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Grace Bateman (left) capped off her senior season by competing at the state Class A track meet in three events.

Panthers' winning tradition continues

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  Not even a delayed start to the outdoor season could prevent the Park Rapids girls track and field team from turning in another dominating performance at the Section 8A meet.

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     After competing in four indoor meets at Bemidji State University, the Panthers opened the outdoor season by winning four titles and placing second in the other two. The Panthers peaked at the end of the season by winning the Subsection 8-29A title for the eighth year in a row and claiming the Section 8A title for the fourth straight year.

     Park Rapids qualified eight individuals – senior Grace Bateman, junior Mady Vaudrin, sophomore Megan Grimes, freshmen Sarah Harshman, Paige Hill, Abby Mueller and Megan Olson, and seventh grader Tori Hilmanowski - in eight events for the state Class A meet and ended up tying for 43rd place with 7 points at Hamline University.

     At the state meet, the Panthers had four individuals earn all-state honors as Vaudrin placed sixth in the 100-meter dash and joined Harshman, Hill and Mueller on the 4 x 100 relay team that placed seventh. The 4 x 200 relay team of Bateman, Vaudrin, Grimes and Harshman placed 12th while the 4 x 400 relay team of Bateman, Grimes, Mueller and Hilmanowski placed 13th. Grimes placed 10th in the 100 hurdles, Mueller finished 10th in the 200 dash, Bateman took 14th in the 300 hurdles and Olson was 16th in the 1,600 run.

     “It was an interesting season as the weather played a huge role in restricting our early-season and mid-season training. This was a tough year for our team as the core nucleus of our team was very young. The shorter season took a lot of training and development time from us and also did not allow us very many meets to look at their talents in different events,” said Park Rapids head coach Corey Hill. “With all the hardships, the girls responded well and embraced the tough work schedule we gave them and attained most of the goals we had set as a team.”

     It was a total team effort that led to the Panthers’ successful season as 37 athletes scored points during the season. In addition to the state qualifiers, that list included seniors Jessi Andersen, Jordyn Bynum, Tori Lauderbaugh, Morgan Olson, Lora Remus and Jill Simpson; juniors Samantha Harshman, Ellen Hoffman, Kayla Johnk, Christina Mackley, Alex Pederson and Justine Rittgers; sophomore Bria Wolff; freshmen Kayla Andersen, Chloe Hauth, Bailee Hoffard, Brynna Johnson, Jada Johnson,  Maya Johnson, Ava Mart and Tayah Otterness; eighth graders Olivia Fischer, Sarah Gorder, Lydia Kantonen, Haley MacPherson, Ellery Overmyer, Madison Steffel and Katelyn Warmbold; and seventh grader Jaiden McCollum.

     The Panthers opened the season at BSU by placing fifth at the 26-team Paul Bunyan Classic with 56 points, third at the 22-team Little Amik Invitational with 73 points, third at the 13-team Snowflake Invitational with 64 points and sixth at the 26-team Beaver Relays with 38.50 points. Claiming titles at the four indoor meets at BSU were Bemidji with 86 points at the Paul Bunyan Classic and 105 points at the Little Amik Invitational, Detroit Lakes with 113 points at the Snowflake Invitational and Moorhead with 106 points at the Beaver Relays.

     In the outdoor debut, the Panthers compiled 156 points to top the five-team field at the Park Rapids Snow Ball Invitational. The Panthers followed by winning the 15-team Crookston VFW Invitational with 129 points and the 14-team Mahnomen Invitational with 100.50 points.

     At the Section 8AA True Team meet, the Panthers compiled 415.50 points to finish second behind Detroit Lakes’ 519 points. Detroit Lakes also won the Mid-State Conference meet with 222 points as the Panthers finished second with 142 points. Earning all-conference honorable mention honors for the Panthers by placing second were Vaudrin in the 100; Bateman in the 300 hurdles; the 4 x 100 relay team of Vaudrin, Harshman, Mueller and Hill; and the 4 x 400 relay team of Bateman, Rittgers, Grimes and Mueller.

     Park Rapids closed out the regular season by tying Pequot Lakes for the team title at the eight-team Walker Invitational with 187 points.

     Depth led the Panthers to another subsection title as 27 different athletes scored points. All four relays took first as Remus, Megan Olson, Steffel and Overmyer won the 4 x 800 relay; Bateman, Vaudrin, Grimes and Sarah Harshman took first in the 4 x 200 relay; Vaudrin, Sarah Harshman, Hill and Mueller led the way in the 4 x 100 relay; and Bateman, Grimes, Mueller and Hilmanowski was first in the 4 x 400 relay. Also winning titles at the subsection meet were Bateman in the 300 hurdles, Vaudrin in the 100, Grimes in the 100 hurdles, Sarah Harshman in the long jump and Mueller in the 200. Finishing second were Bateman in the pole vault, Lauderbaugh in the 100 hurdles and high jump, Sarah Harshman in the discus, Megan Olson in the 1,600, Kantonen in the 3,200 and Overmyer in the 800.

     Taking third were Grimes in the high jump, Hoffman in the pole vault, Rittgers in the 300 hurdles and Hoffard in the 100 hurdles while Mackley in the pole vault, Remus in the 800, Wolff in the triple jump, Bynum in the 100 and 200, Hoffard in the 300 hurdles and Samantha Harshman in the discus also qualified for the section meet by placing fourth.

     Also placing at the subsection meet were Wolff in the discus (fifth), Maya Johnson in the 800 (fifth), Hauth in the high jump (fifth), Otterness in the 400 (sixth), Steffel in the 1,600 (sixth), McCollum in the shot put (sixth), Morgan Olson in the 3,200 (seventh), Johnk in the shot put (seventh), MacPherson in the 200 (seventh) and Samantha Harshman in the shot put (eighth).

     Another solid team effort helped the Panthers repeat as section champs. The 4 x 200 relay team of Bateman, Vaudrin, Grimes and Sarah Harshman; the 4 x 100 relay team of Vaudrin, Sarah Harshman, Hill and Mueller; the 4 x 400 relay team of Bateman, Grimes, Mueller and Hilmanowski; Bateman in the 300 hurdles and Grimes in the 100 hurdles took first. Also qualifying for state with runner-up finishes were Vaudrin in the 100, Megan Olson in the 1,600 and Mueller in the 200.

     The 4 x 800 relay team of Remus, Megan Olson, Steffel and Overmyer just missed advancing to state by placing third while Hoffman just missed a state berth by placing third in the pole vault. Also scoring points at the section meet were Bateman in the pole vault (fourth), Kantonen in the 3,200 (fourth), Sarah Harshman in the long jump (fifth) and discus (fifth), Lauderbaugh in the 100 hurdles (sixth) and high jump (sixth), Grimes in the high jump (seventh) and Overmyer in the 800 (seventh).

     The Panthers capped off the season by placing in two events at the state meet.

     Grimes was named the Panthers’ MVP after leading the team with 338.50 points. During the season, Grimes took first in the 300 hurdles five times and ran on four winning 4 x 200 and 4 x 400 relay teams. Grimes also received the team’s Hardest Worker award.

     Mueller was named Rookie of the Year after finishing second on the team with 303 points. Mueller ran on six winning 4 x 100 relay teams, three winning 4 x 400 relay teams and two winning 4 x 200 relay teams and won three titles in the 200 and one title in the 400.

     Bateman was third in points with 292 and ended her six-year varsity career with 1,604.50 points. Bateman qualified for state four years in eight events and capped off her senior season by taking first in the 300 hurdles four times, the 4 x 400 relay four times, the 4 x 200 relay twice and the pole vault once. Bateman received the team’s Most Team Spirit award.

     Vaudrin was fourth in points with 291 to surpass 1,000 career points (1,211). Vaudrin won four titles in the 100, six titles in the 4 x 100 relay and four titles in the 4 x 200 relay and received one of the team’s Coaches Awards.

     Sarah Harshman was named the team’s Most Improved after placing fifth in points with 258. Harshman ran on six winning 4 x 100 relays and four winning 4 x 200 relays while taking first in the long jump once.

     Megan Olson used two titles in the 1,600 and 4 x 800 relay and one title in the 3,200 to score 170 points for sixth place on the team. Olson also received a Coaches Award.

     Hill was seventh in points with 123, highlighted by six titles in the 4 x 100 relay.

     Lauderbaugh capped off her senior season with 120 points, including two titles in the high jump.

     Remus also surpassed 100 points, capping off her senior season with 104 points and two titles in the 4 x 800 relay.

     Overmyer finished 10th in points with 103 and ran on two winning 4 x 800 relay teams. Overmyer also received a Coaches Award.

     Steffel ran on three winning 4 x 800 relays and scored 76 points this season while Maya Johnson ran on two winning 4 x 400 relays and scored 73 points this spring. Otterness ran on two winning 4 x 800 relays and scored 71 points.

     Also scoring points on the varsity this season were Bynum (69), Rittgers (68), Kantonen (58), Hoffman (41), Pederson (36), Hilmanowski (30), Samantha Harshman (28), Hoffard (24), Hauth (16), Mackley (16), McCollum (11), Wolff (10), MacPherson (9), Gorder (8), Johnk (8), Kayla Andersen (7), Warmbold (6.50), Fischer (6), Brynna Johnson (6), Morgan Olson (6), Simpson (4), Jessi Andersen (4), Jada Johnson (4) and Mart (4). Kantonen was named Newcomer of the Year while Rittgers received the Team Model Award.

     “Most people don’t realize how much these girls have accomplished the past few years. With the success of the past and the expectations of the girls, we set out to remain the best team in the subsection and section. They finished strong and that’s hard to do,” said Hill. “The seniors won the section meet every year they were in high school and will be greatly missed. As we look towards next year, we see a very bright future. We look to continue our success at the subsection and section levels and look to work hard to bring that state title home.”

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