Head coach Andrew Lachowitzer expected a successful season from the Park Rapids boys track and field team this spring.
The Panthers met those expectations by winning four meet titles during the regular season, posting a runner-up finish at the Mid-State Conference meet, winning the Subsection 8-29A title, placing second at the Section 8A meet and sending eight individuals in four events to the state Class A meet.
Depth was the key to the Panthers’ success as 31 athletes placed in a varsity meet this spring. That group featured seniors Seth Breitweser, Chris Day, Jerry Engst, Spencer Fritze, Zach Fritze, Payton Hill, Thomas Melvin, Jake Reish, Preston Renneberg, Kian Scott and Jacob Stewart; juniors Eli Bessman, Hunter Brandt, Kolby Brandt, Max Crist, Jeff Haas, Brian Karkinen, Keegan Moses and Avery Wolff; sophomores Skylar Hagen and Lane Monaghan; freshmen Darryl Etter, Parker Harmon, Tristan Hill, Josiah May, Sam Reish, Kaleb Stearns, Sam Warne and Zach Van Batavia; and eighth graders Dawson Dahring and Gavin Fischer.
Park Rapids opened the season by placing ninth out of 22 teams at the Lions Invitational at Bemidji State University with 27 points as Bemidji topped the field with 114.66 points. Breitweser, Kolby Brandt, Stearns and Monaghan took first in the 4 x 800-meter relay at that indoor meet.
Two winning efforts in the relays led the Panthers to the team title at the 21-team Little Amik Invitational at BSU. Breitweser, Stearns, Monaghan and Hagen won the 4 x 800 relay while Breitweser, Stearns, Monaghan and Day took first in the 4 x 400 relay as Park Rapids compiled 81.50 points in the second indoor meet of the season.
In the final indoor meet at BSU, Wolff tied for first in the high jump as the Panthers placed fifth out of 20 teams with 39 points at the Beaver Relays. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton finished first with 109 points.
Five winning efforts sparked the Panthers to the team title at the 13-team Park Rapids Invitational with 157 points. Breitweser won the 800 run, Spencer Fritze took first in the pole vault and Payton Hill led the way in the shot put. Breitweser, Kolby Brandt, Monaghan and Hagen won the 4 x 800 relay while Breitweser, Kolby Brandt, Stearns and Day won the 4 x 400 relay in the first outdoor meet of the season.
Park Rapids claimed runner-up honors at the Perham Invitational with 127 points as Perham topped the seven-team field with 140 points. Turning in winning performances for the Panthers were Spencer Fritze in the pole vault; Wolff in the high jump; and Spencer Fritze, Zach Fritze, May and Day in the 4 x 100 relay.
Seven first-place finishes helped the Panthers compile 229.50 points to capture the title at the nine-team Park Rapids Enterprise Invitational. Kolby Brandt, Stearns, Monaghan and Hagen won the 4 x 800 relay; Spencer Fritze, Zach Fritze, May and Engst won the 4 x 100 relay; and Breitweser, Kolby Brandt, Stearns and Day won the 4 x 400 relay. Also taking first were Spencer Fritze in the pole vault, Monaghan in the 1,600 run, Engst in the triple jump and Crist in the 110 hurdles.
Winning showings by Wolff in the high jump; Payton Hill in the shot put; Breitweser, Kolby Brandt, Monaghan and Stearns in the 4 x 800 relay; and Spencer Fritze, Zach Fritze, Engst and Day in the 4 x 100 relay led the Panthers to the team title at the nine-team May Day Invitational at Walker with 148 points.
The Panthers followed with a pair of fourth-place finishes at Detroit Lakes. Breitweser took first in the 800 run as Park Rapids placed fourth out of seven teams at the Detroit Lakes Invitational with 63 points as Moorhead took first with 146 points. At the Section 8AA True Team meet at Detroit Lakes, the Panthers compiled 432 points to place fourth. Detroit Lakes won the True Team title with 603 points in this 11-team meet.
At the Mid-State Conference meet at Detroit Lakes, the Panthers used winning efforts by Breitweser in the 800 run; Payton Hill in the discus; and Breitweser, Kolby Brandt, Stearns and Monaghan in the 4 x 800 relay to place second with 132 points. Those five earned all-conference honors. Earning all-conference honorable mention honors by placing second were Spencer Fritze in the pole vault; Monaghan in the 1,600 run; Crist in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles; Wolff in the high jump; Payton Hill in the shot put; Breitwser, Kolby Brandt, Day and Karkinen in the 4 x 400 relay; and Spencer Fritze, Zach Fritze, Engst and Day in the 4 x 100 relay. Detroit Lakes topped the five-team field with 198.50 points.
The Panthers dominated the Subsection 8-29A meet by compiling 197 points to top the 10-team field at Park Rapids. Breitweser, Kolby Brandt, Stearns and Monaghan won the 4 x 800 relay as the Panthers won the subsection title for the eighth time in the last nine years. Park Rapids took second in the other relays with Spencer Fritze, Zach Fritze, Engst and Day running the 4 x 100; Zach Fritze, May, Engst and Day running the 4 x 200; and Zach Fritze, Kolby Brandt, Stearns and Day running the 4 x 400. Also finishing second were Spencer Fritze in the pole vault, Engst in the triple jump, Crist in the 110 hurdles, Warne in the 3,200 run, Wolff in the high jump, Payton Hill in the discus and Stewart in the shot put.
Also scoring points at the subsection meet were Breitweser (third in the 800), Monaghan (third in the 1,600), Crist (third in the 300 hurdles), Etter (third in the 3,200), Haas (third in the 110 hurdles, fourth in the 300 hurdles), Engst (third in the pole vault), Stearns (fourth in the 800), Hagen (fourth in the 1,600 and seventh in the 800), Moses (fourth in the 3,200), Jake Reish (fourth in the triple jump, fifth in the high jump), Payton Hill (fourth in the shot put), Stewart (fourth in the discus), Kolby Brandt (fifth in the 400), Wolff (fifth in the long jump), May (fifth in the 200 and seventh in the 100), Harmon (fifth in the 1,600), Tristan Hill (fifth in the shot put), Scott (sixth in the 400), Fischer (sixth in the pole vault) and Renneberg (eighth in the high jump).
The other subsection competitors were Spencer Fritze (ninth in the 100), Sam Reish (ninth in the triple jump), Tristan Hill (11th in the discus), Hunter Brandt (12th in the 200) and Jake Reish (12th in the 100).
The Panthers excelled at the Section 8A meet by compiling 60.50 points and qualifying for the state Class A meet in four events. Kolby Brandt, Stearns, Monaghan and Breitweser began the running events by taking second in the 4 x 800 relay in 8:19.81 to qualify for state. That time broke the school record of 8:21.3 set by Bill Simpson, Wes Dwight, Mark Lingle and Jeff Packer in 1982. Engst, Zach Fritze, Spencer Fritze and Day qualified for state with a runner-up finish in the 4 x 100 relay before Breitweser advanced with a runner-up finish in the 800 run. Spencer Fritze capped off the meet by placing second in the pole vault to earn a state trip.
Wolff just missed advancing to state by placing third in the high jump while Zach Fritze, Breitweser, Day and Karkinen finished fifth in the 4 x 400 relay. Adding sixth-place showings were Crist in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles and the 4 x 200 relay team of Zach Fritze, Engst, Day and May. Also scoring points were Monaghan (seventh in the 1,600), Payton Hill (seventh in the discus), Stewart (seventh in the shot put), Engst (tied for seventh in the pole vault), Hagen (eighth in the 1,600) and Etter (eighth in the 3,200).
The other section competitors for the Panthers were Engst (ninth in the triple jump), Haas (11th in the 110 hurdles, 15th in the 300 hurdles), Moses (12th in the 3,200), Jake Reish (12th in the triple jump), Kolby Brandt (12th in the 400), Payton Hill (14th in the shot put), Warne (14th in the 3,200), Stearns (16th in the 800), Fischer (16th in the pole vault) and Wolff (16th in the long jump). Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton claimed the section title with 114 points. There were 22 teams competing at the section meet.
At the state Class A meet, the Panthers failed to qualify for the finals in all four events. Kolby Brandt, Stearns, Monaghan and Breitweser finished 11th in the preliminaries of the 4 x 800 relay while Engst, Spencer Fritze, Zach Fritze and Day placed 12th in the prelims of the 4 x 100 relay. Breitweser placed 15th in the 800 while Spencer Fritze placed 20th in the pole vault. It marked the state debut for everyone except Breitweser, who ran on the Panthers’ 4 x 800 relay team that placed 14th in 2017.
“Overall, I thought the season was very successful. They had high expectations for themselves and it really paid off this season by sending so many kids to state,” said Lachowitzer. “We are very proud of all the boys’ accomplishments this season. From setting the school record in the 4 x 800 to being the first team ever to go to state in the 4 x 100, this group has a lot to be proud of.”
Breitweser scored the most points this season and was named the Panthers’ MVP. Payton Hill received the Leadership Award, Engst was named Most Improved, Day was named Hardest Worker, Hagen was named Rookie of the Year and Hunter Brandt received Most Spirit. Coaches Awards went to Zach Fritze, Stewart and Kolby Brandt.
Also participating in track this season were juniors Marcus Benson, Keeton Koskela and Rex Robbins; sophomores Aaron Gartner, Elliott Nichols and Josiah Odor; freshman Kiergon Wilkins; eighth graders Matthew Dahring, Pierce DeBlieck, Luke Hartung, Blaine Hensel, Lucas Kritzeck and Cameron Runyan; and seventh graders Justin Baker, Alex Brewer, Quinn Hoscheid, Anthony Tyge and Owen Van Batavia.
Even though the Panthers graduated 11 seniors who played key roles in this year’s successful season, Lachowitzer is counting on another successful season on the track from the returning participants next spring.
“We are going to miss the seniors that really helped make this program what it is. They were great leaders and were a fun group to work with. They bought in from Day 1 and will leave this program much better then when they started,” said Lachowitzer. “We would love to see this program continue to grow with more kids coming out and are excited for next season. Although we lose a lot of seniors, our goals and expectations will be very high next season. We have a core of boys coming back that will compete well in True Team, subsections and sections. I believe we can put ourselves in a situation where we have a chance to send a bunch of kids to state again next season.”