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Cross country: Panthers earned trips to state

Park Rapids' eight qualifiers look to end the season with their best times against the best Class A runners.

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Qualifying for the 2021 state Class A cross country meet for Park Rapids were (from left) Thomas Lopez, Eli Bervig, Noah Huot, Blaine Hensel, Ephraim Bervig, Darryl Etter, Logan Maanum and Morgan Koppelman. Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

Noah Huot, Logan Maanum, Darryl Etter, Eli Bervig, Blaine Hensel, Ephraim Bervig and Thomas Lopez entered the Section 8A boys cross country meet at Bagley’s Twin Pines Golf Course on Oct. 29 confident they could lead Park Rapids to the state Class A meet.

Park Rapids’ Morgan Koppelman wasn’t so sure of earning a trip to state in the girls race.

All eight were able to qualify for state as the Park Rapids boys finished second in the team standings while Koppelman earned an individual berth.

Those Park Rapids runners will look to cap off the season at the state Class A meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Saturday, Nov. 6.

Boys fulfill goal

After winning three meet titles and finishing second in their division at the Milaca Mega Meet during the regular season, the Panthers entered the section meet poised to qualify for state for the first time since 2012.

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Those seven runners expected Perham would repeat as section champs as the Yellowjackets entered the race rated No. 1 in the state Class A poll. The Panthers, who entered rated No. 11 in the state poll, expected Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton would be their main competition to secure the second trip to state.

As expected, Perham won the section title with 34 points. Park Rapids followed with 72 points to easily outdistance D-G-F’s 126 total for the runner-up spot and a state berth.

Huot (a sophomore) was the Panthers’ top finisher by placing eighth with a 5K time of 17:27 while Maanum (a junior) was 12th in 17:43, Etter (the lone senior on the team) finished 15th in 17:47, Eli Bervig (a junior) was 19th in 17:56 and Hensel (a junior) placed 20th in 17:58 to comprise the team score. Two freshmen - Ephraim Bervig (25th in 18:16) and Lopez (40th in 19:09) - rounded out Park Rapids’ seven-member team.

“I felt our chances were pretty good going in,” said Huot, who competed in cross country for the first time. “I wanted to go as a team. We trained hard, so I thought we had a good chance.”

‘We have a pretty tight lineup with our times, so I was pretty confident,” said Maanum, who finished 31st as Minnewaska Area’s No. 2 runner at last year’s Section 6A meet. “I thought the whole team would be up on the leaderboard. Our strategy was to be up there and compete with Perham. I’m excited we get to move on.”

“I had a couple of goals when I joined cross country and going to state as a team was the biggest goal,” said Etter, who qualified as an individual last season, but didn’t get the opportunity to compete at state when COVID canceled the Class A meet. “Last year was tough. I worked really hard to get to state. It was nice to know I qualified, but I didn’t get the experience of state. I knew what the competition was and I wasn’t worried about the other teams. I knew we were a good team and I knew we would definitely make it there. I had a lot of faith that we’d make it as a team.”

“I thought we had a pretty good chance. Perham was the only other good team in the section,” said Eli Bervig. “It was important to make it. I thought we had a good chance since the beginning of the season.”

“I knew our chances of beating Perham were low, but I thought our chances (of getting second) were pretty high. We worked the whole season for it,” said Hensel, who ran in his first section meet. “It felt good to finally get the chance to run (at sections). My goal was to keep myself under control and break 18:00, which I did.”

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“I felt we had a pretty good chance. Our only competition was Perham,” said Ephraim Bervig. “I thought we had OK times. We want to peak at state.”

“I thought our chances were pretty good,” said Lopez, who also was running in his first section meet. “I knew we could make it.”

Joining Perham (which enters state rated No. 2 in the latest Class A poll) and Park Rapids (No. 12) in the 16-team field are No. 1 Nova Classical Academy, No. 3 Northwest, No. 4 St. Cloud Cathedral, No. 5 Staples-Motley, No. 6 West Central Area, No. 7 Parnassus Prep, No. 8 Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, No. 9 Lewiston-Altura/Rushford-Peterson/Houston, No. 10 Rochester Lourdes, No. 11 Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd, St. James, Mankato Loyola/Cleveland, Luverne and Esko.

The Panthers will look to cap off the season by improving on their state ranking.

“I’ve never been there before, so I don’t know what to expect,” said Huot. “It’s going to be really fun.”

“Hopefully I can get close to my PR (personal record) and we do good as a team,” said Maanum.

“I want to not go out too fast and hit my goal of 17:40. Staples has about the same depth and speed as us and I want to stick with them,” said Eli Bervig. “Getting in the top 10 as a team would be really cool.”

“We’re going to go out and do as well as we can,” said Hensel. “We want to get higher than what we’re seeded.”

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“I’d like to break my PR and place in the top 8 as a team,” said Ephraim Bervig. “It’s going to be hard, but I think we can do it.”

“I hope we all get our PRs,” said Lopez. “We’re going to try our hardest.”

“It’s going to be my last race, so I’m going to make it worth it,” said Etter. “Finishing in the top 5 as a team is my goal. I think we can do it if we all have our best day.”

Koppelman qualifies

After having a successful track season, Koppelman didn’t want to stop running.

After a summer of putting on the miles, Koppelman decided to compete in both tennis and cross country this fall.

“I wanted to keep running and if I had the opportunity I’d try it,” said Koppelman about competing in two sports this fall. “I wanted to do it for fun.”

That decision paid off as Koppelman earned a trip to state in her first season of competing in cross country.

Koppelman finished 13th overall with a 5K time of 20:56. Perham won the section title with 35 points and Hawley was second with 42 points. After eliminating the runners on those two teams, Koppelman earned the No. 4 individual spot as the top six finishers not on Perham or Hawley qualified for state. Finishing ahead of Koppelman as individual qualifiers were Nevis’ Jade Rypkema in 19:19, Lake Park-Audubon’s Ellen Schauer in 20:00 and United North Central’s Anjalie Aho in 20:11.

“I didn’t have too high of expectations. I thought I had a chance, but I was kind of surprised,” said Koppelman, who was the Panthers’ top runner in all five meets she ran during the regular season. “I knew I had to get my PR to get it and I got my PR.”

Koppelman is looking forward to racing against the state’s best in her first trip to the Class A meet. Rypkema enters as the top-rated runner in the state.

“There’s going to be really good competition,” said the Park Rapids junior. “I hope to get another PR and have fun.”

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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