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Confident Panthers earned state berths in 12 events

Mady Vaudrin (middle) ran away from the field to win the 100-meter dash at last Saturday’s Section 8A meet. Vaudrin is one of 14 Park Rapids athletes competing at state.

     Last season, the Park Rapids boys and girls track teams combined to qualify 13 individuals in 15 events for the state Class A meet.

     That group ended up placing in three events as five individuals brought home medals.

     With 11 of those individuals being underclassmen, the Panthers were expecting to be represented by another strong contingent of athletes at this year’s state meet.

     The Panthers turned in another strong performance at last Saturday’s Section 8A meet at Walker as 14 individuals qualified for state in 12 events.

     Seniors Mady Vaudrin, Austin Carlson, Kurt Fritze and Bryce Brovitch; juniors Megan Grimes and Isaac Overmyer; sophomores Abby Mueller, Paige Hill and Megan Olson; and eighth grader Tori Hilmanowski returned to state while sophomores Remington Hagan and Tristan Breitweser and freshmen Lydia Kantonen and Ellery Overmyer earned their first trip to state by placing either first or second at the section meet.

     For the girls, Vaudrin won the 100-meter dash, Grimes took first in the 100 hurdles and Mueller was the runner-up in the 200 dash to qualify in individual events while three relay teams – Grimes, Mueller, Hill and Vaudrin in the 4 x 100 relay; Grimes, Olson, Overmyer and Mueller in the 4 x 400 relay; and Kantonen, Hilmanowski, Overmyer and Olson in the 4 x 800 relay – qualified as section champs. Those performances helped the Panthers win the section title for the fifth year in a row.

     For the boys, Carlson repeated as the section champ in the 400 dash, Fritze repeated as the section runner-up in the 300 hurdles, and Overmyer defended his section titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 as all three returned to state in individual events. In addition, Fritze, Hagan, Brovitch and Carlson won the section title in the 4 x 400 relay while Fritze, Hagan, Breitweser and Carlson won the section title in the 4 x 200 relay as the Panthers qualified two relays for state for the first time since 1995.

     Last year, Vaudrin finished sixth in the 100 and joined Sarah Harshman, Mueller and Hill on the 4 x 100 relay team that placed seventh as the girls scored 7 points. Overmyer placed sixth in the 3,200 to earn all-state honors for the second year in a row as the boys scored 4 points.

     Those 14 individuals will be looking to compete in today’s (Saturday’s) state finals at Hamline University in St. Paul, move up in the team standings and bring home more medals.

Panthers send three relays to state

     Last season, the Panthers qualified for state in the 4 x 100 relay, 4 x 200 relay and 4 x 400 relay.

     This year, the Panthers qualified for state in the 4 x 100, 4 x 400 and 4 x 800 relays.

     The Panthers opened last Saturday’s section running events by qualifying four girls in the first event as Kantonen, Hilmanowski, Overmyer and Olson won the 4 x 800 relay in 9:52.15. East Grand Forks was second in 9:56.68.

     Entering the section meet, the Panthers had the top seed time of 10:10.36.

     “I was nervous, but I thought we had a pretty good chance,” said Hilmanowski. “We were trying to get first.”

     “I was really nervous, but I was kind of confident,” said Kantonen. “I knew some teams could run faster.”

     “I knew it would be close,” said Olson.

     “I was really, really nervous, but I was pretty sure we were going to go,” said Overmyer.

     Entering the state meet, that relay team was seeded No. 6 out of 16 qualifiers.

     “I’m hoping we place,” said Hilmanowski.

     “I don’t know what to expect,” said Kantonen. “I’m hoping we run faster.”

     “Hopefully we all drop time,” said Olson.

     “I’m hoping we finish in the top 9,” said Overmyer. “I feel we can definitely medal.”

     With three members returning from last year’s 4 x 100 relay, that group was more confident of returning to state.

     The Panthers entered the section meet with the fastest seed time of 51.35. Grimes, Mueller, Hill and Vaudrin topped that time with a winning time of 51.25. Roseau was second in 52.55.

     “I was nervous, but I knew if we ran hard we could get it,” said Grimes, who ran on this relay for only the third time this season. “We worked hard on our handoffs and it paid off.”

     “I wasn’t worried at all,” said Mueller. “I knew our chances were good.”

     “I thought we’d do well,” said Hill. “We just had to get the baton around the track.”

     “I was pretty confident we’d win it,” said Vaudrin. “All we had to do was run a clean race and get the baton around.”

     Last year, the Panthers clocked a 50.74 to finish fifth during preliminaries and followed with a 50.87 to finish seventh in the finals. Even though the Panthers were seeded No. 9 out of 16 relay teams this year, all four were confident of finishing higher than that spot and making a run at breaking the school record of 50.46.

     “The times are so close,” said Grimes. “I’m hoping we can break the school record. I feel we can get in the top 3. If we can run a low 50, that should get us there.”

     “We medaled last year, so I’m hoping we medal again this year,” said Mueller.

     “I definitely want us to get the school record and finish in the top 3,” said Hill.

     “We made it to the finals last year and I want to make it to the finals again this year,” said Vaudrin. “We’re shooting to break the school record and medal again.”

     Even though the Panthers had two different runners in the 4 x 400 relay, that group was confident of qualifying for state in that event.

     Grimes, Olson, Overmyer and Mueller entered the section meet with the best time of 4:11.59. Despite clocking a 4:12.16, the Panthers were able to win the section title ahead of East Grand Forks’ runner-up time of 4:14.41.

     “I was so nervous after I heard other teams were shuffling their relays,” said Grimes. “It was so fun to win that relay.”

     “I thought it would be a lot closer,” said Olson.

     “I was a little more nervous,” said Overmyer. “I thought our chances were good if we all pulled off good times.”

     “I was really nervous before the race because I knew what the other teams could do,” said Mueller.

     At last year’s state meet, Grimes, Hilmanowski, Mueller and Grace Bateman finished 13th in 4:13.79. The 4 x 400 relay team entered state this year seeded No. 14 out of 16 teams.

     “I think we’ll drop time and go even faster,” said Grimes.

     “I don’t know what to expect,” said Olson. “I hope we drop more time.”

     “I want us to get to the finals,” said Overmyer.

     “I’m hoping we improve our times and do better than we did last year,” said Mueller.

Vaudrin returns in 100 dash

     Vaudrin was hoping to cap off her senior season with her first section title in the 100.

     After taking second in the section in that race in 2010 and 2013, Vaudrin fulfilled her quest with a winning time of 12.80 on Saturday. Bagley/Fosston’s Camille Mershman was second in 13:25.

     Vaudrin, who entered the section meet as the top seed with a 12.80, had the fastest preliminary time of 12.99 before running away with the section title.

     “After getting second two times, I was pretty excited to win it as a senior,” said Vaudrin. “I knew I had a good chance to be the section champ if I got out of the blocks and ran my race.”

     Vaudrin finished 21st in her state debut in the 100 in 2010 before placing sixth during last year’s state preliminaries with a 12.78 and following with a 12.97 to finish sixth in the finals. Now Vaudrin will be looking to cap off her senior season by bringing home another state medal.

     “It would be nice to get back in the 12s,” said Vaudrin, who was seeded No. 14 out of 24 state qualifiers. “I’m shooting for top 3.”

Grimes returns in 100 hurdles

     Grimes just missed advancing to the state finals last season in the 100 hurdles.

     The Park Rapids junior is determined to make it to the finals this season.

     Grimes entered the section meet with the best time of 16.44. Grimes lived up to that ranking by clocking a 16.85 to lead the way in preliminaries.

In the finals, Grimes clocked a 16.43 to easily repeat as the section champ as Roseau’s Maddie Jerome took second in 16.73.

     “After looking at the seeds, I was confident,” said Grimes. “I just had to run a good race to win it. I was just trying to get a good seed time for state.”

     At last year’s state meet, Grimes finished 10th during preliminaries with a 16.25. Grimes, who is seeded No. 21 out of 22 state qualifiers, is looking to improve on that time this year and advance to the finals.

     “I’m hoping I get to the finals and place,” said Grimes. “With the competition there, I’m hoping to get into the 15s.”

Mueller returns in 200 dash

     Mueller has some incentive in her second trip to state in the 200 dash.

     At the section meet, Mueller entered as the No. 2 seed with a 26.83 behind the 26.68 by Norman County’s Morgan Miller.

     Mueller had the top preliminary time of 26.72 with Miller second at 27.05. But in the finals, Miller claimed the section title with a 26.50 while Mueller took second in 26.58.

     “I was kind of bummed (Miller) got me at the end,” said Mueller. “I’m going for her at state.”

     Mueller just missed advancing to last year’s state finals by placing 10th in 26.43. Mueller is looking to back up her No. 8 seed time out of 16 qualifiers and advance to the finals.

     “I’m pretty confident. I’m ready to go,” said Mueller. “I’m hoping for a PR (personal record), make it to the finals and medal.”

Carlson looking for first medal

     History repeated itself as Carlson won the section title in the 400 for the third year in a row.

     Last season, Carlson was the No. 2 seed behind Crookston’s Brandt Delage, but defeated Delage in the finals to return to state.

     This season, Delage had the best seed time of 51.47, just ahead of Carlson’s 51.48. That wasn’t a concern for the Park Rapids senior.

     Carlson ran away from the field with a personal-best 50.63 as East Grand Forks’ Zachary Tingelstad was second in 51.24 and Delage took third in 51.49.

     “I won it the past two years and I was pretty confident I was going to win it again,” said Carlson.

     As a sophomore, Carlson placed 13th at state in 52.06 and followed by placing 14th in 51.32 last season. Carlson, who entered state as the No. 7 seed, is determined to reach the state finals in the 400 for the first time.

     “I’m hoping to go under 50 and make it to the second day,” said Carlson. “It would be cool to finish in the top 5. If I can go under 50, that should get me there.”

Fritze hoping to reach finals

     Fritze knew he had to run one of the best races of the season to return to the state meet in the 300 hurdles.

     Entering the section meet, Fritze was the No. 3 seed with a 43.12. That trailed Park Christian’s Matt Moberg’s time of 41.69 and Hawley/Ulen-Hitterdal’s Philip Teeples’ time of 42.62.

     As expected, Moberg claimed the section title with a 41.25 while Fritze followed in 41.44 to edge Teeples’ 41.59 for the other state berth.

     “I was hoping to make it, but I knew I had to work for it,” said Fritze. “I hit five hurdles, but I was able to scrape by. I was determined to go to state in that event.”

     Fritze is hoping to take a step forward and advance to the finals at state after just missing a trip to the finals last year by placing 10th in 41.87. Fritze entered state as the No. 15 seed.

     “I hope I can medal,” said Fritze.

Overmyer seeks another medal

     Not being the top seed in either the 1,600 or 3,200 entering the section meet didn’t concern Overmyer.

     Overmyer was the No. 4 seed in the 1,600 with a 4:46.03 and the No. 2 seed in the 3,200 with a 10:44.38.

     Having qualified for state as the section champ in both races last season, Overmyer was confident he would do the same this year. The Park Rapids junior did just that, clocking a 4:33.66 to defeat Red Lake County’s Cody Gagner’s 4:36.65 in the 1,600 and clocking a 10:09.61 to defeat Park Christian’s Zach Kvalvog’s 10:11.04 in the 3,200.

     “I was pretty concerned in the mile. I knew it was going to be pretty tough. I was pretty sure I’d get second. I was really happy being the section champ,” said Overmyer. “I was a lot more confident than I should have been in the 2 mile. I thought I’d lose (Kvalvog) on lap six or seven, but he stayed with me. It was a lot easier last year. It was pretty cool winning it.”

     Overmyer will be seeking to earn all-state honors for the third year in a row. Overmyer finished ninth in the 3,200 in 9:58.20 and finished sixth in 9:43.91 last year while placing 12th in the 1,600 in 4:38.18 last season. Overmyer entered state seeded No. 12 in the 1,600 and No. 10 in the 3,200.

     “Like last year, I’m more focused on the 2 mile, but hopefully I’ll do better in the mile,” said Overmyer. “I’m going to give all I’ve got in the 2 mile and see what I have left for the mile. If I could go 9:34 in the 2 mile, that would be great. I definitely want to get another medal in the 2 mile. Hopefully I can get in the top 5. I should be able to do that if I can hang with the leaders.”

Relays look for spots in finals

     Carlson and Fritze were confident the 4 x 400 relay would repeat as section champs and return to state.

     That duo took a gamble to help get the 4 x 200 relay team to state also.

     Carlson qualified for state in the 200 dash as a sophomore and junior while Fritze advanced to state in the 110 hurdles last season. Instead of trying to get back to state in those events this year, the two seniors elected to give up individual points and help bring another relay team to state.

     That gamble paid off as Carlson and Fritze joined Hagan and Breitweser on the section champion 4 x 200 relay.

     That relay set the tone for the entire day. Despite entering the section meet with the No. 3 seed time of 1:36.45, the Panthers hit their handoffs and won the section title in 1:34.16 to edge Bagley/Fosston’s 1:34.26 and East Grand Forks’ 1:34.98. Qualifying for state was impressive since this group ran together for the first time at the subsection meet.

     “I could have made it to state in the 200 again, but the guys at state are so fast. We had a legitimate shot to go in the 4 x 2, so I decided it would be more fun to try and go to state in another relay,” said Carlson. “I was a little skeptical because we were seeded third and we had only run together one time. I knew it would be a fight with us, Bagley and East Grand Forks. I felt good about our chances of getting second, but it was nice to get first.”

     “We had a chance to go to state in that relay and we took advantage of it and now we’re there,” said Fritze. “Winning it was awesome. I’m stoked we got that relay to state.”

     “I was pretty confident,” said Hagan, who made the switch from golf to track this season. “I knew if we could get our handoffs down we’d do it.”

     “I wasn’t sure we’d get first, but I knew we could get at least second if we had good handoffs,” said Breitweser. “Remington and my handoff was pretty bad (at subsections). When we had a good handoff, I knew we had it. I was pretty pumped we got first.”

     Despite entering state as the No. 14 seed, that 4 x 200 relay team was looking to break the school record of 1:33.15 and earn a spot in the finals.

     “I’m hoping we do well,” said Hagan. “We’re going to bring it to them.”

     “It’s going to be tough, but I want us to make it to the second day,” said Breitweser. “We’re only a second off the school record. Hopefully we can cut a second and break the record.”

     “We’ll see how it goes,” said Fritze. “We want to make the most of it.”

     With three members returning from last year’s 4 x 400 relay team, the Panthers entered the section meet with plenty of confidence of earning a return trip to state.

     Fritze, Hagan, Brovitch and Carlson entered with the top time of 3:37.03 and ended the section meet by dropping that time to 3:29.77 to repeat as section champs. East Grand Forks was second in 3:30.91.

     “I was really confident,” said Hagan. “I knew we had a pretty good shot to win it and go to state.”

     “I thought our chances were pretty good. If something went wrong, I thought we’d still get at least second,” said Brovitch. “East Grand Forks was our main competition, but I thought we would take first.”

     “I was very confident in the 4 x 4,” said Fritze. “I knew everyone would pull their weight and we’d win it.”

     “I knew we were going to state in that relay,” said Carlson. “I knew it was going to be a battle between us and East Grand Forks. No other team was close to us. I knew we would run faster than them. It was nice to get first.”

     Last season, Fritze, Jake Waggoner, Brovitch and Carlson won the section title in 3:37.03 and would have clocked a 3:34.08 at state, but were disqualified. This year, that relay team entered state as the No. 7 seed and was looking to earn a spot in the finals.

     “Hopefully we all run well and we get to the second day,” said Hagan.

     “I think everybody will drop some time,” said Brovitch. “I’m hoping we get in the top 5.”

     “We want to come back with a vengeance after getting DQ’s last year,” said Fritze. “Hopefully we can place this year.”

     “I want us to make it to the second day and medal,” said Carlson. “We’re ranked seventh, but we’re shooting for top 5.”