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Panthers look to field competitive track team

A year ago, the Park Rapids boys track and field team entered the season with only five athletes who had scored points in a varsity meet.

Entering this season, new head coach Jason Mielke has 10 athletes returning who placed in varsity meets last season and another 14 who are being counted on to contribute on the varsity.

Being counted on to lead the Panthers this spring are seniors Nick Abraham, Derek Anderson, Caleb Brown, Chris Hemenway, David Mc-Allister, Cody Odland, Caleb Pearson and Isaac Zoller; juniors Nathan Bachleitner, Tom Drury, Trevor Matheny, Mike McDowell and Devon Ondracek; sophomores Caleb Atkins, Jeramy Brown, Nathan Gebhard, Jake Grimes, Sean Hayes and AJ Spears; freshmen Jason Dennis, Jordan Fis-cher and Cody Timmons; and eighth graders Forest Drury and Brock Fritze. Abraham, Brown and Zoller will serve as captains.

Of that group, Abraham, Brown, McAllister, Matheny, McDowell, On-dracek, Gebhard, Grimes, Hayes and Timmons scored points last season as the Panthers placed fifth at the Mid-State Conference meet with 52 points, fifth at the Subsection 8-29A meet with 68 points and 17th at the Section 8A meet with 8 points.

Brown, McAllister and Hayes return in the sprint relays. Those three finished second at the Mid-State Conference meet in the 4 x 100 relay, 4 x 200 relay and 4 x 400 relay and qualified for the Section 8A meet by placing second in the 4 x 200 relay and third in the 4 x 100 relay and 4 x 400 relay at the subsection meet. At the section meet, the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relays finished fifth to account for all of Park Rapids' points. For the season, Brown, McAllister and Hayes placed six times in the 4 x 100 relay, eight times in the 4 x 200 relay and eight times in the 4 x 400 relay.

Brown led the team in points with 204 and also qualified for the section meet in the pole vault after taking runner-up honors at the subsection meet. Brown placed in the pole vault in eight meets.

McAllister finished the season with 157 points and Hayes compiled 131 points. McAllister will also compete in the high jump this season and Hayes will compete in some jumping events.

Grimes returns as the Panthers' top performer in the hurdles after scoring 64 points last season. Grimes advanced to the section meet in both hurdles races after placing fourth in the 110 hurdles and fifth in the 300 hurdles at the subsection meet. During the season, Grimes scored points in the 110 hurdles in six meets and in the 300 hurdles in five metes and also placed in the triple jump in one meet.

McDowell scored 53 points in the high jump, 4 x 200 relay, 4 x 400 relay and 4 x 800 relay last season. McDowell just missed advancing to the section meet by placing sixth in the high jump and fourth in the 4 x 800 relay at last year's subsection meet. McDowell placed in the high jump eight times last season.

Gebhard qualified for the section meet by placing fifth in the 1,600 run at last year's subsection meet. Gebhard also ran on the 4 x 800 relay at the subsection meet and ended the season with 23 points.

Abraham scored 21 points in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relays last season and will compete in the sprints and long jump this season.

Ondracek and Matheny return to lead the throwers. Ondracek scored 24 points by placing in the discus in three meets while Matheny placed in the shot put in two meets (including a seventh-place showing at the subsection meet) and scored 6 points.

Timmons joined the varsity late in the season and qualified for the section meet by placing fourth in the 200 at the subsection meet. Timmons also placed eighth in the 400 at the subsection meet and ended the season with 8 points.

Providing depth for the Panthers this season will be Zoller, Anderson, Pearson and Dennis in the distance events; Fischer in the middle distance events; Hemenway, Odland and Atkins in the throwing events; Bachleitner, Tom Drury, Jeramy Brown, Spears, Forest Drury and Fritze in the sprints; and Tom Drury, Fischer and Timmons in the jumping events.

"I'm looking for the seniors to give us leadership and for the experienced kids to score points for us in the early going," said Mielke. "We're going to be OK, especially in the sprint relays and throwing events. We're going to try and get one person to place in each event and be competitive in each meet."