State trips, medals highlighted 2009
The last 12 months saw area high school athletes accomplish some amazing things at state competitions.
Nevis' Bryon Schuldt led the way by placing third in the 3,200-meter run at last spring's state Class A boys track and field meet. Schuldt also earned all-state honors in cross country by placing 12th at this fall's state Class A meet.
The Nevis volleyball team qualified for the state tournament for the first time in school history this fall and ended up winning the state Class A consolation title.
The Park Rapids girls cross-country team qualified for state for the first time since 1998 and ended up placing fifth at the state Class A meet this fall. Lydia Lutz earned all-state honors by placing 20th overall as the Panthers had their best finish as a team in five career state meet appearances.
Bryce Klasen became the fifth member of the Park Rapids boys swimming team to earn a state medal by placing fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke at last winter's state Class A meet. Klasen also qualified in the 200 individual medley.
Lydia Lutz, Victoria Lutz, Hannah Wolff and Sophie Shogren also placed fifth in the 4 x 800-meter relay at last spring's state Class A girls track and field meet. Rachel Thelen placed seventh in the pole vault as the Panthers tied for 39th place with 8 points.
The Park Rapids 12-under girls hockey team won the consolation title at the state B tournament last winter.
United North Central's Zach Nevala finished sixth at heavyweight at last winter's state Class A wrestling tournament.
Four other area athletes placed at the state level.
United North Central's Stephanie Paulson tied for ninth place at the state Class A girls golf tournament last spring. Park Rapids' Summer Ellefson finished 10th at the state Nordic girls ski meet last winter. Nevis' Annessa Feder placed 12th in the high jump at last spring's state Class A girls track and field meet. Park Rapids' Kyja Penning placed in two events at the state girls swimming and diving meet this fall, placing 13th in diving and 15th in the 100-yard butterfly.
Several other athletes qualified for state competition.
Last winter, Nevis' Micah Richards advanced to the state Class A gymnastics meet on balance beam while United North Central's Josh Meech (at 152 pounds) and Jake Malone (at 112 pounds) qualified for the state Class A wrestling tournament while Walker-Hackensack-Akeley/Nevis' Luke Conger (at 119 pounds) qualified for the state Class AA wrestling tournament.
Last spring, the Panthers qualified for the state girls track and field meet in four events as Thelen advanced in the 100 dash and Grace Bateman qualified in the 300 hurdles.
This fall, Park Rapids' Mary Kading and Alyssa Carlson qualified in doubles for the state Class A girls tennis tournament. Nevis' Hunter Schroeder advanced to the state Class A boys cross-country meet.
Following is a look back at the top high school sports stories of 2009.
Schuldt contends for title
Bryon Schuldt expected to bring home another medal from the state Class A track and field meet last spring.
The Nevis freshman fulfilled that quest by placing third in the 3,200-meter run.
Schuldt, who finished seventh last year with a time of 9:56.41 after placing 18th in 10:34.30 as a seventh grader, contended for the state title with a school-record time of 9:41.32 during the finals at Hamline University in St. Paul.
Entering the state meet, Schuldt was seeded sixth out of the 16 state qualifiers after winning the Section 8A title with a time of 9:54.42. Schuldt advanced to the section meet by winning the Subsection 8-29A title in 9:56.38.
In the state finals, Schuldt was in sixth place for the first mile before taking the lead. Schuldt maintained the lead until Blake's Paul Koullick and Stewart Richardson passed him with about 150 meters to go. Koullick won the 3,200 title in 9:38.87 and Richardson was second in 9:39.98. Schuldt was third in 9:41.32, Caledonia's Matt Jergenson finished fourth in 9:43.72 and Annandale's Connor Gjevre (who had the fastest seed time of 9:47.95) was fifth in 9:53.91.
"I am very satisfied and excited on my third-place finish," said Schuldt, who scored 8 points as Nevis tied for 42nd place in the team standings. "I ended up only 2.4 seconds behind the leader and I now know what it's like to be in the race. Next year I'll be looking more toward a greater contention for the title."
Tigers make history
Getting to the state tournament for the first time in school history wasn't enough for the Nevis volleyball team.
The Tigers wanted to cap off this historic season by bringing home a trophy from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Thanks to key plays by all seven players throughout the three-day tournament, the Tigers were able to fulfill that mission by winning the Class A consolation trophy.
Nevis made its state debut by jumping out to an early lead before Meadow Creek Christian rallied for a 22-25, 15-25, 25-9, 25-22, 16-14 quarterfinal victory.
In the consolation semifinals, the Tigers fell behind early before rallying for a 20-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-16 victory over Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop.
The Tigers took control early against Parkers Prairie in the consolation championship match before having to regroup to prevail 25-19, 25-17, 17-25, 24-26, 18-16.
"Our team wanted to make it to the state tournament for a long time. They started to believe it was possible competing with the best teams in the state," said Nevis head coach Stephanie Hanson, whose team ended the season with a 27-6 record. "Each game was a challenge. We came out strong right away, then had our moments when we started to hesitate and that hurt us. However, it didn't last long. We played strong every match and never let up. Getting two victories in the state tournament; how awesome is that?"
All seven players - seniors Mandy Allman, Annie Albright and Maggie Lindow; juniors Annessa Feder and Paige Walters; sophomore Bettsy Hjelseth and freshman Riley Hanson - played crucial roles in helping the Tigers end the season with a win.
Hanson was named to the Class A all-tournament team while Lindow was named as an all-state honorable mention player. In the three matches, Hanson had 71 kills, 54 digs, 13 blocks and four service aces while Lindow had 55 kills, 35 digs, 11 blocks and seven ace serves.
"Being physically prepared is only part of the game. Staying mentally focused is 80 percent of the game. We wanted to be stronger than our opponents in both," said Hanson. "We knew we could win. The girls battled till the end and I was so proud of them."
Panthers return to state
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.
The Panthers fulfilled that goal as well by placing fifth at the 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 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 in 2008 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).
"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."
Relay team, Thelen fulfill goals
The cold, rainy and windy weather didn't provide the ideal conditions to compete in the finals of the state Class A girls track and field meet at Hamline University in St. Paul.
Despite the weather, Park Rapids' Rachel Thelen, Victoria Lutz, Hannah Wolff, Sophie Shogren and Lydia Lutz had ideal results in earning state medals.
Thelen capped off her senior season by placing seventh in the pole vault after tying the school record with a height of 10 feet. Victoria Lutz, Wolff, Shogren and Lydia Lutz also brought home medals by placing fifth in the 4 x 800-meter relay with a time of 9:59.01.
The finals found the state qualifiers competing in rainy conditions with wind gusts up to 20 miles per hour and temperatures in the mid-40s. Because of the conditions, the pole vault was moved indoors.
Placing in two events gave the Panthers 8 points to share 39th place in the team standings. Bagley/Fosston claimed the state title with 47 points, Providence Academy was second with 40 points and East Grand Forks finished third with 37 points.
At the Section 8A meet, the Panthers had two champions as the 4 x 800 relay took first in 9:54.29 after winning the subsection title in 10:18.63. Thelen took first in the pole vault by clearing 9-7 after winning the subsection title at that same height.
Entering the state meet, Thelen was seeded ninth out of 16 qualifiers in the pole vault and the 4 x 800 relay team was seeded seventh out of nine qualifiers.
In the finals of the 4 x 800 relay, Lydia Lutz, Shogren, Wolff and Victoria Lutz clocked a 9:59.01 in the rain to trail Kasson-Mantorville's 9.39.17, Sauk Centre's 9:42.19, Adrian's 9:44.41 and Mille Lacs' 9:55.24. Adrian had the top seed time of 9:35.46. Park Rapids received 5 points for placing fifth. That same relay team placed 10th at last year's state meet with a 9:55.64 after setting a school record by winning the section title in 9:47.42.
Thelen scored 3 points by placing seventh in the pole vault by clearing 10 feet to tie Jenny Etter's school record. La Crescent's Shannon Stever, who was the top seed at 11-4, won the state title by clearing 11-1. Morris' Rachel Moser was second at 10-6 and Sibley East's Laura Schuneman was third at 10-6. Also finishing ahead of Thelen were Worthington's Anneli Dudley at 10-3, Wadena-Deer Creek's Brigetta Berg at 10-3 and St. Croix Lutheran's Andrea Krueger at 10-0.
Klasen brings home state medal
Bryce Klasen wanted to cap off his senior season by joining an elite group by bringing home a medal from the state Class A boys swimming meet.
The Park Rapids senior accomplished that goal in record fashion.
Klasen became the fifth member of the Park Rapids boys swimming and diving team to earn a state medal by placing fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:02.79 at the state Class A meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
"Bryce joined some elite company," said Park Rapids head coach Todd Fritze. "Finishing in the top five at state is very respectable."
Klasen qualified for state with a school record time of 1:02.46 for second place in the 100 breaststroke at the Section 3A meet.
During the state preliminaries, Klasen won his heat and placed fourth overall with a 1:01.96. Klasen had splits of 28.58 and 33.38, which topped his section splits of 29.33 and 33.13. That eclipsed his school record and gave him a spot in the finals.
"I was kind of nervous because I didn't know whether I was going to go a little faster, the same or a little slower," said Klasen. "My goal all year was to get a 1:01.99. I was really excited when I got my goal of going a half-second faster."
Going into the finals, Klasen was looking to drop some more time off his school record. That didn't happen, but the Park Rapids senior did fulfill his goal of bringing home a state medal.
Klasen, who finished 16th in the 100 breaststroke at the 2007 state meet with a time of 1:05.92, used splits of 29.00 and 33.79 to finish fifth in 1:02.79. That was the second best finish ever for a Park Rapids swimmer at the boys state meet.
Fergus Falls' Mike Hurley, who was the state runner-up in this event last season, captured the state title in 57.49 while Detroit Lakes' Quillan Oak finished second with a 1:01.28. St. Thomas' Michael Quinn was third in 1:01.64 and St. Thomas Paul Brunkhorst finished fourth in 1:02.02.
By placing fifth, Klasen earned 14 points as Park Rapids finished 27th in the team standings. Breck/Blake won the state title with 296 points.
With his state showing, Klasen joined Josh Winter, Jonah Winter, Elliot Lawrence and Colton Storseth as the only members of the Park Rapids swimming and diving team to win state medals. Josh Winter finished sixth in the 50 freestyle in 2002. Jonah Winter finished sixth in the 50 freestyle in 2003 and finished sixth in the 50 freestyle and third in the 100 butterfly in 2004. Lawrence finished sixth in both the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly last season. Storseth finished seventh in the 100 butterfly last season.
"Bryce worked hard for that," said Fritze. "Being all-state was a good way to end his season."
"I don't have any regrets," said Klasen. "I got my goal of beating a 1:01.99 and I got a medal. I did my best. I'm happy about that."
Girls hockey team makes history
Capturing the consolation title at the state B tournament was a perfect ending to a historic season for the Park Rapids 12-under girls hockey team.
After opening the tournament with a 1-0 loss to top-rated Centennial at Breezy Point Arena in Pequot Lakes, Park Rapids defeated Lakeville 4-0 and Red Wing 4-3 in overtime to end the season as the state B consolation champs.
"It was a great weekend for us," said Gary Vaudrin, who coaches the team with Dion Pederson and Scott Johnson. "It was a storybook ending to a wonderful season."
In the tournament opener, Centennial and Park Rapids battled to a scoreless tie before the state's top-rated team scored the only goal in the third period.
"Centennial was a good skating team, but we went toe-to-toe with them," said Vaudrin. "We had four or five great scoring opportunities, but could not get a bounce to go our way. It was a heartbreaker for us and our fans. The girls skated their best game of the year and it was exciting hockey. We just came up short."
Park Rapids rebounded from that loss by eliminating Lakeville in the consolation semifinals. Goals by Bailee Jerger and Alex Pederson gave Park Rapids a 2-0 lead after the first period. Mady Vaudrin assisted on Jerger's goal. Abby Fischer assisted on a goal by Pederson and Makenna Persing scored on a feed from Pederson in the third period to seal the win. Goalie Shania Johnson made 32 saves.
"We knew this was going to be a tough game. The girls stepped up and did not let the loss to Centennial get them down," said Vaudrin. "Their goal was to play for hardware. If we lost we were done. We did not want the season to end that way."
In the consolation championship game, Park Rapids prevailed in a thriller. Vaudrin assisted on a goal by Kendra Dresow as Park Rapids took a 1-0 lead. Red Wing tied the game late in the first period and took a 2-1 lead in the second period. Vaudrin scored to tie it at 2-2 before Red Wing reclaimed a 3-2 lead in the third period. Lauren Naeve set up Persing for the game-tying goal late in the third period to force sudden death. In overtime, Pederson won a faceoff in the Red Wing zone and Vaudrin slapped a shot past the Red Wing goalie for the game-winning goal. Johnson had 22 saves in that game.
Park Rapids, which was ranked in the state poll for the first time this season at No. 7 entering the state tournament, ended the year with a 25-6-2 record.
Rounding out the 12U team were Julia Renner, Hannah Gorder, Samantha Wiese, Jessie O'Hern and Abbey Kisner. Julia Smith moved up from the 10U team to serve as the back-up goalie.
The girls 12U team became the first Park Rapids hockey team at any level to play in a state tournament by winning the Olympic Region title. Park Rapids was also the District 15 champ.