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A pair of winning times and three third-place showings led the Park Rapids girls track and field team to runner-up honors at Tuesday's Little Amik I Invitational at Bemidji State University. The 4 x 800-meter relay team of Summer Ellefson, Morgan Olson, Kaylee Hilmanowski and Lora Remus took first in 11:03.39 while Remus won the 1,600 run in 6:08.75 to lead the Panthers. Mady Vaudrin clocked a runner-up 8.50 in the 60 dash and Emily Klingenberg took second in the triple jump with a distance of 29 feet, 4 inches.
Nic Lembcke wasn't counting on the Park Rapids girls basketball team going winless in his first season as head coach. Even though the Panthers didn't have success in the victory column after battling through a 0-25 season, Lembcke said the season was a success in terms of how the girls persevered and improved. "Going winless was difficult on everyone, but I was proud of the girls for continuing to work hard. Those who watched our games consistently saw us increase our shooting percentage, drop our turnovers and beat a press more effectively," said Lembcke.
Last season, the Park Rapids boys track and field team exceeded expectations by placing second at the Subsection 8-29A meet and qualifying 10 individuals for the Section 8A meet. This year, head coach Pat Deegan is looking for the Panthers to overachieve once again. Leading the Panthers this season are the 13 athletes who competed at last year's subsection meet.
Zach Lehrke didn't produce many points in his first season at the Division I level as a member of the Minnesota State University, Mankato men's hockey team, but his points came at opportune moments. Lehrke, who still holds the scoring record at Park Rapids with 113 goals and 212 points, tallied two goals and four assists on 42 shots in 28 games as a forward for the Mavericks. Mankato ended the season with an 8-16-4 record in WCHA play and a 14-18-6 overall mark. Lehrke tallied his first collegiate point with an assist in a 3-2 win over Alaska-Anchorage on Oct.
Entering the season, Wendi Hartig was counting on her five returning letterwinners to lead the Park Rapids gymnastics team. As it turned out, those five veterans didn't compete in the same meet all season. Junior Emily Klingenberg was the only member of that group who competed in all 12 meets. Sophomore Jessi Andersen missed four meets with a wrist injury. Freshman Cassie Baxter competed in eight meets. Freshman Ellen Hoffman missed the entire season with a broken foot.
When reflecting back, Matt Clark thought the Park Rapids wrestling team had a successful season. Clark's goals at the beginning of the season were to win at least 10 matches and send wrestlers to the state Class A meet.
Sam Coborn capped off his junior season as a member of the Park Rapids-Menahga-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley boys hockey team by earning all-state, all-section and all-conference honors. Coborn led the Panthers with 35 goals and 29 assists for 64 points to earn a spot on the Associated Press all-state honorable mention team. Eight other players from Section 8A also received all-state honors.
When the Park Rapids boys hockey team graduated 10 players off its 20-player varsity roster last season, head coach Pete Stahnke felt it was the perfect time to merge with the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley program. That merger gave the Panthers numbers with 20 varsity players and 19 junior varsity players. Although combining the two teams didn't result in immediate success, Stahnke believes the merger will make the program stronger down the road. "It was the right time for it," said Stahnke. "Our numbers were OK for this year and next year, but our numbers in the lower grades are low.
Chris Albee continues to see the Park Rapids-Menahga-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley girls hockey team close the gap on the elite teams in the area. After going 1-22-1 in 2006-07 and 1-20 in 2007-08, the Panthers have shown improvement by going 8-14 in 2008-09, 9-15-2 in 2009-10 and 10-15 this season. Of the Panthers' 15 losses this winter, 13 were to six of the best teams in the state. The 10 wins also marked only the fifth time the Panthers have reached double digits in victories. The Panthers opened the season by jumping out to a 4-1 lead only to see Morris/Benson rally for a 6-4 victory.
Earning a trip to the state Pee Wees B boys hockey tournament this winter was cause for celebration for some Wadena hockey players who suffered through a catastrophe last summer. A tornado last June destroyed the community center in Wadena, leaving the Wadena Hockey Association without an indoor hockey rink. Instead of playing on outdoor ice all winter, some players on the 22-member Wadena Pee Wees team looked for an alternative. A call to Ed Moren, the president of the Park Rapids Amateur Hockey Association, solved that problem. "After the tornado last summer, some of our kids were lo