It was business as usual for the Park Rapids girls track and field team.
The Panthers put together another successful season by winning three meet titles during the regular season, winning the Subsection 8-29A title for the 14th consecutive year, finishing second at the Section 8A meet and sending three relays and one individual to the state Class A meet.
Park Rapids capped off the season by having senior Julia Johnson, sophomores Hannah Morgan and Kendra Scholz, and freshman Holly Johnson place seventh in the 4 x 100-meter relay and junior Kamree Carlson place ninth in the shot put as the Panthers tied for 54th place at the state meet with 4 points. Juniors Paige Johnson and Jada Renneberg and eighth graders Morgan Koppelman and Natalia Lopez placed 15th in the 4 x 800 relay while the 4 x 200 relay team of Julia Johnson, Morgan, Scholz and Holly Johnson was disqualified.
Depth was one of the Panthers’ strengths as 28 athletes scored points this season. In addition to the nine state qualifiers, that list featured senior Whitney Steffel; junior Cora Willenbring; sophomores Savana Damar, Taylor Dravis and Liesl Smee; freshmen Chelsea Dennis, Sophie Guida, Quinn Hunter, Mackenzie Laferriere and Simone Wolff; eighth graders Olivia Davis, Christine Engst, Julia Harmon, Nadia Yliniemi Hensel, Lyvia Livermore, Riley Pike and Emma Vrieze; and seventh graders Cece Chase and Ava Goodwin.
Morgan was named MVP and received the Team Spirit honor after compiling more than 300 points, Holly Johnson was named Rookie of the Year and Hardest Worker, Lopez was named Most Improved, Julia Johnson and Renneberg received Coaches Awards, and Chase was named Newcomer of the Year. Paige Johnson, Scholz and Holly Johnson scored more than 200 points while Julia Johnson, Carlson, Renneberg, Koppelman and Lopez scored more than 100 points.
“The girls worked very hard this year and were very determined,” said Park Rapids head coach Corey Hill. “We were very proud of them and as coaches saw some wonderful improvements by almost every athlete on this team.”
At the season-opening Lions Invitational at Bemidji State University, the Panthers topped the 22-team field with 65.33 points. Morgan took first in the long jump and 200 dash and joined Julia Johnson, Scholz and Holly Johnson on the winning 4 x 200 relay team.
Morgan (who broke Linda Pachel’s 1985 school record of 16 feet, 11.75 inches in the long jump in the season opener with a leap of 17-1) won the long jump and broke her school record at 17-4 in leading the Panthers to runner-up honors at the Little Amik Invitational at BSU. Morgan also won the 200 dash and joined Julia Johnson, Scholz and Holly Johnson on the winning 4 x 400 relay unit. Thief River Falls led the 21-team field with 85 points while the Panthers compiled 54.50 points.
In the final indoor meet at BSU, the Panthers placed third out of 20 teams at the Beaver Relays with 57 points as Thief River Falls took first with 95 points. Paige Johnson, Renneberg, Koppelman and Lopez had the Panthers’ only winning effort by leading the field in the 4 x 800 relay.
Winning four events led the Panthers to the title at the 13-team Park Rapids Invitational with 141.37 points in their outdoor debut. Morgan won the long jump and joined Julia Johnson, Holly Johnson and Yliniemi Hensel on the winning 4 x 100 relay. Morgan, Julia Johnson, Holly Johnson and Carlson took first in the 4 x 200 relay while Paige Johnson finished first in the high jump.
Morgan won the 200 and the 4 x 100 relay team took first as Park Rapids placed fourth at the Perham Invitational with 67 points. Perham topped the six-team field with 176.50 points.
A dominating performance led the Panthers to the team title at the Park Rapids Enterprise Invitational. Park Rapids used individual winning efforts by Morgan in the long jump, Holly Johnson in the pole vault, Renneberg in the 1,600 run, Harmon in the 3,200 run and Carlson in the shot put to compile 177.50 points. Also taking first were Scholz, Holly Johnson, Julia Johnson and Morgan in the 4 x 100 relay; Holly Johnson, Koppelman, Lopez and Carlson in the 4 x 400 relay; and Renneberg, Koppelman, Lopez and Paige Johnson in the 4 x 800 relay.
Morgan placed ninth in the 200, 10th in the long jump and ninth in the 4 x 100 relay with Julia Johnson, Scholz and Holly Johnson at the Hamline Elite Meet. On the same day, the Panthers placed second at the nine-team May Day Invitational at Walker with 109.50 points as Carlson won the shot put, Willenbring took first in the discus, and Renneberg, Koppelman, Lopez and Paige Johnson led the way in the 4 x 800 relay. Pequot Lakes won the team title with 166 points.
Winning performances by Carlson in the shot put; Morgan in the long jump; and Renneberg, Koppelman, Lopez and Paige Johnson in the 4 x 800 relay led the Panthers to fifth place at the seven-team Detroit Lakes Invitational with 65 points. Moorhead took first with 163 points.
Detroit Lakes hosted the Section 8AA True Team meet as Perham claimed the title with 575 points. Park Rapids finished sixth out of 11 teams with 385.50 points.
At the Mid-State Conference meet at Detroit Lakes, the Panthers placed third with 88 points as Detroit Lakes captured the conference title with 194.33 points. Morgan and Scholz earned all-conference honors by winning the long jump and 300 hurdles, respectively, and by joining Julia Johnson and Holly Johnson on the winning 4 x 100 relay team. Taking second for all-conference honorable mention honors for the Panthers were Morgan in the 200 and Carlson in the shot put.
The Panthers repeated as subsection champs by taking first in all four relays and adding winning efforts by Morgan in the long jump and Holly Johnson in the pole vault. Julia Johnson, Morgan, Scholz and Holly Johnson won the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relays; Renneberg, Koppelman, Lopez and Paige Johnson won the 4 x 800 relay; and Holly Johnson, Koppelman, Lopez and Paige Johnson won the 4 x 400 relay.
Placing second were Morgan in the 200, Scholz in the 300 hurdles, Carlson in the shot put, Paige Johnson in the high jump, Hunter in the 100 hurdles and Davis in the triple jump while Julia Johnson in the 200, Renneberg in the 1,600, Damar in the pole vault and Chase in the 100 hurdles placed third. Finishing fourth were Harmon in the 3,200, Pike in the triple jump, Yliniemi Hensel in the 100, Willenbring in the discus and Smee in the 1,600. Placing fifth were Steffel in the 3,200, Hunter in the 300 hurdles, Davis in the 400, Koppelman in the pole vault and Goodwin in the high jump.
The other subsection competitors were Pike (sixth in the 300 hurdles and seventh in the long jump), Hunter (sixth in the high jump), Livermore (sixth in the 3,200), Wolff (seventh in the triple jump), Davis (seventh in the 100), Carlson (eighth in the 200 and 11th in the 100), Yliniemi Hensel (eighth in the long jump), Dennis (eighth in the 400), Guida (eighth in the 1,600), Engst (ninth in the 100 hurdles), Goodwin (ninth in the 400), Vrieze (10th in the 800), freshman Haley Nevala (11th in the 800), Willenbring (12th in the shot put), Dravis (13th in the shot put and 17th in the discus) and sophomore Destiny Villarreal (15th in the 800).
Winning times by Julia Johnson, Morgan, Scholz and Holly Johnson in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relays led the Panthers to runner-up honors at the Section 8A meet with 58.50 points. Barnesville edged Park Rapids for the section title with 59 points. Renneberg, Koppelman, Lopez and Paige Johnson took second in the 4 x 800 relay while Carlson was the runner-up in the shot put to also advance to state. Just missing trips to state by placing third were Morgan in the long jump and Scholz in the 300 hurdles.
Others who scored points at the section meet were Holly Johnson, Koppelman, Lopez and Paige Johnson in the 4 x 400 relay (fourth); Morgan in the 200 (fifth); and Paige Johnson in the high jump (tied for seventh). The other section competitors were Pike (10th in the triple jump), Damar (tied for 10th in the pole vault), Harmon (11th in the 3,200), Hunter (12th in the 100 hurdles and 15th in the 300 hurdles), Holly Johnson (13th in the pole vault), Chase (13th in the 100 hurdles), Smee (14th in the 1,600), Julia Johnson (15th in the 200), Renneberg (15th in the 1,600), Yliniemi Hensel (15th in the 100) and Willenbring (15th in the discus).
Placing in two events at the state Class A meet capped off the season.
Also competing in track and field this season were senior Izzy Villarreal; juniors Bridgette Basswood, Danielle Brakefield, Megan Fuller, Hanna Heltemes, Madie Massie and Mary Nichols; eighth graders Katilina Addison, Coley Girtz and Haley Kerr; and seventh grader Maddy Evink.
“This team set out to accomplish a lot this year and succeeded with most of their goals,” said Hill. “They wanted to win subsections and sections and came .50 points shy of those goals by finishing first in subs and second in sections. We also wanted to get all four relays to state and came up just shy of that with three of the relay teams qualifying. Having Kamree return to state in the shot put was another success we were extremely proud of.”
With only two seniors who competed at the subsection meet graduating, Hill is looking forward to another successful season from the Panthers next spring.
“Our two seniors were very critical to our success and led this team with determination and character. They were extremely valuable in helping the younger girls realize their potential and helped them achieve more than they believed they could on their own. They will leave their mark on this program for all the work and success they achieved,” said Hill. “Looking forward, we are so excited to be moving back to Class A in True Team and what that looks like as we have one of the most talented teams in our history returning. This is something we all will be looking forward to as we will compete in Section 8A for True Team for the next two years for sure. With 26 athletes returning that scored points and some exciting new talent joining this group as we’ll have a great group of new seventh graders next year, we will be sure to have a solid team next season.”