Panthers overcame lack of numbers
Having only 13 athletes put the Park Rapids boys track and field team in the bottom half of the team standings in most meets this season.
However, the Panthers overcame a lack of depth with quality performances.
"The only disappointing thing about the season was our lack of numbers," said Park Rapids head coach Patrick Deegan. "The kids we had were great. Most of them competed in four events and the others were in two or three events. They really stepped it up and competed well."
Park Rapids opened the indoor season at Bemidji State University by placing fifth out of 17 teams at the Little Amik I Invitational with 41 points, 10th out of 15 teams at the Lions Invitational with 11 points and seventh out of 23 teams at the Little Amik II Invitational with 30 points. Roseau won the Little Amik I meet with 91 points, Grand Forks Red River won the Lions meet with 170 points and Bemidji captured the team title at the Little Amik II meet with 77 points.
In their outdoor debut, the Panthers placed third at the nine-team Park Rapids Invitational with 87 points. Detroit Lakes won that meet with 191 points.
The Panthers followed with a pair of fourth-place efforts with 74 points at the six-team Perham Invitational and 71 points at the eight-team Park Rapids Invitational. Perham captured the title at its meet with 153 points while Roseau scored 199 points to lead the way at Park Rapids.
At the 16-team Crookston Invitational, the Panthers tallied 23 points to share 10th place. Roseau won that title with 147.50 points.
After placing third at the six-team Detroit Lakes Invitational with 65 points, the Panthers closed out the regular season by placing 11th at the Section 8AA True Team meet at Park Rapids with 223 points and fourth at the Mid-State Conference meet at Detroit Lakes with 55 points. Bemidji led the way at Detroit Lakes with 181.50 points, Fergus Falls claimed the True Team title with 548 points and Pequot Lakes earned the conference title with 180 points.
At the Subsection 8-29A meet at Mahnomen, the Panthers finished fourth with 87.50 points. Mahnomen/Waubun won the subsection title with 184.50 points.
The Panthers qualified 10 individuals for the Section 8A meet and ended up placing 15th with 13.50 points. Ada-Borup won the section title with 92 points.
"I was very pleased with how we did in some meets," said Deegan. "We had a good year for the numbers we had."
Out of the 10 section qualifiers, nine scored points. Senior Mike McDowell placed fifth in the high jump, senior Devon Ondracek placed sixth in the discus, junior Jake Grimes placed seventh in the 300-meter hurdles and senior Tom Drury tied for eighth place in the pole vault. The 4 x 800 relay team of junior Sean Hayes, sophomore Zac Haugland, freshman Forrest Drury and junior Nathan Gebhard placed sixth while the 4 x 400 relay team of freshman Brock Fritze, Hayes, Grimes and Gebhard finished eighth. Both relay teams took first at the subsection meet. Senior Trevor Matheny didn't place in the shot put.
"The highlight of the season was qualifying 10 kids for the section meet," said Deegan. "The kids had their personal bests at the end of the season, which is what you want."
The 10 section qualifiers led the Panthers all season.
McDowell was the Mid-State Conference champion in the high jump and advanced to the section meet by placing fourth in that event at the subsection meet. McDowell also scored points in the 4 x 100, 4 x 200 and 4 x 400 relays this season.
Ondracek was the Panthers' top thrower in the discus, taking first in that event at three meets. Ondracek qualified for the section meet by placing third in the discus at the subsection meet. Ondracek also scored points in the 4 x 100 relay this season.
Tom Drury earned a trip to the section meet as the runner-up in the pole vault at the subsection meet. Drury also scored points in the shot put, 300 hurdles, 200 dash, 4 x 100 relay and 4 x 200 relay this season.
Matheny placed in the shot put in three meets.
Grimes led the team in points this season while placing in the 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles, 4 x 200 relay, 4 x 400 relay and 4 x 800 relay. At the subsection meet, Grimes placed third in the 110 hurdles and fourth in the 300 hurdles to qualify for the section meet.
Hayes was named the Panthers' Most Improved after placing in the 4 x 100 relay, 4 x 200 relay, 4 x 400 relay and 200 dash during the season.
Gebhard scored points in the 1,600 run, 4 x 400 relay and 4 x 800 relay during the season. Gebhard was the runner-up in the 1,600 at the subsection meet.
Haugland competed in several events this spring, placing in the 400 dash, 800 run, 1,600 run, 3,200 run, 4 x 100 relay, 4 x 400 relay and 4 x 800 relay. Haugland placed fifth in the 3,200 run at the subsection meet.
Fritze received the team's Most Valuable Award after scoring points in the 100, 200, 400, 4 x 200 relay and 4 x 400 relay during the season. Fritze was the conference runner-up in the 200 dash to earn Mid-State honorable mention honors and advanced to the section meet by placing third in the 200 and fourth in the 100 at the subsection meet.
Forrest Drury earned the Coaches Award after scoring points in the 400 dash, pole vault, 4 x 100 relay, 4 x 200 relay, 4 x 400 relay and 4 x 800 relay during the season.
Also scoring points for the Panthers during the season were juniors Caleb Atkins and Sterling Lindahl and freshmen Luke Hartig and Scott Wolff.
Atkins competed in the shot put and discus and received the team's Spirit Award.
Lindahl placed in the 4 x 100 relay, 4 x 200 relay and 4 x 400 relay before missing the end of the season with an injury.
Hartig scored points in the 800, 4 x 100 and 4 x 800 relays this season. Hartig joined McDowell, Ondracek and Forrest Drury on the 4 x 100 relay team that placed fourth at the subsection meet.
Wolff placed in the 110 hurdles, triple jump and 4 x 800 relay this season.
With graduation taking four athletes, the Panthers will need to find some new recruits in order to field another competitive team next spring.
"We have some good kids coming back," said Deegan. "We need to get more numbers out."