It was a different experience for the members of the Park Rapids girls and boys cross country teams in their home debut on Monday, Sept. 14.
After having the last two Park Rapids Invitationals in October canceled because of the weather, the Panthers were finally able to run at Headwaters Golf Club in their third meet of the season. Instead of hosting 21 teams in the final regular-season meet that was used to prepare for the Section 8A meet, the home debut featured only a dual meet against Staples-Motley on a newly designed 5K course. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton was also scheduled to compete in this meet, but had to cancel when the school district shifted to distance learning because of COVID-19 concerns.
The new course didn’t impact either team as the Cardinals showcased why they are rated among the top teams in the state Class A poll while Park Rapids only returned one runner who competed on varsity on the old course the last time it was used in 2017.
Staples-Motley’s Kyanna Burton won the girls meet with a winning time of 19 minutes, 25 seconds. Burton, who was rated No. 5 in the first state poll, was followed by teammates Aften Robinson in 19:52, Audrey Brownell in 19:56, Ashley Robben in 21:01 and Naila Mikhaell in 22:15 as the Cardinals posted a perfect team score of 15. The Cardinals were rated No. 4 in the first state poll.
Park Rapids featured an incomplete team with only two runners competing. Natalia Lopez finished seventh in 23:08 and Aleka London was eighth in 23:48 in their first meet at Headwaters.
In the boys meet, the Cardinals posted another perfect team score with Emmet Anderson leading the way with a winning time of 15:52. Anderson was the No. 2-ranked Class A runner in the state entering this dual. Completing the sweep were Lyle Brownell in 17:02, Isaiah Tabatt in 17:02, Luke Brownell in 17:04 and Tanner Robben in 17:06. Those five gave Staples-Motley a team score of 15. The Cardinals were rated No. 3 in the state team poll.
Leading the Panthers in this Mid-State Conference dual were Darryl Etter and Nathaniel Bervig. Etter finished sixth with a time of 17:10 while Bervig followed in 17:15 for seventh place. Rounding out Park Rapids’ team total of 47 points were Ephraim Bervig (10th in 17:49), Eli Bervig (11th in 18:06) and Sam Warne (12th in 18:47). The other varsity runners were Ronaldo De La Cruz-Gomez (13th in 18:58) and Owen Wagner (14th in 19:24). Wagner edged out Skyler Hagen’s time of 19:40 and Thomas Lopez’s time of 19:44 for the No. 7 varsity spot.
Anderson also led the field the last time Park Rapids hosted a meet in 2017 while Warne was the only Park Rapids runner to compete on varsity in that meet three years ago. Wagner and Hagen ran junior varsity on the old course in 2017.
“They ran well. It’s always exciting to run at our home course. We had some new personal records set and I’m glad they all gave everything they had. Staples-Motley is tough competition, which we’re always grateful to run against,” said Park Rapids head coach Pat Richard. “Over the past three meets we’ve seen decent improvements from our first-year runners. They’ve just gotten more comfortable with meets and are still giving their all. Props to them. Our returners are also striving to improve every day and have been showing growth each meet.”
Park Rapids was scheduled to compete against Crosby-Ironton and Pine River-Backus at Pine River on Thursday (Sept. 17), but that meet was postponed and rescheduled for Monday, Sept. 28. The Panthers will host Nevis and Crosby-Ironton in a triangular meet at Fair Havens Golf Course on Thursday (Sept. 24) starting at 4 p.m. as Richard looks forward to seeing more improvement from his runners.
“This is a group that trains hard and that’s shown from week to week on the course. Last week was a tough week of practice since we didn’t have a meet. There were more miles and speed days than usual, but they all handled it well and powered through,” said Richard. “We talk about how we’re on the journey to grow and last week was a major part of that journey. We as coaches are proud of this group. We’re excited to see what the rest of the season has in store.”