Panthers focus on improving, state bids
Patrick Deegan is counting on a small group of returning runners to lead the Park Rapids boys track and field team to a successful season.
Despite battling low numbers, the Panthers won the Subsection 8-29A title the last two seasons when 19 athletes scored points in 2011 and 18 athletes scored points last spring.
In all, 23 athletes scored points during the season last sprint. However, 12 of those were seniors.
Entering this season, the Panthers return only eight athletes who scored points last season and two others who are back after scoring points two years ago. That lack of depth will make it tough for the Panthers to win the subsection title for the third year in a row.
However, Deegan is confident the Panthers will be represented at the state Class A meet for the third consecutive season.
Junior Austin Carlson and sophomore Isaac Overmyer return to lead the Panthers after both qualified for the state meet a year ago. Carlson won the 400-meter dash and took second in the 200 dash at the Section 8A meet to qualify for state while Overmyer advanced with a runner-up finish in the 3,200 run. Overmyer earned all-state honors by placing ninth in the 3,200 while Carlson finished 13th in the 400 and 20th in the 200 in their state debuts.
Also returning with varsity experience are seniors Edger Guajardo, Aaron Hamblin and Jake Waggoner and juniors Spencer Adolphson, Kurt Fritze, Caleb Gorder, Isaiah Hensel and Jared Kantonen.
The Panthers finished third at the Mid-State Conference meet last season, which was the team’s best finish since taking runner-up honors in 2005. Carlson (in the 400) and Overmyer (in the 1,600) earned all-conference honors with winning efforts while Carlson earned all-conference honorable mention honors by taking second in the 200 and running on the runner-up 4 x 200 relay.
Park Rapids repeated as subsection champs by qualifying 14 individuals for the section meet. Claiming subsection titles were Carlson in the 200, 400 and 4 x 200 relay and Adolphson in the 4 x 800 relay. Turning in runner-up finishers were Carlson in the long jump and Overmyer in the 1,600 and 3,200.
Also scoring points at the subsection meet were Waggoner in the 1,600 and 3,200 (fourth); Gorder in the long jump (sixth) and 200 (seventh); Adolphson in the 4 x 400 relay (fourth) and pole vault (sixth); and Kantonen in the triple jump (fourth). The 4 x 400 relay team also placed fourth at the section meet.
During the season, Carlson took first in the 400 eight times and in the 200 twice and was the runner-up in the 200 three times and in the 400 twice while placing in the long jump in three meets, the 4 x 200 relay in three meets, the 4 x 400 relay in four meets and the 4 x 800 relay in one meet. Overmyer won three titles in the 3,200 and was runner-up six times while placing in all 13 meets and claimed two titles in the 1,600 and added a pair of runner-up finishes while placing in eight meets. Overmyer also ran on a runner-up 4 x 800 relay. Waggoner placed in both the 1,600 and 3,200 in four meets. Gorder placed in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relays four times each and also scored points in the 100. Adolphson ran on two winning 4 x 800 relays and placed in that event in nine meets while also placing in the pole vault in four meets and the 800 in two meets. Kantonen scored points in the triple jump in four meets. Hamblin placed in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relays in three meets each. Guajardo placed in the 4 x 100 relay in four meets and the 4 x 200 relay in two meets. Two years ago, Fritze placed in the 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles and 4 x 200 relay while Hensel placed in the 4 x 100 relay at the subsection meet in 2011.
The Panthers have some key spots to fill with the graduation of Forrest Drury (who tied for sixth place in the pole vault at the state meet and also scored points in the 100, 200, 400, 4 x 200 relay and 4 x 400 relay), Scott Wolff (who was named the team’s MVP after placing in the 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles, high jump and triple jump), Brock Fritze (who placed in the 4 x 200 relay, 4 x 400 relay, 200 and 400), Cole Tretbar (who placed in the shot put and discus), Brandon Ritter (who placed in the shot put and discus), Jordan Bergquist (who placed in the 4 x 100 relay, 4 x 200 relay and long jump), Sam Goebel (who scored points in the 4 x 800 relay, 4 x 400 relay, 4 x 200 relay, 800 and 300 hurdles), Ryan McBrady (who placed in the 4 x 800 relay and 800), and Corey Joslyn (who placed in the 4 x 100 relay, 4 x 200 relay, 4 x 800 relay and 800).
Looking to fill in those spots will be senior Johnny Bravo (sprints); juniors Bryce Brovitch (long jump, high jump), Steven Osterman (running events) and Nate Rak (throwing events, sprints); sophomore Connor Farrell (400, 800); and freshmen Tristan Breitweser (sprints), Damion Hanke (sprints, middle distance), Logan Noonan (throwing events, sprints), Scott Petersen (running events) and Joshua Weckwerth (running events).
“We have a lot of new faces, so we’re in the process of seeing who can do what,” said Deegan. “We’re going to experiment and find our niche. We’ll see how things pan out.”
Deegan is looking for the Panthers to improve during the season and peak in time to make a run at winning the subsection title for the third year in a row and qualify individuals for state.
“A good goal for us is to see if we can defend our subsection title and get as many people as we can to sections,” said Deegan. “I’m looking for the kids to work hard and hopefully we’ll get kids to state again.”