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Panthers seeking berth in 8AA meet

Leading the Park Rapids girls golf team this season will be seniors (from left) Jasmine Cease, Madison Steffel and Drew Hilmanowski. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

It could be tough for the Park Rapids girls golf team to duplicate the success of a year ago.

Last spring, the Panthers carded rounds under 400 seven times, repeated as the Northern Pines Conference champs and advanced to the Section 8AA tournament. Leading the way to that successful season were the senior trio of Mariena Dearstyne, Alyza Edevold and Dana McDonald.

Those three helped the Panthers finish third at the North Section 8AA meet with a 389 and sixth at the Section 8AA meet with rounds of 393 and 372 for a 765. Dearstyne capped off her senior season by leading the conference with a 46.0 average and leading the Panthers with an 18-hole average of 94.1 in 10 meets, including rounds of 91, 91 and 89 in section play. Edevold ended her senior season with rounds of 99, 101 and 105 at the section meets for a season average of 103.3 in nine rounds. McDonald carded rounds of 109, 99 and 96 at the section meets to end her high school career with a 104.1 average in nine 18-hole rounds.

Park Rapids won five of the six Northern Pines Conference meets and finished third at the Mid-State Conference tournament with a 378. Detroit Lakes won the conference title with a 322 and the Section 8AA title with rounds of 328 and 315 for a 643 en route to winning the state Class AA title.

Returning to lead the Panthers this spring are seniors Drew Hilmanowski, Madison Steffel and Jasmine Cease; juniors Olivia Wallace, Olivia McDonald and Amber Schroeder; and sophomores Chloe Johnson, Madison Johnson, Paige Leeseberg, Kinley Nordin and Olivia Ulvin.

Hilmanowski was named the team's MVP after finishing second on the team with a 47.5 average in Northern Pines play to earn all-conference honors and a 95.7 average in nine 18-hole rounds. Hilmanowski carded a 94 at the Mid-State Conference tournament and ended the season with a 93 at the North Section 8AA meet and rounds of 102 and 90 at the Section 8AA meet.

Wallace carded rounds of 107, 110 and 97 at the two section meets and carded a 104 at the Mid-State meet to end the season with a 105.5 average in 10 rounds. Wallace also had a 49.0 average in Northern Pines play to earn all-conference honors.

Olivia McDonald also received Northern Pines honors after tallying a 50.3 average. McDonald rounded out the Panthers' section team, carding a 106 at the North 8AA tournament and a pair of 109s at the 8AA tournament to end the season with a 109.7 18-hole average.

Also back after competing in 18-hole tournaments are Chloe Johnson (111.0 average in four meets with a best of 101), Madison Johnson (114.0 average in three meets with a low of 107), Schroeder (114.7 average in three meets with a low of 108), Steffel (117.0 average in three meets with a low of 115) and Nordin (119.3 average in three meets with a best of 115). Ulvin carded a 130 while Leeseberg carded a 152 in their only varsity meets.

Six golfers played in at least one Northern Pines meet with Chloe Johnson (52.8 average in four meets), Nordin (54.5 average in two meets) and Madison Johnson (58.5 average in two meets) leading the way. Steffel (61), Ulvin (61) and Leeseberg (67) competed in one Northern Pines meet each.

Foreign exchange student Sabela Valverde-Andrade will also compete for a varsity spot this season.

Despite graduating three golfers from last year's section team, head coach Walt Harrison believes his team has the potential to return to the section meet this season. Last year, Crookston won the North Section 8AA title with a 366 while Thief River Falls followed with a 389. At the Section 8AA meet, Pequot Lakes' 702, Crookston's 709, Perham's 711, Thief River Falls' 747 and Park Rapids followed Detroit Lakes.

"Our first goals are to win the Northern Pines again and try to break 400 early in the year and hopefully get a 360 by the end of the year," said Harrison. "It's going to be tough to replace last year's seniors who were regulars on varsity for several years, but we have a lot of girls back with a lot of varsity experience. These girls are pretty competitive and they enjoy playing golf. I expect a good season. Hopefully we'll return to the section meet and if things go right we can qualify at least one for state."

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