runner-up honors with 742 points. International Falls led the 13-team field with 762 points. Taking first for the Panthers were Olson in the 1,600; the 4 x 100 relay team of Vaudrin, MacPherson, Hill and Boesch; the 4 x 400 relay team of Mueller, Olson, Overmyer and Grimes; and the 4 x 800 relay team of Olson, Overmyer, Hilmanowski and Kantonen.

     At the Mid-State Conference meet, the Panthers finished third with 100 points to trail Detroit Lakes’ 194 points and Pequot Lakes’ 139 points. Earning all-conference honors by taking first were Kantonen in the 3,200 and the 4 x 800 relay team of Olson, Overmyer, Hilmanowski and Kantonen. Receiving all-conference honorable honors by placing second were Olson in the 1,600 and the 4 x 100 relay team of Vaudrin, Mueller, Hill and Boesch.

     Another dominating effort led the Panthers to another subsection title as 25 different athletes scored points. Claiming subsection titles were Vaudrin in the 100, Mueller in the 200, Grimes in the 100 hurdles and high jump, Kantonen in the 3,200 and McCollum in the shot put. The Panthers also won three relays as Vaudrin, Mueller, Hill and Grimes led the way in the 4 x 100 relay; Mueller, Olson, Overmyer and Grimes led the field in the 4 x 400 relay; and Olson, Overmyer, Hilmanowski and Kantonen took first in the 4 x 800 relay.

     Placing second for the Panthers were Hilmanowski in the 400, Overmyer in the 800, Olson in the 1,600, Hoffman in the pole vault, Harshman in the discus and Boesch in the long jump. The 4 x 200 relay team of Vaudrin, MacPherson, Wolff and McCollum also finished second.

     Also placing at the subsection meet were Mackley in the pole vault (third); McCollum in the discus (third) and 200 (sixth); Hill in the triple jump (third) and 100 (seventh); Rittgers in the 100 hurdles (fourth) and 300 hurdles (fourth); Wolff in the discus (fourth), 400 (fifth) and triple jump (eighth); Otterness in the high jump (fourth) and 300 hurdles (sixth); Whitney Steffel in the 3,200 (fourth); Drury in the pole vault (fourth); Vaudrin in the long jump (fifth); Madison Steffel in the 1,600 (fifth) and high jump (sixth); Carlson in the 800 (sixth); Hoffard in the 100 hurdles (sixth); Brynna Johnson in the long jump (sixth); Warmbold in the triple jump (sixth); Christensen in the 800 (seventh); Boesch in the 100 (eighth); and MacPherson in the 200 (eighth).

     The other subsection competitors were Warmbold in the 300 hurdles (ninth), Jada Johnson in the 400 (ninth) and Cunningham in the shot put (11th).

     At the Section 8A meet, the Panthers tallied 99 points to edge Roseau’s 95 points for the team title. Capturing individual section titles were Vaudrin in the 100 and Grimes in the 100 hurdles while Vaudrin, Mueller, Hill and Grimes won the 4 x 100 relay; Mueller, Olson, Overmyer and Grimes won the 4 x 400 relay; and Olson, Overmyer, Hilmanowski and Kantonen won the 4 x 800 relay to advance to state. Also qualifying for state with a runner-up finish was Mueller in the 200.

     Just missing a berth for state by placing third were Olson in the 1,600 and Kantonen in the 3,200. Also placing at the section meet were Hoffman in the pole vault (fourth); Grimes in the high jump (fourth); McCollum in the shot put (fifth) and discus (seventh); Drury in the pole vault (fifth); Vaudrin, MacPherson, Wolff and McCollum in the 4 x 200 relay (sixth); Wolff in the discus (sixth); Otterness in the high jump (seventh); and Mackley in the pole vault (tied for seventh).

     The other section competitors were Overmyer in the 800 (10th), Harshman in the discus (10th), Hill in the triple jump (11th), Rittgers in the 300 hurdles (11th) and 100 hurdles (15th), Boesch in the long jump (13th), Hilmanowski in the 400 (14th), Whitney Steffel in the 3,200 (15th), and Madison Steffel in the 1,600 (16th).

     The 4 x 800 relay team of Olson, Overmyer, Kantonen and Hilmanowski reached the podium at state to cap off the season. Park Rapids scored 1 point to tie for 81st place out of 84 teams that scored points at state. Minneapolis Edison won the state Class A title with 40 points.

     “I was pleased with the season. This may have been one of the most rewarding section championships that we have won. We knew it would be close when we had to make adjustments due to injuries. When we came out on top, we all celebrated in a way that we haven’t before,” said Hill. “State is the cherry on top and we had a lot of fun there. We finished pretty much where we should have. There were no surprises either way.”

     Looking ahead to next season, Hill will have to replace the contributions of the five seniors. However, if his team can remain healthy, Hill is counting on another successful season from the Panthers.

     “As for next year, I hate to say it but we may be a better team with the young talent that is moving up and we should have some athletes back that were injured this season,” said Hill. “We are excited to see if we can make it six section titles in a row. It is tougher than people know to win a section title. I don’t think most people realize what these girls are accomplishing.”

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