Panthers expecting to excel on track
Despite graduating a talented group of athletes, Corey Hill is counting on a talented group of returning athletes to continue the winning tradition of the Park Rapids girls track and field team.
The Panthers have to fill several key spots with the graduation of Summer Ellefson, Lydia Lutz, Shelby Pierce, Jenna Polley and Emily Klingenberg. Those five were instrumental in leading the Panthers to their seventh straight Subsection 8-29A title and third consecutive Section 8A title.
Lutz scored 154 points last season and 1,173 in her six-year varsity career while breaking the school record in the 3,200-meter run. Pierce scored 266 points last season and 1,021 in her career while Ellefson scored 288 points last season and 973 during her career. Polley scored 121 points last season. All four competed at last year’s state Class A meet where the Panthers qualified in nine events and scored 21 points to tie for 13th place. Klingenberg scored 137.50 points last season
At the state meet, Ellefson, Lutz and Pierce ran on the 4 x 800 relay team that finished third. Lutz took fourth in the 3,200 run. Ellefson and Pierce ran on the 4 x 400 relay team that finished sixth. Pierce finished 11th in the 800 run and Ellefson was 15th in the 400 dash. Polley ran on the 4 x 100 relay that placed 15th.
While replacing the points scored by that group is going to be tough, Hill is confident the Panthers have enough talent and depth to once again repeat as subsection champs, contend for the section title and send multiple athletes to state.
“We graduated a lot of talented kids, but we have high expectations this year,” said Hill. “We want to beat Detroit Lakes at True Team and we want to defend our subsection and section titles. Our ultimate goal is to win state. These girls want to accomplish some great things. Our focus is to work hard and by the end of the year be in position to accomplish those great things.”
Leading the Panthers this season will be 20 returning letterwinners, highlighted by four returning state competitors: senior Grace Bateman; junior Mady Vaudrin; sophomore Megan Grimes; and freshman Sarah Harshman. The other returning letterwinners are seniors Jordyn Bynum, Tori Lauderbaugh and Lora Remus; juniors Samantha Harshman, Ellen Hoffman, Kayla Johnk and Justine Rittgers; sophomore Bria Wolff; freshmen Paige Hill, Bailee Hoffard, Maya Johnson, Abby Mueller, Megan Olson and Tayah Otterness; and eighth graders Ellery Overmyer and Madison Steffel.
Also competing for varsity spots are seniors Jessica Andersen, Jill Simpson, Morgan Olson and Tonya Melott; junior Alex Pederson; sophomores Amy Klein, Jovanna Morgan and Makenna Persing; freshmen Ava Mart, Brynna Johnson, Chloe Hauth, Emma Ellefson, Jada Johnson, Jenny Klein, Juana Quixan-Castro, Kayla Andersen and Tea Nyland; eighth graders Ally Vaudrin, Caroline Drury, Diona Schultz, Haley MacPherson, Katelynn Warmbold, Lydia Kantonen, Olivia Fischer and Sarah Gorder; and seventh graders Jaiden McCollum, Kennedy Carlson, Kortne Byer, Madie Klein, Rebekkah Cunningham, Shaila Gorder and Tori Hilmanowski.
Bateman, Vaudrin, Grimes and Harshman return after competing at last year’s state meet. Bateman finished eighth in the 300 hurdles and joined Grimes on the 4 x 400 relay team that placed sixth. Bateman, Vaudrin, Grimes and Harshman finished ninth in the 4 x 200 relay. Vaudrin joined Harshman on the 4 x 100 relay that finished 15th.
In addition to the state qualifiers, the Panthers return several other athletes who had success at the big meets last season.
The Panthers took second behind Detroit Lakes at the Section 8AA True Team meet as Vaudrin (100), Grimes (high jump), Vaudrin and Sarah Harshman (4 x 100 relay) and Remus and Megan Olson (4 x 800 relay) won titles.
At the Mid-State Conference meet, Grimes won the high jump, Remus ran on the winning 4 x 800 relay, and Bateman and Grimes ran on the winning 4 x 400 relay to earn all-conference honors. Earning all-conference honorable mention honors by placing second were Bateman in the pole vault, Otterness in the 800 and Megan Olson in the 3,200.
The Panthers won 14 events and qualified 24 individuals in 18 events with a dominating performance at the subsection meet. Returning as subsection champs are Vaudrin in the 100, Grimes in the 100 hurdles and high jump, Bateman in the 300 hurdles, Samantha Harshman in the shot put, Sarah Harshman in the discus, Sarah Harshman and Vaudrin in the 4 x 100 relay, Sarah Harshman, Grimes, Bateman and Vaudrin in the 4 x 200 relay, and Bateman and Grimes in the 4 x 400 relay. Adding runner-up finishes last season were Mueller in the 200, Otterness in the 800, Megan Olson in the 3,200, Lauderbaugh in the 100 hurdles and Bateman in the pole vault. Taking third at last year’s subsection meet were Sarah Harshman in the 200, Hoffard in the 100 hurdles, Rittgers in the 300 hurdles, Lauderbaugh in the high jump and Johnk in the shot put.
The state qualifiers helped the Panthers dominate at the section meet as the four relay teams all took first while Bateman won the 300 hurdles and Grimes won the high jump. Also placing at the section meet were Bateman in the pole vault (third), Lauderbaugh in the high jump (seventh), Vaudrin in the 100 (third), Grimes in the 100 hurdles (fifth), Sarah Harshman in the 200 (seventh), Megan Olson in the 3,200 (third), Otterness in the 800 (eighth) and Hoffard in the 100 hurdles (eighth).
Grimes led the Panthers last season with 336 points and tied the school record in the high jump by clearing 5 feet, 4 inches. Grimes took first in the high jump at 10 meets, won the 100 hurdles three times and ran on six winning 4 x 400 relay and four winning 4 x 200 relay teams.
Bateman was second in points with 312, winning eight titles in the 4 x 400 relay, five titles in the 300 hurdles, two titles in the 4 x 200 relay and one title in the 4 x 100 relay.
Vaudrin finished fifth in points with 235 and won the 100 three times while running on five winning 4 x 100 relay and four winning 4 x 200 relay teams.
Sarah Harshman scored 172 points, winning two titles in the discus and running on four winning 4 x 100 relay and two winning 4 x 200 relay teams.
Megan Olson took first in the 1,600 and 3,200 once and ran on six winning 4 x 800 relay teams. Olson scored 160 points last season.
Mueller compiled 159 points last season before suffering an injury at the subsection meet. Mueller took first in the 100 twice and in the 200 once and ran on three winning 4 x 200 relay and one winning 4 x 100 relay teams.
Remus also missed the end of the season and finished with 125 points. Remus ran on nine winning 4 x 800 relays and took first in the 1,600 run once.
Lauderbaugh compiled 104.50 points by placing in the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and high jump.
Otterness scored 93 points by running on three winning 4 x 800 relay and one first-place 4 x 400 relay teams.
Rittgers scored 45 points in the hurdles and ran on one winning 4 x 400 relay team.
Hoffman scored 39.42 points in the pole vault and 4 x 200 relay. Samantha Harshman scored 36 points in the throwing events. Hoffard scored 24 points in the 100 hurdles, long jump and 4 x 200 relay. Wolff scored 20.50 points in the high jump, triple jump and 300 hurdles. Hill scored 19.50 points in the triple jump and 4 x 200 relay. Overmyer scored 15 points in the 400 and 800. Maya Johnson scored 13 points in the 400 and discus. Johnk scored 10 points in the throwing events. Steffel scored 10 points in the 800. Bynum scored 10 points in the 200 and 4 x 200 relay.
Also scoring points on varsity last season were Mart (4 points), Sarah Gorder (3 points), Persing (2 points), Emma Ellefson (2 points), Hauth (2 points), Warmbold (2 points) and MacPherson (1 point).
“Our depth is our major strength. We’re going to score points in every event. Barring injuries, I expect us to be right back on top,” said Hill. “Teams are expecting us to rebuild this year, but we’re definitely just reloading. We have the potential to be a better team than last year. It should be another very good year. I’m very excited about this team.”