Confident Panthers seeking medals at state
Senior Victoria Lutz, sophomores Lydia Lutz, Summer Ellefson and Shelby Pierce, and eighth grader Mady Vaudrin were exuding with confidence entering last Saturday's Section 8A girls track and field meet at Crookston.
That belief in their abilities led the five Park Rapids athletes to the state Class A meet.
Lydia Lutz, Pierce, Ellefson and Victoria Lutz advanced to state by winning the 4 x 800-meter relay in 9:31.62. That broke the section record of 9:33.80 set by Roseau in 2001 and shattered the school record of 9:41.86 set by that foursome earlier this season.
Vaudrin qualified for state with a runner-up time of 13.06 in the 100 dash. Victoria Lutz followed by advancing with a winning time of 2:19.38 in the 800 run. Lydia Lutz capped off the day by winning the 1,600 run in 5:24.89 to qualify for state.
All five Panthers will be looking to place in the finals of the state Class A meet, which will be held today (Saturday) at Hamline University in St. Paul.
Relay team seeking state record
After qualifying for state in the 4 x 800 relay the last two years, the Lutzs were confident the Panthers would once again be represented at state in this relay.
That relay team delivered by breaking the section record and shattering the school record.
"We were very confident," said Lydia Lutz. "We weren't going to let anybody beat us."
"Looking at the times, I thought our chances were good," said Pierce. "We expected it."
"We had all run under 2:21 before, so I was pretty confident," said Ellefson.
"I thought our chances were good, but I'm always nervous in this relay," said Victoria Lutz. "We knew we couldn't underestimate East Grand Forks, but we knew we had a possibility to break the section and school records."
The Panthers did break both records in impressive fashion.
Lydia Lutz led off with a split under 2:22 to give the Panthers the lead. Pierce followed with a split under 2:23 and Ellefson maintained the lead with a split under 2:27. Victoria Lutz clocked a split under 2:20 to give the Panthers the section title. East Grand Forks finished a distant second in 9:47.28, which topped the state qualifying time of 9:47.98 as both teams advanced to state.
"I let the East Grand Forks girl go out and I passed her with 300 meters to go," said Lydia Lutz. "We were determined to win it. We wanted it. Getting the section and school records just kind of happened."
"Lydia gave me a good lead and I just wanted to run hard and maintain it," said Ellefson. "I just wanted to get a good split and help break the school record."
"I didn't want to let the team down," said Pierce. "I just wanted to get a good time. I felt strong. I could have gone faster, but I'm saving that for state."
"I knew we were going fast and were close to the section record," said Victoria Lutz. "I just wanted to do my best and get to the finish line as fast as possible. Getting the section record was icing on the cake."
The Panthers will be looking to bring home a medal in this relay for the second year in a row.
In 2008, the Lutzs, Hannah Wolff and Sophie Shogren won the section title in 9:47.42 before placing 10th at state in 9:55.64. Last year, that same group repeated as section champs with a time of 9:54.29 before placing fifth at state in 9:59.01.
At this year's subsection meet, Lydia Lutz, Pierce, Shogren and Victoria Lutz coasted to the title with a time of 9:54.95.
Ellefson and Pierce won a run-off to join the Lutzs on the section 4 x 800 relay team. Ellefson and Pierce will be making their first trips to state.
There are 14 relay teams that qualified for state with Sauk Centre having the best qualifying time of 9:29.84. Park Rapids is seeded second while Perham enters with a 9:32.21 for the No. 3 spot. Adrian (9:35.53), defending state champion Kasson-Mantorville (9:38.18) and Benson (9:39.77) also clocked times under 9:40 at their section meets.
The four Park Rapids runners will be gunning to win the state title and break the state Class A record of 9:25.74 set by Plainview in 1995.
"At state we all want to run under 2:20 and get the state record," said Lydia Lutz. "We've worked hard for this all season. We have it right there."
"We want to win the state title and break the state record," said Ellefson. "If we all do our best, I'm sure we can do it."
"I want us to run in the 9:20s," said Pierce. "I think our times are going to drop."
"Being down there before helps a lot. The more times you go down there, the better you do," said Victoria Lutz. "Every leg on this relay is strong. If we all run our best race, we can break the state record."
Lydia Lutz seeks another medal
Lydia Lutz started her annual trip to the state meet by qualifying in the 3,200 run as a seventh grader.
Lutz finished 14th at state in that race her first year before returning as an eighth grader and finishing ninth.
Last year, Lutz just missed returning to state in that event by placing third at the section meet.
This year, Lutz decided to run the 1,600 instead. That move paid off as the Park Rapids sophomore earned another individual trip to state by winning the section title in the mile.
Lutz, who won the subsection title with a time of 5:22.14, clocked a 5:24.89 last Saturday to easily defeat the runner-up time of 5:26.74 by West Marshall's Nicole Crummy to capture her second individual section title.
"I just felt more comfortable running the mile this year," said Lutz. "If I had a good race, I knew I could do it. It wasn't my best time this year, but it was good enough."
Lutz entered state seeded 11th out of 16 qualifiers. Cannon Falls eighth grader Emi Trost has the best qualifying time of 5:14.12.
"I don't get so nervous anymore. I'm more confident down there," said Lutz. "I'm hoping to get my personal best time and medal."
Victoria Lutz hopes to cap off career in style
Victoria Lutz was determined to get to state in an individual event in her final attempt.
The Park Rapids senior had been close, finishing third in the 800 run at the 2007 section meet and placing fourth in that race last year.
"Last year was very disappointing," said Lutz, who won this year's subsection title in 2:20.68. "I really wanted it this year. I was more confident this year. I wasn't nervous before I ran. I was really positive and I thought I had a good race."
Lutz passed East Grand Forks' Jaclyn Scanlan in the final 100 meters to win the section title in 2:19.38 and top the state qualifying time of 2:20.77. Scanlan finished second in 2:20.47 to also top the state cut time.
Out of the 16 state qualifiers, Lutz is seeded fifth. Kasson-Mantorville's Laurel Ramer had the top qualifying time of 2:16.61 entering Friday's preliminaries. The top nine finishers advance to the finals.
"I'm going to go down there, stay positive, have fun and run my fastest," said Lutz. "Hopefully I can cap it all off by running a 2:18 and making it to the finals. I'm going to go for it."
Vaudrin sets sights on spot in finals
Vaudrin also entered the section meet with confidence in her first attempt to qualify for state in the 100 dash.
At last year's section meet, Vaudrin didn't compete in the 100, but did place seventh in the 200 dash.
After winning the Subsection 8-29A title in 13.31 and clocking a 13.39 to finish fourth during the section preliminaries, Vaudrin liked her chances of qualifying for state.
"After I looked at the times I thought I had a shot," said Vaudrin. "I was really nervous before the finals. I was shaking in the blocks. I thought I had to get out of the blocks faster. It was one of my better starts of the season."
Park Christian eighth grader Courtney Nepstad, who had the fastest preliminary time of 13.23, won the section title in 13.04. Vaudrin was next in 13.06, followed by Warroad's Deidre Hahn in 13.10.
Entering Friday's state preliminaries, Vaudrin was seeded 19th out of 21 state qualifiers. Zimmerman's Mel Femrite had the fastest qualifying time of 12.56.
"I'm hoping to run a 12.8 and make it to the finals," said Vaudrin. "If I have a good start and have a good race, I can get it."