Park Rapids girls tee up successful season
Walt Harrison was expecting the Park Rapids girls golf team to consistently card rounds under 400 all season.
The Panthers exceeded the expectation of their head coach.
In eight 18-hole tournaments in which the Panthers had the majority of their top golfers, Park Rapids averaged a four-player score of 367. The Panthers turned in consistent scores in those meets, ranging from a pair of 359s to a high of 374. Highlighting the season were a pair of 359s to finish second at the Mid-State Conference meet and second at the Section 8AA North tournament to qualify for the Section 8AA tournament.
Park Rapids also dominated Northern Pines Conference play by repeating as conference champs. The Panthers won five of the six nine-hole conference meets, averaging a three-golfer score of 139.
"I thought we had a great year," said Harrison. "We graduated three starters from last year, so I thought it would be tough to replace those scores. The girls really stepped up and came through. I was very pleased with how consistent the girls were this year."
Leading the Panthers this spring were senior Drew Hilmanowski; juniors Sabela Valverde-Andrade, Olivia Wallace and Olivia McDonald; and sophomores Madison Johnson and Chloe Johnson. Hilmanowski was named the Panthers' MVP, Madison Johnson was named Most Improved and Wallace was named Most Dedicated.
Also competing on varsity this season were seniors Jasmine Cease and Madison Steffel; junior Amber Schroeder; and sophomores Olivia Ulvin, Kinley Nordin and Paige Leeseberg.
Park Rapids opened the season by leading the nine-team field with a 437 at the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Invitational at Tianna Country Club. Chloe Johnson's 100, Valverde-Andrade's 107, Cease's 113 and Nordin's 117 led the Panthers.
Hilmanowski's 88, a pair of 93s by Valverde-Andrade and Chloe Johnson, and a 97 by Madison Johnson led the Panthers to third place with a 371 at the Park Rapids Invitational at Headwaters Golf Club. Crookston led the 16-team field with a 363.
At the Wadena-Deer Creek Invitational at Whitetail Run, the Panthers finished ninth out of 10 teams with a 452 behind Schroeder's 98 and a trio of 118s by Steffel, Nordin and Ulvin. Detroit Lakes took first with a 330.
The Panthers tied for runner-up honors at the 14-team Pre-Section 8AA Invitational at the Bemidji Town & Country Club with a 373 as Hilmanowski's 88, Chloe Johnson's 93, Madison Johnson's 94 and McDonald's 98 comprised the team score. Crookston also won that meet with a 355.
Hilmanowski's 90, Madison Johnson's 91, Wallace's 92 and McDonald's 101 led the Panthers to a 374 and seventh place at the 11-team Staples-Motley Invitational at The Vintage. Detroit Lakes led the field with a 327.
Detroit Lakes won the Mid-State Conference title at Headwaters Golf Club with a 318 while the Panthers followed with a 359. That was the Panthers' best finish at the Mid-State meet since placing second in 1989. Hilmanowski, Wallace and Valverde-Andrade all carded 88s to earn all-conference honorable mention honors while McDonald added a 95.
Cease's 101, Schroeder's 104, Ulvin's 115 and Leeseberg's 118 led the Panthers to a 438 and third place at the six-team United North Central Invitational at Blueberry Pines. Pequot Lakes took first with a 364.
In the regular-season finale, Park Rapids carded a 362 to claim runner-up honors at the Pre-Section North 8AA tournament at the Thief River Falls Golf Club. Valverde-Andrade's 84, Hilmanowski's 89, Chloe Johnson's 94 and Madison Johnson's 95 led the Panthers. Crookston topped the field with a 355.
Park Rapids once again dominated Northern Pines Conference play. At Blueberry Pines, the Panthers took first with a 146 behind Wallace's 47, Valverde-Andrade's 49 and Hilmanowski's 50. Park Rapids took first at Headwaters Golf Club with a 132 behind Hilmanowski's 41, McDonald's 44 and Wallace's 47. Walker-Hackensack-Akeley/Laporte won the third conference meet at Tianna with a 153 as the Panthers took second with a 157 with a pair of 52s by McDonald and Chloe Johnson and a 53 by Wallace leading the way. Hilmanowski earned medalist honors with a 41, Chloe Johnson was second with a 42 and Valverde-Andrade took third with a 44 as the Panthers carded a 128 to take first at Bears Dean. The Panthers followed with a 144 to take first at Blackduck as Chloe Johnson's medalist round of 46, Hilmanowski's runner-up 48 and Valverde-Andrade's 50 led the way. Park Rapids capped off conference play with a 127 to finish first at Castle Highlands as Hilmanowski and Wallace finished 1-2 with rounds of 40 and 42. Chloe Johnson added a 45.
Hilmanowski was the overall medalist with 170 strokes in her top four meets while Chloe Johnson (third with 185 strokes), Wallace (tied for fourth with 188 strokes) and Valverde-Andrade (tied for fourth with 188 strokes) also earned Northern Pines Conference honors. McDonald (tied for eighth with 199 strokes) received all-conference honorable mention honors. Park Rapids claimed the Northern Pines Conference title with 7 points while WHAL was second with 13 points and United North Central took third with 17 points.
At the Section 8AA North tournament, the Panthers finished second with a 359 as Valverde-Andrade took second overall with an 82 while Hilmanowski's 90, Chloe Johnson's 92 and Madison Johnson's 95 helped Park Rapids qualify for the Section 8AA tournament. Crookston led the field at Thief River Falls with a 342 while Thief River Falls claimed the final section berth with a 379 in the eight-team field.
Park Rapids capped off the season by placing sixth at the Section 8AA tournament at the Bemidji Town & Country Club with rounds of 373 and 365 for a two-day total of 738. Hilmanowski's 89, Madison Johnson's 93, Chloe Johnson's 95 and Valverde-Andrade's 96 led the Panthers on the first day while Valverde-Andrade's 89, Hilmanowski's 90, Wallace's 91 and Madison Johnson's 95 led the Panthers on the second day. Detroit Lakes won the section title with a 651 while Crookston (671), Perham (707), Thief River Falls (733) and Pequot Lakes (735) followed. Detroit Lakes went on to win the state Class AA title.
"When we had our top six golfers, we were easily under 400 every time," said Harrison. "We had a lot of consistent scores between 88 and 95, which really helped. I thought if we'd shoot in the 380 range, we'd be doing really well, but we shot under that every time. The girls were dedicated and it showed."
Hilmanowski capped her senior season with a consistent year, averaging an 89.0 in eight 18-hole rounds and a 44.0 in five Northern Pines Conference meets.
Valverde-Andrade, a foreign exchange student from Spain, finished second on the team with a 93.75 average in eight 18-hole rounds while adding a 47.6 average in five NPC meets.
Madison Johnson was third on the team with a 94.5 average in eight 18-hole meets and had a 53.3 average in six NPC meets.
Wallace had a 97.0 average in seven 18-hole meets and finished with a 49.8 average in six NPC meets.
Chloe Johnson played in nine 18-hole tournaments and had a 99.3 average while adding a 47.4 average in five NPC meets.
McDonald compiled a 101.0 average in eight 18-hole meets and had a 50.4 average in five NPC meets.
Schroeder finished with a 101.7 average in three 18-hole tournaments and carded a 55 in her only NPC meet. Cease played in three 18-hole tournaments and had a 104.7 average while carding rounds of 55 and 56 in two NPC appearances. Ulvin had a 116.3 average in three 18-hole meets. Steffel played in three 18-hole tournaments and had a 117.3 average. Nordin played in four 18-hole tournaments and tallied a 119.5 average while carding a 63 in her only NPC appearance. Leeseberg had a 123.0 average in two 18-hole tournaments.
With the graduation of Hilmanowski and the loss of Valverde-Andrade, the Panthers will have to replace the top spots in the lineup. However, Harrison is counting on the returning golfers to produce another successful season next spring.
"It's going to be tough to replace Drew and Sabela. They were consistent all year long. Drew was a great leader for us and Sabela was an unexpected bonus," said Harrison. "We'll return a lot of experience. It all depends on how much they play this summer, but I'm expecting another good season next spring."