Panthers seek to start new section title streak
Head coach Corey Hill is hoping not being the defending Section 8A champs will provide added incentive for the Park Rapids girls track and field team this spring.
The Panthers saw their seven-year streak of winning the section title snapped by less than a point when Pelican Rapids dethroned the defending champs with 82.50 points at last spring's Section 8A meet. Park Rapids just missed winning another section title with 82 points.
With 11 athletes returning from the section team and 10 others who helped the Panthers win the Subsection 8-29A title for the 12th year in a row, Hill feels his team has the potential to start another streak of being the section champs this spring.
In addition to repeating as subsection champs and claiming the section runner-up trophy a year ago, the Panthers won the Section 8A True Team title, placed third at the Mid-State Conference meet, finished eighth at the state Class A True Team meet and qualified five individuals in three events for the state Class A meet.
Among the returning veterans are three state qualifiers: senior Jaiden McCollum, sophomore Kamree Carlson and freshman Hannah Morgan. McCollum brought home a state medal for the second year in a row by placing sixth in the shot put while Carlson finished 16th in that event in her state debut. Those three ran on the 4 x 200-meter relay team that placed 14th at state.
Also returning after placing at the section meet are seniors Kennedy Carlson and Tori Hilmanowski; juniors Julia Johnson and Whitney Steffel; sophomores Paige Johnson and Jada Renneberg; freshman Savana Damar; and eighth grader Holly Johnson.
In addition to that group, sophomores Kayleah Breitweser, Mercedes Forseman, Madeline Guida and Cora Willenbring; freshmen Taylor Dravis, Kendra Scholz, Liesl Smee and Destiny Villarreal; and eighth graders Quinn Hunter and Simone Wolff return after placing at last year's subsection meet.
At the Section 8A True Team meet, Hilmanowski, Paige Johnson and Breitweser ran on the winning 4 x 800 relay team while McCollum was the runner-up in the shot put. Paige Johnson also took second in the high jump as did Hilmanowski, Kamree Carlson and McCollum in the 4 x 400 relay and Julia Johnson and Scholz in the 4 x 200 relay as the Panthers scored 966 points to edge Roseau's 931 for the title. McCollum was also the runner-up in the shot put as the Panthers scored 277.50 points to place eighth at the state Class A True Team meet. Osakis won the state True Team title with 388.50 points.
McCollum was the champ in the shot put as the Panthers took third at the Mid-State Conference meet with 62 points. Pequot Lakes claimed the conference title with 143.50 points. Hilmanowski, Paige Johnson, Renneberg, Kamree Carlson, Holly Johnson and McCollum comprised the 4 x 800 and 4 x 400 relays that placed second while Paige Johnson tied for second in the high jump.
Park Rapids dominated the subsection meet with 263 points behind individual winning efforts by McCollum (shot put and discus), Hilmanowski (800), Paige Johnson (high jump), Renneberg (1,600) and Morgan (100 and long jump). Hilmanowski, Paige Johnson and Renneberg also took first in the 4 x 800 relay as did Morgan and Julia Johnson in the 4 x 100 relay and Paige Johnson, Kamree Carlson, Holly Johnson and McCollum in the 4 x 400 relay.
Turning in runner-up finishes at the subsection meet were Morgan, Kamree Carlson and McCollum in the 4 x 20 relay as well as Kamree Carlson (shot put), Scholz (300 hurdles), Damar (pole vault) and Kennedy Carlson (high jump). Also placing at the subsection meet were Kennedy Carlson (third in both the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles), Steffel (third in the 3,200), Holly Johnson (third in the 400 and fifth in the 100), Julia Johnson (fourth in the 200 and eighth in the 100), Forseman (fourth in the 3,200), Breitweser (fifth in the 800), Scholz (sixth in the high jump and eighth in the 200), Kamree Carlson (seventh in the discus), Hunter (seventh in the 100 hurdles), Guida (seventh in the 1,600), Smee (eighth in the 800), Wolff (10th in the high jump), Villarreal (14th in the 400), Dravis (14th in the discus) and Willenbring (15th in the shot put).
At the section meet, McCollum and Kamree Carlson went 1-2 in the shot put while Morgan, Kamree Carlson and McCollum ran on the runner-up 4 x 200 relay team. Just missing state bids were Hilmanowski, Paige Johnson and Renneberg in the 4 x 800 relay (third); Julia Johnson and Morgan in the 4 x 100 relay (third); Holly Johnson, Paige Johnson, Kamree Carlson and McCollum in the 4 x 400 relay (third); Renneberg in the 1,600 (third); Paige Johnson in the high jump (fourth); Kennedy Carlson in the high jump (sixth); and McCollum in the discus (seventh).
The other section competitors returning are Morgan (ninth in the long jump and 11th in the 100), Holly Johnson (ninth in the 400 and 13th in the 100), Hilmanowski (12th in the 800); Steffel (13th in the 3,200), Kennedy Carlson (14th in both the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles) and Damar (tied for 14th in the pole vault).
McCollum scored the team's 4 points as Park Rapids tied for 55th place at the state meet, which was won by Minneapolis Edison with 48 points.
Looking to fill varsity spots are seniors Jordan Klemmer and Karen Valencia; junior Coral Johnson; sophomores Bridgette Basswood, Jess Kaseman and Mary Rose Nichols; eighth graders Chelsea Dennis, Marriyam Ejaz, Mackenzie Laferriere and Angie Porter; and seventh graders Katilina Addison, Olivia Davis, Christine Engst, Coley Girtz, Julia Harmon, Nadia Yliniemi Hensel, Haley Kerr, Morgan Koppelman, Lyvia Livermore, Aleka London, Natalia Lopez, Brooklyn Partlow, Riley Pike, Morgan Stone and Emma Vrieze.
That group will be looking to replace the spots left by the graduation of Lydia Kantonen, Caroline Drury and Katelyn Warmbold. Kantonen won the section title in the 3,200 run and placed 16th at state while running on the third-place 4 x 800 relay team at the section meet. Drury placed fourth in the pole vault while Warmbold placed sixth in the 100 hurdles, sixth in the triple jump and eighth in the long jump at last year's section meet.
One change for the Panthers is moving from Class A to Class AA for the True Team meet. Park Rapids joins Detroit Lakes, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, East Grand Forks, Fergus Falls, Little Falls, Melrose, Pequot Lakes, Perham, Pierz and Thief River Falls to form an 11-team Section 8AA. Pequot Lakes won the Section 8AA title and placed fourth at the state Class AA True Team meet last spring.
"We look for a great year. We have a lot of new girls out and numbers are always important in track and field," said Hill, who will be assisted by Leah Hilmanowski. "This year we have been moved into Section 8AA for True Team, which will make it tougher to get to state. We feel good about our chances and will work very hard to accomplish our goal of being one of the teams at state. We look forward to the section meet and a rematch with Pelican Rapids for a run at the section title. We know we have our work cut out as Frazee looks very strong this year as well. We are a young team and as we develop these girls, we will get more competitive. So far this is one of the hardest-working teams we have coached and we are very optimistic on our chances to attain some very high goals we have for ourselves."
April 17 - Park Rapids Invitational, 4 p.m. April 24 - Park Rapids Invitational, 4 p.m. April 27 - at Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Invitational, 4 p.m.
May 1 - at Crookston Invitational, 3:30 p.m. May 8 - at 8AA True Team meet at Detroit Lakes. May 15 - at Mid-State Conference meet at Crosby, 3:30 p.m. May 24 - at Subsection 8-29A meet at Lake of the Woods.
June 2 - at Section 8A meet at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton.