Darryl Etter was determined to have a successful cross country season.

The Park Rapids junior ran about 300 miles over the summer to prepare for the season. That training in the offseason paid off as Etter capped off the season by placing 10th at the Section 8A meet at Bagley’s Twin Pines Golf Course on Oct. 13.

Etter, who finished 23rd in 18:17 at last year’s section meet, improved that 5K time to 18:03 to finish 10th out of 135 runners. The Panthers ended up placing third out of 22 teams with 136 points, trailing Perham (50) and East Grand Forks (87).

“My goal for sections was to place higher than I did last season and to qualify for state,” said Etter. “My goal going into sections was to encourage our team that if we all run our race, and if we ran hard, then we as a team and as individuals will be successful.”

Etter and the Panthers were successful all season.

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During the regular season, Etter was the Panthers’ top runner in five of the seven meets. Etter took first in three races and earned Mid-State Conference honors by placing seventh. As a team, Park Rapids took first in three triangular meets while placing second four times, including at the conference meet.

Entering the section meet, Etter focused on keeping up with the leaders.

“My strategy was to get up with the EGF, Perham and Nevis boys and stick with them,” said Etter. “My hopes were that me pacing with them would carry me to a good result.”

That strategy worked. East Grand Forks’ Tyson Mahar led the field with a winning time of 16:26 while the Perham duo of Jakob McCleary (16:27) and Carson Hespe (17:06) followed. Also finishing ahead of Etter were EGF’s Jonathan Krueger (17:28), Nevis’ Evan Pohl (17:30), Frazee’s Nathan Johannsen (17:45), Pelican Rapids’ Charlie Larson (17:49), Nevis’ Jack McNamee (17:57) and Bagley/Fosston’s Boysen Olson (17:58).

That finish would have qualified Etter for his first state Class A meet, but the Minnesota State High School League canceled the state meet this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My motivation for not having a state meet this year was to get better individually, but also push my teammates to improve tremendously, which they all did,” said Etter. “It was obviously disappointing to not be able to run at the state meet. However, it was a great season regardless.”

His success this fall combined with not being able to run at state will motivate Etter in preparing for his senior cross country season next fall.

“My expectations for next season are to continue to improve, help my teammates to improve, make the season fun and hopefully qualify for state, not only as an individual, but as a team,” said Etter.