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Panthers claim fourth trip to state in last five seasons

Ellery Overmyer (from left), Madison Steffel (41), Abby Mueller (43), Tayah Otterness, Megan Olson (44), Lydia Kantonen and Kendra Coborn took off from the starting line at Friday’s Section 8A meet at Bagley.

     The return of four runners and the addition of three new runners provided the perfect combination for the Park Rapids girls cross-country team to get back to the state Class A meet.

     Freshmen Lydia Kantonen and Ellery Overmyer and seventh grader Kendra Coborn joined the veteran group of sophomores Megan Olson, Abby Mueller and Tayah Otterness and freshman Madison Steffel in leading the Panthers to runner-up honors at Friday’s Section 8A meet at Bagley with 56 points. Perham, which is rated No. 3 in the latest state Class A poll, claimed the section title with 46 points while Roseau took third with 95 points. It was Perham’s seventh section title and ninth trip to state in the last nine years.

     “Since we had a few new cross-country runners, I wasn’t sure how this season would go. I knew that the girls who ran track in the spring had great seasons, so I knew they could compete. I just wasn’t sure how it would all transfer to cross country,” said Park Rapids head coach Kerry Johnson. “As the season progressed, they really started to know just what they could do. By the end of the season, I knew we had a good chance, but until the results are on paper, I don’t take anything for granted.”

     Kantonen completed the 4,000-meter course in 16:02 to finish second overall, Olson finished seventh in 16:11, Overmyer was 10th in 16:25 and Coborn was 15th in 16:37 to earn all-section honors. Steffel rounded out the Panthers’ team score by placing 26th in 17:10. Mueller was 28th in 17:40 and Otterness was 52nd in 18:37. Roseau’s Ellie Nelson led the pack with a winning time of 15:51.

     The runner-up showing sent the Panthers to the state meet for the fourth time in the last five years. Olson and Mueller ran on the state-qualifying team in 2011 and joined Otterness and Steffel on last year’s section team that finished fifth.

     “Before the race, I just told the girls to run with confidence. They had great races during the season and there was no reason to stop now. I told them that every runner on our team was important, so if they had a chance to pass someone, go for it. It just might be the point we need,” said Johnson. “I wasn’t surprised at how well they ran. I knew they wanted to advance, so they didn’t want to leave anything on the course. They were giving it everything they had and I could see it on their faces while they were racing. They were so determined, focused and just pushing so hard. I wanted it so badly for them. They have worked so hard. It was great.”

     United North Central finished sixth out of 20 teams with 163 points. Leading the Warriors were Anna Olson (21st in 16:59), Joy Haataja (27th in 17:38), Jen Stifter (42nd in 18:18), Erin Olson (43rd in 18:23) and Annika Aho (44th in 18:24).

     The Panthers will look for another strong finish at the state meet, which will be held Saturday afternoon at 1 at St. Olaf College in Northfield. Park Rapids placed fifth with 190 points in 2009, 15th with 334 points in 2010 and tied for 11th with 247 points in 2011.

     “By only losing to Perham by 10 points and since they are ranked third in the state, I feel the girls could surprise a few teams,” said Johnson, who was named Section 8A Coach of the Year. “I guess since it is the first time at state for many of the girls, I just want them to keep running like they have and enjoy the moment. They are a young team, so I hope they continue to build on this experience.”

Team scores: Perham 46, Park Rapids 56, Roseau 95, Warroad 143, Pequot Lakes 148, United North Central 163, Staples-Motley 168, Frazee 213, Wadena-Deer Creek 223, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 245, West Marshall 312, Pine River-Backus 332, East Grand Forks 337, Pillager 346. Incomplete teams: Bagley/Fosston, Crookston, Hawley/Ulen-Hitterdal, Lake Park-Audubon, Lake of the Woods, Trek North.

Individual results

1, Elli Nelson, Ros, 15:51. 2, Lydia Kantonen, PR, 16:02. 3, Lizzie Fudge, Per, 16:04. 4, Brynnan Covington, Per, 16:06. 5, Marissa Carlson, B/F, 16:07. 6, Megan Danielson, Fra, 16:09. 7, Megan Olson, PR, 16:11. 8, Ellie Morgan, Fra, 16:11. 9, Lindsay Fast, War, 16:23. 10, Ellery Overmyer, PR, 16:25. 11, Emma Schmitz, WDC, 16:28. 12, Jenna Wegscheid, Per, 16:29. 13, Sydney Karels, Per, 16:34. 14, Gretta Brunelle, War, 16:34. 15, Kendra Coborn, PR, 16:37. 16, Caitie Ryan, PL, 16:41. 21, Anna Olson, UNC, 16:59. 26, Madison Steffel, PR, 17:10. 27, Joy Haataja, UNC, 17:38. 28, Abby Mueller, PR, 17:40. 42, Jen Stifter, UNC, 18:18. 43, Erin Olson, UNC, 18:23. 44, Annika Aho, UNC, 18:24. 49, Sarah Kuismi, UNC, 18:32. 42, Tayah Otterness, PR, 18:37. 56, Andrea Korvela, UNC, 18:46.