Panthers exceed expectations on track
After graduating nine seniors who helped the Park Rapids boys track and field team win the Subsection 8-29A title and place fourth at the Section 8A meet, Patrick Deegan wasn’t sure if the Panthers could duplicate those efforts this spring.
The Panthers ended up surpassing last year’s achievements.
A year ago, the Panthers took third at the Mid-State Conference meet, repeated as subsection champs, placed fourth at the section meet with 54.50 points and qualified three individuals in four events for the state Class A meet.
This spring, the Panthers met or exceeded those results by placing third at the conference meet, repeating as subsection champs, moving up to third place at the section meet with 71 points and qualifying five individuals in seven events for the state Class A meet.
Highlighting the season was qualifying for state in seven events. Juniors Austin Carlson and Kurt Fritze advanced in three events while sophomore Isaac Overmyer qualified in two events. Senior Jake Waggoner and junior Bryce Brovitch qualified in a relay. Carlson defended his section title in the 400-meter dash and returned to state as the section runner-up in the 200 dash while Fritze qualified for his first state meet as the section runner-up in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles. Overmyer returned to state as the section champ in the 3,200 run and qualified for state as the section champ in the 1,600 run. Carlson, Fritze, Waggoner and Brovitch qualified by winning the section title in the 4 x 400 relay.
At the state meet, Overmyer earned all-state honors by placing sixth in the 3,200 run to account for Park Rapids’ 4 points to tie for 59th place. Fritze finished 10th in the 300 hurdles and 15th in the 110 hurdles while Carlson took 14th in the 400 and 16th in the 200. The 4 x 400 relay team was disqualified.
In addition to the state qualifiers, senior Aaron Hamblin; juniors Spencer Adolphson, Caleb Gorder, Jared Kantonen and Steven Osterman; sophomores Ben Baumgartner and Connor Farrell; freshmen Tristan Breitweser, Jacob Engst, Damion Hanke, Logan Noonan and Scott Petersen; and eighth graders Hunter Jewison and Tanner Becker scored points this season.
“The season went a lot better than expected,” said Deegan. “I knew we had individuals that would make it to state, but the relay was a surprise. I would say the team exceeded my expectations.”
Because of the delayed spring, the Panthers competed in four indoor meets at Bemidji State University before making their outdoor debut.
The Panthers finished ninth out of 26 teams with 18 points at the Paul Bunyan Classic, 11th out of 22 teams with 19 points at the Little Amik Invitational, sixth out of 13 teams with 32.50 points at the Snowflake Invitational and 19th out of 26 teams with 2 points at the Beaver Relays. Grand Forks Red River took first at the Paul Bunyan Classic with 152 points, Detroit Lakes won the title at the Little Amik Invitational with 89.50 points, Bemidji led the way at the Snowflake Invitational with 119 points and Red River led the field at the Beaver Relays with 149.50 points.
In the outdoor debut at the Park Rapids Snow Ball Invitational, the Panthers fielded an incomplete team and placed fourth out of five teams with 52 points. Pequot Lakes took first with 120 points.
At the Crookston VFW Invitational, the Panthers finished sixth out of 15 teams with 62 points. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton won the title with 133.50 points.
Park Rapids finished fifth out of 14 teams at the Mahnomen Invitational with 40.20 points as D-G-F again led the way with 142 points.
Carlson’s winning time in the 400 led the Panthers at the Section 8AA True Team meet. The Panthers ended up placing ninth in the 10-team field with 230.50 points. Detroit Lakes took first with 533 points.
Overmyer and Fritze earned all-conference honors in leading the Panthers to third place at the Mid-State Conference meet with 103 points. Overmyer won the 1,600 and 3,200 while Fritze took first in the 300 hurdles. Carlson earned all-conference honorable mention honors by taking second in the 400 and anchored the 4 x 400 relay team that earned all-conference honorable mention honors with a runner-up finish. Fritze, Waggoner and Brovitch were the other members of that relay team. Detroit Lakes won the conference title with 220 points.
A team effort helped the Panthers repeat as subsection champs as 15 individuals scored points to give Park Rapids 169 points to claim the subsection title for the third year in a row. Carlson took first in the 400 and 200, Overmyer led the field in the 1,600 and 3,200, Fritze won the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles, and Fritze, Waggoner, Brovitch and Carlson won the 4 x 400 relay to lead the way.
Also qualifying for the section meet were Adolphson in the pole vault (second), Brovitch in the high jump (second), Waggoner in the 800 (second), Carlson in the long jump (fourth), Fritze in the shot put (fourth), Hanke in the pole vault (third), Breitweser in the 300 hurdles (fourth) and Jewison in the 1,600 (fourth). The 4 x 800 relay team of Adolphson, Baumgartner, Farrell and Waggoner also advanced with a runner-up finish.
Rounding out the point producers at the subsection meet were the 4 x 200 relay team of Hanke, Breitweser, Farrell and Hamblin (fourth); the 4 x 100 relay team of Breitweser, Gorder, Hamblin and Hanke (fifth); Gorder in the 200 (fifth); Hamblin in the 3,200 (fifth); Baumgartner in the 800 (fifth); Petersen in the discus (fifth); Engst in the pole vault (fifth); Brovitch in the long jump (sixth) and 400 (seventh); Adolphson in the 800 (seventh); and Farrell in the 400 (eighth) and high jump (eighth).
In addition to the state qualifiers, the 4 x 800 relay team of Adolphson, Farrell, Baumgartner and Waggoner placed fifth and Brovitch placed sixth in the high jump at the section meet as the Panthers placed third behind Roseau (109 points) and D-G-F (78 points).
“I figured it might be a stretch to win subs, but they performed very well. There were a lot of improvements in times and distances as the guys won the subsection title. Everyone on the team contributed points to help get the win,” said Deegan. “We were met with the same cold, wet and windy weather we had seen all year in the section meet. The boys had a great showing by finishing third.”
Carlson was named the team’s MVP after winning six titles in the 400 and placing second three other times while anchoring three 4 x 400 relay teams that took first.
Overmyer earned the team’s Hardest Worker award after winning six titles in the 3,200 and three titles in the 1,600.
Fritze received the Coach’s Award after taking first in the 300 hurdles four times.
Waggoner received the team’s Spirit Award while Brovitch received the team’s Most Improved honor.
Also scoring points during the season were Osterman in the 300 hurdles, 4 x 100 relay and 4 x 200 relay, and Kantonen in the triple jump and 4 x 800 relay.
“Anytime you can get athletes to the highest level and perform like we did as a team, it is very satisfying as a coach. That is what we strive for each year,” said Deegan. “Next season looks real promising with most of the state participants back and some younger athletes coming up that showed a lot of improvements.”