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Panthers finish in middle of pack at section meet

Whitney Steffel (467) was the No. 1 runner for the Park Rapids girls cross-country team at Friday's Section 8A meet at Bagley. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

A snow-covered course along with cold and windy conditions prevented the members of the Park Rapids cross-country teams from marking their improvement during the season.

Park Rapids finished 13th in the girls meet and 11th in the boys meet out of 24 teams at Friday's Section 8A meet at Bagley's Twin Pines Golf Course.

In the girls meet, Whitney Steffel led the Panthers with a 5K time of 23:40 for 36th place overall. Holly Johnson (48th in 24:18), Haley Pickar (49th in 24:21), Julia Harmon (79th in 26:25) and Alex Kirlin (93rd in 27:14) comprised Park Rapids' 279 team total. Karen Valencia finished 119th in 35:22.

Caitlin Covington led the field with a winning time of 20:35 in leading Perham to the team title with 37 points. United North Central finished second with 102 points to also qualify for state. The top eight runners not on those two teams also qualify for state. Perham is rated No. 1 in the latest state Class A poll and won the section title for the sixth year in a row.

"I thought my runners worked hard. The snow, wind and cold made for less-than-ideal conditions, but the bummer of it was that they didn't have a chance to compare their earlier Bagley meet times. Runners can fixate on time and that's so hard in cross country because courses can be so different. A course can be really hilly and that may negatively impact time," said Park Rapids head coach Kerry Johnson. "Since we ran at Bagley early in the season, we were really looking forward to comparing and seeing just how much each runner had improved. That didn't happen. In the conditions we had, it's really just about place. The snowy course impacted all the runners. I thought it might help some of our runners because terrible conditions can sometimes level the playing field. I'm hoping that these runners take this meet and build off it over the summer as they put on miles."

Nevis runners, UNC boys gain experience

The Nevis boys and girls teams and the United North Central boys team gained valuable experience as almost all of those runners were competing in their first Section 8A meet.

Led by seventh grader Jade Rypkema's state-qualifying finish, the Nevis girls finished 15th with 376 points. Rypkema placed 12th in 22:23 while seventh grader Molly Lindow (80th overall in 26:29), sophomore Lydia Bjorklund (97th in 27:28), eighth grader Amber Gabriel (112th in 29:28) and senior Tori Carrier (114th in 30:29) comprised the team score.

For the Nevis boys, sophomore Michael Gunn (46th in 19:57) and freshman Jack McNamee (48th in 20:00) led the way. Seventh grader Evan Pohl (94th in 22:00), eighth grader George Bjorklund (100th in 22:14), freshmen Zach Rypkema (113th in 22:45) and Jack Johnson (123rd in 23:32), and eighth grader Tyler Gunn (128th in 23:45) led the Tigers to 14th place with 387 points.

"I was very happy with how our kids ran. On the boys side, we basically ran a junior high team. For them to get 14th as a team running varsity was great. It was pretty much the same for our girls. Our young boys and girls worked their tails off," said Nevis head coach Tom Stambaugh. "Our first year back with cross country has been one of my most enjoyable years coaching. I couldn't have asked for a better group of young athletes."

United North Central finished 17th in the boys meet with 451 points with eighth grader Lyle Brownell (77th in 21:23), seventh graders Joel Isaacson (89th in 21:48) and Luke Brownell (93rd in 21:59), freshman Eddie Salmen (101st in 22:14), eighth grader Abram Josephson (108th in 22:37), and freshmen Jack Pietila (122nd in 23:23) and Sam Jackola (135th in 25:01) leading the Warriors.

"The boys ran well for it being their first-ever section meet. We weren't exactly sure if we were even going to be having them at sections, but they showed us that they were ready," said UNC co-head coach Nick Jasmer. "Even though they are young, we knew they would go out there and run hard, which is what they did. I'm very proud of those young men and what they accomplished this season. I'm so excited for the future of this boys program. They are going to be the team to beat in the years to come."

Perham, the No. 1-rated Class A team, repeated as section champs with 48 points while Ada-Borup/Norman County West followed with 91 points to earn the two state berths. Perham won the section title for the 12th consecutive season. AB/NCW's Christian Sterton led the 146-runner field with a winning time of 17:53. The first eight finishers not on those two qualifying teams also advance to the state meet, which will be held Saturday (Nov. 4) at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

Girls team scores: Perham 37, United North Central 102, East Grand Forks 119, Pelican Rapids 133, Lake Park-Audubon 154, Pequot Lakes 188, Crosby-Ironton 204, Frazee 220, Wadena-Deer Creek 233, Warroad 250, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 274, Ada-Borup/Norman County West 276, Park Rapids 279, Roseau 351, Nevis 376, Pine River-Backus 446, Clearbrook-Gonvick 456. Incomplete teams: Bagley/Fosston, Cass Lake-Bena, Crookston, Hawley, New York Mills, West Marshall.

Individual results

1, Caitlin Covington, Perham, 20:35. 2, Ellie Morgan, Frazee, 21:11. 3, Katherine Geist, Crookston, 21:17. 4, Liz Birkeland, Perham, 21:20. 5, Lily Peterson, Lake Park-Audubon, 21:25. 6, Ashley Hokanson, Perham, 21:28. 7, Annika Aho, United North Central, 21:37. 8, Hailey Wegscheid, Perham, 21:39. 9, Marin Garrett, East Grand Forks, 21:53. 10, Megan Danielson, Frazee, 22:09. 11, Abby Syverson, Pelican Rapids, 22:14. 12, Jade Rypkema, Nevis, 22:23. 13, Kate Hendrickson, United North Central, 22:24. 14, Rebecca Heppner, Warroad, 22:25. 27, Kaarin Lehto, United North Central, 23:21. 28, Molly Hendrickson, United North Central, 23:22. 36, Whitney Steffel, Park Rapids, 23:40. 37, Gabby Hrdlicka, United North Central, 23:41. 48, Holly Johnson, Park Rapids, 24:18. 49, Haley Pickar, Park Rapids, 24:21. 53, Anita Lehto, United North Central, 24:25. 73, Maria Isaacson, United North Central, 25:10. 79, Julia Harmon, Park Rapids, 26:25. 74, Molly Lindow, Nevis, 26:29. 93, Alex Kirlin, Park Rapids, 27:14. 97, Lydia Bjorklund, Nevis, 27:28. 112, Amber Gabriel, Nevis, 29:28. 114, Tori Carrier, Nevis, 30:29. 119, Karen Valencia, Park Rapids, 35:22.

Boys team scores: Perham 48, Ada-Borup/Norman County West 91, Wadena-Deer Creek 121, East Grand Forks 143, Pequot Lakes 151, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 181, Roseau 199, Frazee 219, Hawley 252, Crosby-Ironton 263, Park Rapids 279, Bagley/Fosston 320, Warroad 339, Nevis 387, Pine River-Backus 420, New York Mills 437, United North Central 451, Pelican Rapids 463, West Marshall 605. Incomplete teams: Cass Lake-Bena, Clearbrook-Gonvick, Crookston, Lake of the Woods, Lake Park-Audubon.

Individual results

1, Christian Sterton, Ada-Borup, 17:53. 2, Clayton Anderson, Perham, 17:59. 3, Carson Speicher, Perham, 18:16. 4, Cole Nowacki, East Grand Forks, 18:16. 5, David Johnston, Pelican Rapids, 18:17. 6, Tyson Mahar, East Grand Forks, 18:19. 7, Reid Pierzinski, Pequot Lakes, 18:25. 8, Dan Wilson, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, 18:28. 9, Satchel Tickel, Hawley, 18:31. 10, Zach Heppner, Warroad, 18:31. 11, Brandon O'Hara, Perham, 18:36. 12, Bereket Loer, Wadena-Deer Creek, 18:41. 27, Keegan Moses, Park Rapids, 19:23. 46, Michael Gunn, Nevis, 19:57. 48, Jack McNamee, Nevis, 20:00. 55, Will Pickar, Park Rapids, 20:14. 60, Seth Breitweser, Park Rapids, 20:43. 61, Kaleb Stearns, Park Rapids, 20:43. 77, Lyle Brownell, United North Central, 21:23. 82, Sam Warne, Park Rapids, 21:30. 89, Joel Isaacson, United North Central, 21:48. 93, Luke Brownell, United North Central, 21:59. 94, Evan Pohl, Nevis, 22:00. 100, George Bjorklund, Nevis, 22:14. 101, Eddie Salmen, United North Central, 22:14. 108, Abram Josephson, United North Central, 22:37. 113, Zach Rypkema, Nevis, 22:45. 119, Gabe Bagstad, Park Rapids, 23:16. 121, Ashton Clark, Park Rapids, 23:21. 122, Jack Pietila, United North Central, 23:23. 123, Jack Johnson, Nevis, 23:32. 128, Tyler Gunn, Nevis, 23:45. 135, Sam Jackola, United North Central, 25:01.

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