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Even though the Park Rapids boys basketball team graduated its two leading scorers, Matt Brandt is confident a more balanced scoring attack will lead to more success this season. The Panthers will be counting on the returning varsity players to take over the scoring production lost to the graduation of Christian Ridlon and Taylor Kimball. Ridlon earned Mid-State Conference honors and was named the team's Most Valuable Player after leading the Panthers with 301 points and 167 rebounds last season.
Experience paid off for the Menahga girls basketball team in the season opener at Park Rapids Tuesday night. The Braves had an advantage with the return of three starters and four other varsity letterwinners while Park Rapids featured a roster full of players filling key varsity spots for the first time.
Matt Clark isn't concerned about a new weight system and a new section for the Park Rapids wrestling team. Minnesota high school teams will now wrestle at 14 different weight classes: 106 pounds, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285. Last year, the weights were 103, 112, 119, 125, 130, 135, 140, 145, 152, 160, 171, 189, 215 and 285. That change could benefit the Panthers, who have enough wrestlers to fill the upper weights. "They took out a middle weight and added an upper weight," said Clark.
Even with a tougher schedule, Pete Stahnke is counting on the Park Rapids-Menahga-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley boys hockey team to compile a winning record and challenge for a top-four seed for the Section 8A playoffs. The main reason for Stahnke's optimism is the return of a veteran team that went 12-13-1 last season. Leading the Panthers this season are seniors Sam Coborn, Levi Erickson, Cory Odland, Scott Smith, Lucas Maves, Benson Ringle and Cole Garoutte; juniors Ian Johnson and Frank Moren; and sophomores Noah MacPherson, Bailey Mueller, Jamie Stewart, Drew Bade, Cody Brumbaugh, Luke Jae
It's understandable why Nic Lembcke isn't sure what to expect from the Park Rapids girls basketball team this season. Only six players return from last year's team that went 0-25. Those six players were reserves that combined to score 37 points and grab 51 rebounds last season. The Panthers' top eight scorers either graduated or elected not to play basketball this season.
Lauren Naeve's goal with 37 seconds to play and Shania Johnson's 22 saves led the Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley girls hockey team to its first win ever over Crookston Friday afternoon. Alex Pederson added an empty-net goal with 10 seconds left to seal the Panthers' 2-0 victory over Crookston at Thief River Falls. Crookston had won the previous 14 meetings dating back to 2003. In those 14 games, the Pirates posted six shutouts and outscored Park Rapids 84-13.
Molly Aukes thought the Park Rapids volleyball team could compile a .500 record this season. The Panthers were on pace to accomplish that goal, but nine straight losses to end the season prevented that from happening. In addition, five close losses during the season turned a possible .500 season into a 6-17 season. "We had a very hard-working varsity team. We returned a large number of girls with varsity experience and they didn't allow themselves to use "being a young team" as an excuse," said Aukes.
After battling through two scoreless periods, the Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley girls hockey team scored two quick goals and a pair of empty-net goals in the third period to spark a 4-1 win over Pequot Lakes last Friday night at the Ted O. Johnson Ice Arena. Park Rapids goalie Shania Johnson made 15 saves in the first two periods to keep the game tied. Jessica Gapinski's breakaway goal with 13:06 to play broke the scoreless tie before Ashley Thelen scored with 10:18 to play to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
Kerry Johnson's ultimate goal for the Park Rapids boys and girls cross-country teams this season was to send both teams to the state Class A meet. Even though both teams didn't advance to state, Johnson received the next best thing when the girls qualified for state for the third year in a row and the boys sent an individual to state for the first time since 2004. Senior Lydia Lutz led the Panthers by earning all-state honors after placing sixth in her fifth and final state meet.
Advancing to the consolation finals at the state Class A girls swimming and diving meet fulfilled the main goal for Park Rapids' Mandy Schirmers, Allycia Zinke, Emily Creager and Katherine Erickson. During Saturday's finals at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, Erickson capped off her junior season by breaking her own school record in the 500-yard freestyle by placing 13th in 5:23.42 and followed by placing 13th in the 100 backstroke with a 1:01.25. Schirmers capped off her senior season by finishing 11th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:08.68.