Spencer Fritze and Kendra Coborn not only excelled in the classroom, but combined to compete in eight state tournaments and earn 30 letters during their high school careers at Park Rapids.
Those two were rewarded for their accomplishments by being named the 2019 Male and Female Student Athletes at the 42nd annual All Sports Banquet at the Area High School gym on May 15.
Kaisa Coborn and Tristin Persons also had exceptional high school athletic careers and were named the 2019 Outstanding Female and Male Athletes. In addition, Barb Thomason and Marcy (Clark) Andreasen were inducted into the Panther Athletic Hall of Fame.
While those announcements provided the main highlights of the evening, the banquet recognized the accomplishments of all of this year’s senior athletes.
Fritze and Kendra Coborn were three-sport athletes throughout their high school careers, combining to earn 30 letters, receive 16 all-conference honors and compete in eight state tournaments.
Fritze was a three-year letterwinner in football, six-year letterwinner in swimming and five-year letterwinner in track and field. Fritze excelled in the pool, qualifying for state five times and earning all-state honors in diving three times and in the 200-yard medley relay once. Fritze was an all-conference honorable mention swimmer as a seventh grader before earning Mid-State Conference honors the next five seasons. Fritze was also named the team’s MVP five times while being chosen the Section 5A Diver of the Year as a junior and senior. Fritze capped off his senior season by winning the state Class A diving title and being named the state Class A Diver of the Year. Frtize competed at state in the 100 breaststroke and diving (placing 10th) as an eighth grader; in diving (placing 13th), the 50 freestyle and the 200 medley relay as a freshman; in diving (placing seventh), the 50 freestyle and the 200 medley relay as a sophomore; in diving (placing fifth), the medley relay (placing fourth), the 200 freestyle relay (placing 12th) and the 400 freestyle relay (placing 10th) as a junior; and in diving, the 50 freestyle (placing 10th) and the medley relay (placing ninth) as a senior. Fritze holds school record in the 50 freestyle, in diving for six dives and 11 dives, and as a member of all three relays. Fritze also was an all-conference honorable mention athlete in track.
Kendra Coborn earned letters in five sports: three in cross country, two in tennis, five in basketball, two in track and four in softball. Coborn was a member of the cross country team that qualified for the state Class A meet as a seventh grader and eighth grader and earned Mid-State Conference honors as a freshman before back pain forced her to give up running. Coborn switched to tennis as a junior and was an all-conference honorable mention player both seasons while qualifying for the state Class A meet in doubles as a senior. Coborn earned Mid-State Conference honorable mention honors in basketball as a junior and senior and was named the team’s MVP as a junior. Coborn competed in track as a seventh grader and eighth grader before playing softball the next four years, earning all-conference honorable mention honors as a junior and senior.
The other candidates for this award were Kaisa Coborn (volleyball, basketball, softball), Katie Eischens (swimming, gymnastics), Chloe Johnson (tennis, golf), Julia Johnson (basketball, track), Madison Johnson (tennis, golf), Natalie Kinkel (tennis, basketball, softball), Kinley Nordin (tennis, hockey, golf), Whitney Steffel (cross country, basketball, track) and Olivia Ulvin (swimming, gymnastics, golf) for the girls and Gabe Bagstad (cross country, basketball, baseball), Rylley Clark (football, basketball), Jack Hensel (football, wrestling), Cameron Hoyt (football, hockey, baseball), Persons (football, basketball, baseball) and Jake Reish (football, basketball, track) for the boys.
Kaisa Coborn and Persons also were three-sport athletes during their high school careers, combining for 24 letters and 11 all-conference honors.
Coborn earned five letters in volleyball, four letters in basketball and four letters in softball. Coborn was a three-time all-conference volleyball player, sharing MVP honors as a senior and helping the Panthers qualify for the state Class AA tournament for the first time in school history. Coborn concluded her career as the all-time leader in ace serves and digs. In basketball, Coborn was an all-conference player three times, surpassed 1,000 points and earned Class AA all-state honorable mention honors. Coborn also earned all-conference honors as a junior in softball.
Persons received five letters in football, four letters in basketball and three letters in baseball. Persons earned all-district honors in football as a senior, team MVP honors as a sophomore and all-conference honors as a junior in basketball, and all-conference honors as a sophomore and junior and team MVP honors as a junior in baseball.
In addition to the Student Athlete finalists, Kylee Pachel (hockey, softball) for the girls and Seth Breitweser (cross country, swimming, track), Nathan David (football, track), Cody Dravis (football, wrestling, golf), Ashton Clark (cross country, wrestling, golf), Jerry Engst (football, track), Zach Fritze (football, swimming, track), Payton Hill (football, track), Ty Karger (football, basketball, baseball) and Jacob Stewart (football, basketball, track) for the boys were up for the Outstanding Athlete honors.
A coach who led Park Rapids to its only state trip in tennis and an athlete who earned the school’s first state medal in gymnastics joined the Panther Athletic Hall of Fame.
Thomason served as the Panthers’ head boys tennis coach for 22 seasons from 1987 to 2008 and led Park Rapids to the Section 8A title and a trip to the state Class A tournament in 1999. The Panthers compiled a school record 19-3 mark that season while placing sixth at the state tournament. That is the only time Park Rapids has qualified a tennis team for state. In her 22 seasons as the boys head coach, Thomason led the Panthers to 169 victories and Section 8A runner-up showings in 1998 and 2000. In those 22 years, the Panthers qualified five singles players and one doubles team to the state tournament and received four Minnesota State Academic Champion awards.
Thomason also served as the head coach of the Park Rapids girls tennis team for six seasons from 2001 to 2006. During that time, the Panthers compiled 85 wins (including a 19-7 record in 2001 and a 19-4 record in 2005) and claimed six subsection runner-up finishes. Two singles players and two doubles teams qualified for the state Class A tournament during Thomason’s reign as head coach. Thomason also served as the girls’ junior varsity coach for six seasons.
In addition to serving as the Panthers’ head coach, Thomason taught Community Education youth tennis classes for numerous years, helped organize the Park Rapids Tennis Association and worked to develop the Depot Courts. Thomason also received a Breaking Barriers Award for her work with girls in sports and a Certificate of Merit from Valley City State College.
Clark joined Mary Dailey as the first members of the Park Rapids gymnastics program to qualify for the state meet in 1985. Clark finished third in vault at the Region 7A meet to qualify for state, where she tied for 15th place as an eighth grader.
As a freshman in 1986, Clark won the Region 7A title in vault and was third in floor exercise to qualify for state in two events. Clark ended up earning runner-up honors in vault to earn the school’s first state medal and was chosen for the Minnesota All-State Select Team.
After suffering a season-ending broken shoulder bone during her sophomore season, Clark returned to state as a junior in 1988 by winning the Region 6A title in vault and placing fourth to earn another state medal.
Clark capped off her high school career by repeating as the Region 6A champion in vault and placing sixth in her final state meet. Clark would have brought home another medal, but was awarded sixth place after a tiebreaker by the judges and missed reaching the podium by one spot when four girls tied for the final three medals with 9.30s.
Clark, who also was a three-time section competitor in track and field and a letterwinner in cross country in addition to earning seven letters in gymnastics, is the only Park Rapids gymnast to bring home two state medals. Clark still holds the school record in vault with a 9.70.
(Clark) Andreasen served as the activities director at Ashby High School from 2007-2014 and on the Minnesota State High School League Advisory Board from 2010-2014 as well as being an assistant coach from 1999-2001 and the head coach from 2002-2005 of the Ashby-Brandon-Evansville boys and girls track teams.
The banquet also recognized Nordin with an Academic Achievement Award and presented Kristi Smythe with a Blanket Award for serving as the diving coach for the Park Rapids swimming team.
Six seniors received a $1,000 Park Rapids Memorial Scholarship. That group featured Bagstad, Kendra Coborn, Dravis, Pachel, Persons and Steffel.
State participants were also recognized. Competing at state last fall were Kinkel, Kendra Coborn and Abby Morris in girls tennis; Ellie Ulvin in girls swimming; and the volleyball team of Kaisa Coborn, Madison Benham, Kayleah Breitweser, Kayla Brock, Kamree Carlson, Kora Just, Rilee Michaelson, Noel Skadberg, Katelyn Weaver, Katie Burlingame, Kendra Scholz and Riley Pike. Qualifying for state this winter were Ashton Clark and Dravis in wrestling; and Spencer Fritze, Zach Fritze, Breitweser and Marcus Benson in boys swimming. Cyrus Gust was also recognized by being named the State Class A Gymnastics Coach of the Year.
The banquet also featured the Parade of Champions, presentation of senior plaques and the “Year in Review” video show. The Park Rapids Coaches Association puts on the banquet.