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McCollum, Vaudrin join elite list

Receiving top honors at Wednesday night’s 37th annual Park Rapids All Sports Banquet were (from left) Tyler McCollum (Male Student Athlete), Mady Vaudrin (Female Student Athlete), Justine Rittgers (Outstanding Female Athlete) and Noah MacPherson (Outstanding Male Athlete).

     Tyler McCollum and Mady Vaudrin received top honors at Wednesday night’s 37th annual Park Rapids All Sports Banquet.

     McCollum and Vaudrin were named the 2014 Male and Female Student Athletes while Justine Rittgers and Noah MacPherson received the 2014 Outstanding Female and Outstanding Male Athlete awards.

     In addition, Tyler Safratowich and the 1996 boys track team were inducted into the Panther Athletic Hall of Fame.

     McCollum was a three-year letterwinner in football, basketball and baseball and earned Heart O’Lakes Conference honors in football as a junior and senior; Mid-State Conference honors in basketball as a sophomore, junior and senior; and Mid-State Conference honors in baseball as a junior. McCollum set school records for passing yards in a game (236), completions in a season (84) and passing yards in a season (1,445) as a junior in football and was named the team’s MVP in basketball as a junior.

     Vaudrin earned a total of 14 letters – four in volleyball, four in hockey and six in track - during her varsity career. Vaudrin capped off her senior season in volleyball by earning Mid-State Conference honors and was a Mid-State Conference honorable mention selection as a freshman and sophomore and an all-conference selection as a junior and senior in hockey. Vaudrin was also an all-section player and the team’s MVP in hockey as a senior. In track, Vaudrin earned Mid-State Conference honors as a seventh grader and all-conference honorable mention honors as a freshman, junior and senior. Vaudrin also qualified for the state Class A meet three times. Vaudrin advanced to state in the 100-meter dash as an eighth grader, qualified in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relays as a sophomore, and advanced in the 100, 4 x 100 relay and 4 x 200 relay as a junior. The 4 x 200 relay earned all-state honors by placing ninth in 2012 while Vaudrin earned all-state honors by placing sixth in the 100 and seventh in the 4 x 100 relay last season. Vaudrin also competed in the state Class A True Team track meet as an eighth grader and freshman.

     MacPherson was a three-year letterwinner in football, a four-year letterwinner in hockey and a one-year letterwinner in track. MacPherson earned all-conference honors in football as a junior and senior and was the Panthers’ MVP as a senior. MacPherson set a school record with 29 receptions in a season as a junior. In hockey, MacPherson was an all-conference player as a junior and senior and an all-section honorable mention player as a junior. MacPherson became the 12th member of the Park Rapids boys hockey team to surpass 100 career points.

     Rittgers earned four letters in volleyball, three letters in basketball and six letters in track. Rittgers also competed in the state Class A True Team track meet in 2010 and 2011 and earned all-conference honorable mention honors in track as a junior.

     Safratowich and the 1996 boys track team represented Park Rapids as state champions.

     Safratowich won the state Class AA wrestling title at 103 pounds as a sophomore in 2002, won the state Class AA title at 112 pounds as a junior in 2003 and won the state Class AA title at 130 pounds as a senior in 2004. Safratowich was a three-time section champion and a three-time Mid-State Conference wrestler and still holds the school record for career victories by going 146-27 with 67 pins during his high school career. Safratowich was also a multiple USA All-American in freestyle and Greco, a USA national champion in freestyle and a Senior National finalist.

     After graduating from Park Rapids, Safratowich was a four-year letterwinner at the University of Minnesota and qualified for two NCAA Division I Championships, earning All-American honors as a senior by placing eighth at 157 pounds in 2009. Safratowich placed third at the Big 10 Tournament as a sophomore and senior and finished his collegiate career with a 108-48 record with 18 pins. Safratowich also wrestled on the Gophers’ 2009 national championship team and earned NWCA All-Academic honors.

     The 1996 boys track and field team gave Park Rapids its first state team championship in a Minnesota State High School League-sponsored event by claiming the state Class A title with 51 points. Stewartville was second with 40 points.

     Leading the Panthers to the state title were Dane Larson (second in the 800-meter run and second in the 1,600 run), Mark Jacobson (second in the 110 hurdles and second in the 300 hurdles), Travis Guida (fifth in the discus), Nick Thelen (seventh in the 800), and Jacobson, Larson, Thelen and Jethro Klotz (seventh in the 4 x 400 relay). Leo Jacobson and Drew Hildebrand coached that state-champion team.

     In addition to honoring that group, the banquet also honored all the senior athletes.

     In addition to McCollum, the other candidates for Male Student Athlete were Spencer Adolphson (football, swimming, track), Ryan DeLaHunt (hockey, golf), Brad Eischens (cross country, baseball), Zach Jewison (cross country, basketball, golf), Bailey Mueller (cross country, hockey, golf), Nathanael Rairdon (cross country, track), Connor Smythe (football, swimming) and Iain Wallace (swimming, tennis).

     The other qualifiers for the Female Student Athlete were Taylor Graham (swimming), Bailee Jerger (hockey, softball), Christina Mackley (swimming, track), Julia Renner (tennis, hockey), Charity Ridlon (tennis, basketball, softball), Rittgers and Christina Smith (tennis, hockey, softball).

     To be eligible for the Student Athlete award, seniors must have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.50 or be a top five qualifying student, be at least a two-sport athlete or a state participant in one sport in grades 10 through 12, and have no confirmed rules violations during their senior year.

     In addition to the five qualifiers for Female Student Athlete, the other qualifiers for the Outstanding Female Athlete were Seri Erickson (swimming), Ellen Hoffman (swimming, track), Kayla Johnk (gymnastics, track), Shania Johnson (volleyball, hockey, softball), Lauren Naeve (hockey, softball) and Alex Pederson (hockey).

     Also in the running for the Outstanding Male Athlete were the Male Student Athlete qualifiers and Drew Bade (football, hockey, baseball), Bryce Brovitch (basketball, track), Kurt Fritze (football, swimming, track), Rilee Johnson (football, basketball, baseball), John Kyllonen (wrestling), Sam Ness (basketball, baseball) and Jamie Stewart (football, hockey).

     The criteria for the Outstanding Athlete award includes being at least a two-sport athlete or a state participant in grades 10-12, having no confirmed rules violations during their senior year and making satisfactory  progress towards graduation.

     State participants from the last year were also recognized.

     That group featured Jake Waggoner, Austin Carlson, Fritze, Brovitch and Isaac Overmyer in boys track from last spring; Grace Bateman, Vaudrin, Megan Grimes, Sarah Harshman, Paige Hill, Abby Mueller, Megan Olson and Tori Hilmanowski in girls track from last spring; and Mariena Dearstyne in girls golf from last spring.

     State qualifiers from this season included Mueller, Olson, Tayah Otterness, Maya Johnson, Lydia Kantonen, Ellery Overmyer, Madison Steffel, Kendra Coborn and Whitney Steffel in girls cross country; Overmyer in boys cross country; Renner, Smith and Julia Smith in girls tennis; Hoffman, Lauren Rossman, Kayla Andersen, Paige Fritze and Tea Nyland in girls swimming; Justin Dravis in wrestling; and Smythe in boys swimming.

     Betty Haukebo received a Blanket Award for serving as a gymnastics coach and judge for more than 40 years. Haukebo was the Panthers’ head gymnastics coach for 13 years beginning in 1992.

     Seven $600 Park Rapids Memorial Scholarships were awarded to Eischens, Fritze, MacPherson, McCollum, Mueller, Rittgers and Vaudrin.

     Mueller and Rittgers were recognized as this year’s AAA representatives while juniors Hope Johnson and Riley Massie were recognized as this year’s ExCEL Award representatives.

     The Park Rapids music department preformed and all senior athletes received plaques. The banquet, which is put on by the Park Rapids Coaches Association, also featured the parade of champions and “Year in Review” video show.