Brandon, Wolff receive top honors

Four of the best athletes of the Class of 2007 and four of the most recognizable names in the history of Park Rapids athletics were honored at the 30th annual All Sports Banquet at the Area High School gym Wednesday night.

Four of the best athletes of the Class of 2007 and four of the most recognizable names in the history of Park Rapids athletics were honored at the 30th annual All Sports Banquet at the Area High School gym Wednesday night.

Ben Brandon and Janessa Wolff were named the Male and Female Student Athletes while Doug Haas and Amy Luther were named the Male and Female Outstanding Athletes.

In addition, Amber (Bohman) Olson, Mark Costello, Darril Larison and Tammy (McGrane) Fox became the inaugural inductees into the Panther Athletic Hall of Fame.

The four Student Athletes and Outstanding Athletes had memorable careers at Park Rapids.

Wolff had a record-setting career as a four-year letterwinner in volleyball and basketball. Wolff also lettered two years in softball.


In volleyball, Wolff earned Mid-State Conference honors as a sophomore, junior and senior and set school records for blocks (111) and kills (337) in a season and digs (35) and kills (30) in a match. Wolff served as captain her senior year.

Wolff also excelled on the basketball court, earning all-conference honors all four varsity years and winning team Most Valuable Player honors three times. Wolff was also the Mid-State Conference MVP twice and earned all-state honors her junior and senior years while serving as captain her senior year. Wolff was also named the Gatorade Minnesota Girls Basketball Player of the Year and was one of five finalists for the Minnesota Miss Basketball award. Wolff averaged 22.0 points, 16.4 rebounds and 3.9 blocked shots a game this year while setting numerous school records, including career points (2,116), career rebounds (1,348), career blocked shots (363), points in a game (42) and rebounds in a game (24). Wolff will play basketball at Penn State University next year.

Wolff also lettered two years in softball, earning all-conference honors as a sophomore.

Brandon was another record-setting athlete for the Panthers while earning one letter in cross country, five letters in swimming and three letters in golf.

During his junior year, Brandon was named the team's Most Valuable in cross country.

Brandon served as captain of the boys swim team three years and qualified for the state meet as a sophomore in the 500-yard freestyle (placing 15th) and the 200 freestyle relay (placing 15th). Brandon was an all-conference and all-section swimmer as a sophomore, an all-conference honorable mention swimmer as a junior and an all-conference and all-section swimmer as a senior. Brandon ranks No. 3 in the 200 freestyle, No. 5 in the 500 freestyle, No. 9 in the 100 freestyle and No. 10 in the 200 individual medley on the school's all-time list.

Brandon also lettered in golf three years, competing in the Section 6A meet as a junior and earning all-conference honorable mention honors as a senior.

Haas earned letters in four sports: one in cross country, two in football, three in basketball and three in baseball.


Haas lettered in cross country as a sophomore before switching to football as a junior where he caught 12 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns. Haas missed the entire football season his senior year with an ankle injury.

Haas returned for the basketball season and earned all-conference honorable mention honors after averaging 6.6 points and 3.2 assists a game as a captain.

This spring, Haas earned his third letter in baseball.

Luther was a two-sport letterwinner, earning five letters in tennis and four letters in softball.

Luther compiled 99 wins during her tennis career and was an all-conference selection as a sophomore, junior and senior. Luther qualified for the state tournament in doubles as a junior and served as a captain her senior season.

In softball, Luther was an all-conference and all-section selection as a junior and served as captain as a senior.

The four Hall of Fame inductees also compiled some impressive stats at Park Rapids.

Olson won six state titles in track (100 and 200 dashes in 1992 and 1993 and the 4 x 200 relay in 1994 and 1995) and won 14 state medals during her high school career. She also competed at the state meet in floor exercise when the Park Rapids gymnastics team qualified for state as a team in 1995. Olson also earned three letters in cross country and three letters in gymnastics.


Costello was the state wrestling champion at 103 pounds in 1971 and 1972 and finished fifth at 95 pounds in 1969 and third at 103 pounds in 1970 when wrestling had only one class. Costello was a four-time Mid-State Conference, District and Region 8 champion and helped the Panthers place second in the state in 1970.

Fox won the state title in the 180-yard hurdles in 1976 and was a two-time state champion in the 880 run in 1977 and 1978 and was the state runner-up in cross country in 1977. Fox also lettered in volleyball and basketball at Park Rapids.

Larison was the head wrestling coach at Park Rapids from 1963-71 and 1984-86 and the head girls golf coach from 1984-95. Larison led the Panthers to their runner-up finish at the state wrestling tournament in 1970 and coached 13 state placewinners during his career. Larison also led the Park Rapids girls golf team to the state tournament in 1988 and to nine Subsection 8-29A titles.

While the naming of the Student Athletes and Outstanding Athletes and the induction of the four Hall of Fame members were the highlights of the evening, this annual banquet honored all the senior athletes.

In addition to Wolff and Luther, the other candidates for the Female Student Athlete were Megan Goebel (swimming, golf), Ashley Grewe (volleyball, basketball), Sarah Guida (volleyball, track) and Jena Pike (tennis, basketball).

Joining Brandon as candidates for the Male Student Athlete were Chris Bruhn (hockey, baseball), Seth Overly (football, basketball), Brady Pederson (football, basketball, tennis) and Ben Waller (football, tennis).

To be eligible for the Student Athlete award, seniors must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5 or be in the top five of their class; participated in a minimum of two sports in grades 10-12 or be a state participant in one sport sometime during grades 10-12; and have no confirmed rules violations.

The list of candidates for the Male Outstanding Athlete were Brandon, Bruhn, Dusty Craig (football, basketball, golf), Justin Dennis (hockey, golf), Haas, Joey Meinert (cross country, wrestling), Overly, Pederson, Joe Penning (hockey, tennis), Chris Sandretzky (football, wrestling), Ben Sperle (cross country, swimming, track) and Waller.


Vying for the Female Outstanding Athlete were Sarah Ament (swimming, basketball, track), Goebel, Leah Goetz (volleyball, basketball, track), Grewe, Guida, Carly Helfrich (swimming, softball), Danielle Kent (tennis, track), Luther, Leah Moorhouse (volleyball, softball), Pike, Brandi Werner (swimming) and Wolff.

The criteria for the Outstanding Athlete include participating in at least two sports in grades 10-12 or competing at state in one sport sometime during grades 10-12; having no confirmed rules violations during their senior year; and making satisfactory progress towards graduation.

The banquet also presented Lamb Weston/RDO Frozen with the Friend of the Foundation award while Steve Maanum, Larry Novak and Itch Eberhart received Blanket Awards for their contributions to the Park Rapids athletic programs. Maanum coached volleyball, basketball and tennis while Eberhart coached football, basketball and baseball. Novak served as the music director for 13 years.

Nine $600 Park Rapids Memorial Scholarships were presented to Ament, Goetz, Grewe, Goebel, Jake Hanson, Luther, Overly, Pederson and Pike. Pederson and Wolff were also presented Academic Achievement Awards while juniors Grant Dierkhising and Laura Haugland were recognized as this year's Excel Award winners.

The evening also featured the parade of champions, presentation of senior plaques and recognition of state participants (freshman Victoria Lutz in cross country; sophomore Bryce Klasen and juniors Elliot Lawrence, Jake Sheeran and Colton Storseth in boys swimming; junior Lee Branstrom in wrestling; junior Kaitlyn Nelson in girls swimming; Ament, Goebel, Helfrich and Werner in girls swimming; and Meinert in wrestling).

Entertainment was provided by the Park Rapids choir while the annual "Year in Review" video show capped off the evening.

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