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Sophomore-led Park Rapids girls golf team looking to be competitive

     Even without a senior or junior on the roster, Walt Harrison is looking for a successful season from the Park Rapids girls golf team.

     Despite being led by a group of sophomores and freshmen, the Panthers return a veteran lineup with five golfers returning from last year’s team that placed third at the North Section 8AA meet and third at the Section 8AA meet.

     The highlight from last season was having freshman Mariena Dearstyne qualify for the state Class AA tournament. Dearstyne carded an 86 at the subsection meet and another 86 to claim the fourth individual berth to state. Dearstyne shot rounds of 98 and 47 to share 68th place in her state debut with a 145.

     Even though last season was delayed by the weather, the Panthers carded a 397 in their first 18-hole meet and followed with a 404 for fifth place at the Mid-State Conference meet. The Panthers peaked at the end of the season by carding a 389 at the subsection meet and a 390 at the section meet.

     Dearstyne, who shot a 94 at the conference meet, will be joined by fellow sophomores Alyza Edevold, Riley Kimball and Dana McDonald and freshman Drew Hilmanowski.

     Edevold shot rounds of 108 at the subsection meet and 107 at the section meet. Kimball carded rounds of 110 at the conference meet, 108 at the subsection meet and 110 at the section meet. McDonald fired rounds of 114 at the conference meet, 117 at the subsection meet and 114 at the section meet. Hilmanowski shot rounds of 117 at the subsection meet and 128 at the section meet.

     The key golfer to replace is Hannah Williams, who capped off her senior season by being named the Panthers’ MVP after earning all-conference honorable mention honors after carding an 86 at the Mid-State meet, firing an 87 at the subsection meet and missing a state berth in a sudden-death playoff after carding an 87 at the section meet.

     Looking to fill the other varsity spot and providing depth will be sophomores Mackenzie Hensel, Talya Smith and Lexi Stevenson; freshman Jasmine Cease; and eighth graders Olivia McDonald, Amber Schroeder and Olivia Wallace.

     “It’s going to be tough without Hannah. Someone will have to step up for us,” said Park Rapids head coach Walt Harrison. “We’re still young, but these girls have a couple of years of experience on varsity and have the potential to break 400. Hopefully we’ll get a full season in and the girls will continue to improve.”

     Defending state Class AA champion Detroit Lakes is once again the heavy favorite to dominate the conference and section. However, Harrison is looking for the Panthers to be competitive and qualify at least one golfer for the state tournament again.

     “I think we will break 400 early in the season and we’ll see how we go from there,” said Harrison. “These girls are dedicated and played a lot of golf last summer. If Mariena can shoot in the 80s consistently to help carry the team and if we can get a couple of girls to shoot in the 90s and another to shoot just over 100, we should be able to get to sections again and hopefully have a shot to get one or two girls to state.”