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Boys track team sets sights on contending for section titles

Leading the Park Rapids boys track and field team this season will be seniors (front from left) Spencer Adolphson, Kurt Fritze, Nate Rak; (back) Kalvin Hagan, Jared Kantonen, Bryce Brovitch, Austin Carlson, Caleb Gorder, Nathanael Rairdon.

     Over the last three seasons, the Park Rapids boys track and field team has shown dramatic improvement.

     In 2011, the Panthers won the Subsection 8-29A title for the first time since 2004, tied for eighth at the Section 8A meet and qualified for the state Class A meet in one event.

     In 2012, the Panthers repeated as subsection champs, finished fourth at the section meet and qualified for state in four events.

     Last spring, the Panthers again won the subsection title, moved up to third place at the section meet and qualified for state in seven events.

     Head coach Pat Deegan is counting on the Panthers to continue that trend this spring.

     With four athletes who competed at the state meet and four other athletes who competed at the section meet returning, the Panthers have the nucleus to make a run at winning the Section 8A True Team title, defending the subsection title, contending for the Section 8A title and sending another strong contingent to state.

     “After the success we had last year and returning a core group that was the bulk of our points, I feel we can do some exciting things this year,” said Deegan.

     The Panthers peaked at the end of last season by placing third at the Mid-State Conference meet, winning the subsection title with 169 points and taking third at the section meet with 71 points to trail only Roseau’s 109 points and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton’s 78 points.

     Returning to lead the way for the Panthers this season are the eight athletes who competed at last year’s section meet: seniors Austin Carlson, Kurt Fritze, Bryce Brovitch and Spencer Adolphson; junior Isaac Overmyer; sophomores Tristan Breitweser and Damion Hanke; and freshman Hunter Jewison. Carlson, Fritze and Overmyer will serve as captains.

     Carlson, Fritze, Brovitch and Overmyer return after competing at last year’s state meet. At the state meet, Overmyer earned all-state honors by placing sixth in the 3,200-meter run to account for Park Rapids’ 4 points. Overmyer also took 12th in the 1,600 at state. Carlson finished 14th in the 400 and 16th in the 200, Fritze took 10th in the 300 hurdles and 15th in the 110 hurdles while Fritze, Jake Waggoner, Brovitch and Carlson qualified in the 4 x 400 relay.

     Carlson was named the Panthers’ MVP after repeating as the section champ in the 400 and as the section runner-up in the 200 to qualify for state in two individual events for the second year in a row. Carlson won six titles in the 400 (including at the Section 8AA True Team meet) and was the runner-up in that event three other times (including at the Mid-State Conference meet to earn all-conference honorable mention honors). Carlson also won subsection titles in the 400 and 200 and qualified for the section meet by placing fourth in the long jump, where he finished 13th at the section meet.

     Fritze won the Mid-State title in the 300 hurdles to earn all-conference honors and qualified for the section meet in three individual events by taking first in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles and placing fourth in the shot put at the subsection meet. At the section meet, Fritze was the runner-up in both hurdles races to qualify for his first state meet. Fritze also placed 15th in the shot put. Fritze took first in the 300 hurdles four times last season.

     Overmyer capped off last season by earning all-conference honors by winning both the 1,600 and 3,200 races at the Mid-State meet and by advancing to the section meet by placing first in both races at the subsection meet. Overmyer followed by winning both races at the section meet. During the season, Overmyer took first in the 3,200 six times and first in the 1,600 three times.

     The 4 x 400 relay earned all-conference honorable mention honors by placing second at the Mid-State meet, captured the subsection title and won the section title to give the Panthers a relay team at state for the first time since 2002.

     In addition to running on the 4 x 400 relay, Brovitch qualified for the section meet by placing second in the high jump at the subsection meet. Brovitch placed sixth in that event at the section meet.

     Adolphson qualified for the section meet with runner-up finishes in the 4 x 800 relay and pole vault at the subsection meet. Adolphson finished fifth as a member of the relay team and tied for 11th in the pole vault at the section meet. Adolphson also placed seventh in the 800 at the subsection meet.

     Hanke took third in the pole vault and ran on the 4 x 200 relay team that finished fourth and the 4 x 100 relay team that took fifth at the subsection meet. Breitweser was fourth in the 300 hurdles and joined Hanke on both sprint relay teams. Jewison qualified for the section meet by placing fourth in the 1,600. At the section meet, Jewison placed 11th in the 1,600, Breitweser finished 16th in the 300 hurdles and Hanke didn’t place in the pole vault.

     Also returning after scoring points last season are seniors Caleb Gorder and Jared Kantonen; sophomores Jacob Engst, Logan Noonan and Scott Petersen; and freshman Tanner Becker.

     Gorder finished fifth in the 200 and sixth in the 100 and ran on the 4 x 100 relay team at the subsection meet. Kantonen scored points in the triple jump and 4 x 800 relay last season. Petersen placed fifth in the discus at the subsection meet. Engst placed in pole vault last spring. Becker and Noonan scored points in the throwing events a year ago.

     Looking to produce points and provide depth will be seniors Kalvin Hagan, Nathanael Rairdon and Nate Rak; juniors Brandon Johnson and Zach Tretbar; sophomores Remington Hagan, Marcus Hoyer, Isaac Kosel, Noah Schulz and Josh Weckwerth; and freshmen Kaleb Carlson, Jack Christenson, Nathaniel Dumond, Adam Jocobi and Per Jorgenson.

     That group has Deegan confident the Panthers can move up a spot in the conference and be one of the favorites to win the Section 8A True Team title. Last year the Panthers finished ninth in the Section 8AA True Team meet, but move to Section 8A this year with Cass Lake, Clearbrook-Gonvick, Crookston, Deer River, Fertile-Beltrami, Fisher-Climax, Grygla-Gatzke, International Falls, Norman County, Northome-Kelliher, Red Lake County, Warroad and West Marshall. Deegan is also counting on the Panthers to repeat as subsection champs, contend for the section title and qualify for state in at least seven events again.

     “With Detroit Lakes in the conference with us, it always seems we are competing for second place. I don’t feel we have the depth in some areas to overcome their numbers, but I feel we should walk away with some all-conference honors,” said Deegan, who will be assisted by Chad Harshman. “As far as other meets, I feel we should have a lot of success. With us being moved, I think it is a realistic goal to win the section True Team and take the team to state. We should be able to defend our subsection title and I feel we may have a good shot at finishing in the top two at sections. Last year we went to state in seven events. Our goal is to expand on that. I think we may have a shot at going in eight or nine events this year, depending on individual improvements. We also want to place at state. The kids have proven that they can get there. Now it would be nice to take it to the next step and place in the top nine.”