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Park Rapids girls make history by finishing fifth at state meet

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After completing their main goal of qualifying for the state Class A meet, the members of the Park Rapids girls cross-country team wanted to end the season by passing teams ranked higher in the state poll.

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The Panthers fulfilled that goal as well by placing fifth at Saturday's state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield. Park Rapids, which entered the state meet rated No. 11 in the final state Class A poll, compiled 190 points for its best finish in school history.

In their four prior state appearances, the Panthers tied for sixth place in the one-class system in 1976 and followed by placing eighth in 1977. Park Rapids didn't qualify for state again until 1997 and 1998 when the Panthers finished 14th in 1997 and 16th in 1998 at the state Class A meet.

Lydia Lutz led the way on Saturday by earning all-state honors by placing 20th overall and 14th in the team standings in 15 minutes, 50 seconds over the 4,000-meter course. Lutz finished 30th in 15:47 in 2007 and placed 34th in 15:36 last season in her two previous state appearances.

Victoria Lutz was the Panthers' No. 2 runner by placing 22nd in the team standings and 40th overall in 16:09. Summer Ellefson finished 38th in the team standings and 75th overall in 16:39, Kaylee Hilmanowski was 52nd in the team standings and 96th overall in 16:56 and Morgan Olson placed 64th in the team standings and 109th overall in 17:09 to complete Park Rapids' team score. The other runners for Park Rapids were Tiffany Deitchler (129th in 17:37) and Sophie Shogren (150th in 18:20). A total of 159 runners competed in the race.

Victoria Lutz finished 31st in 15:47 in her state debut in 2006 while Deitchler was 69th in 16:22 in her state debut in 2007.

Waseca, which entered the state meet as the top-ranked team, won the Class A title with 81 points while No. 2-ranked Perham followed with 92 points. No. 6 Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin finished third with 121 points and No. 3 Adrian was fourth with 154 points.

Following the Panthers were No. 4 Fairmont (206 points), No. 7 Annandale (218), No. 12 Esko (219), No. 5 LaCrescent (239), No. 9 Holy Family (252), No. 10 St. Cloud Cathedral (253), Albany (256), No. 8 Blake (258), Rochester Lourdes (297), Cook County (299) and New London-Spicer (313).

Maddie McClellan of Perham backed up her No. 1 ranking with a winning time of 14:55. The top-25 finishers earned all-state honors.

"Just getting to state was exciting and to finish fifth was great," said Park Rapids head coach Kerry Johnson. "The girls didn't have their best times, but we still finished fifth. It took a total team effort. I'm proud of them."

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