Confidence enabled the Park Rapids boys and girls track and field teams to send seven qualifiers in five events to the state Class A meet.

Lane Monaghan, Nathaniel Bervig and Hannah Morgan were confident they would be capping off their senior seasons by competing at the state meet. All three were determined to advance to state this year after the track and field season was canceled because of COVID last spring.

All three accomplished their goals during the Section 8A meet at Park Rapids on June 8. Monaghan and Bervig joined sophomore Eli Bervig and junior Kaleb Stearns on the 4 x 800-meter relay team that won the section title in 8:15.67 to break the school record of 8:19.81 set by Monaghan, Stearns, Kolby Brandt and Seth Breitweser in 2019. Monaghan, Nathaniel Bervig and Stearns joined junior Josiah May on the 4 x 400 relay that finished second in 3:36.79 to advance. Morgan qualified for state as the runner-up in the long jump with a leap of 17 feet, 2 inches. Junior Tristan Hill also qualified for state by winning the section titles in both throwing events with distances of 47-1.50 in the shot put and 155-2 in the discus.

“It was pretty tough. You lose a lot of skill when you take a year off,” said Monaghan. “I was looking to build off my sophomore season. My goal was to go to state.”

“Last year was definitely a bummer,” said Morgan. “My goal was to make it to state this year.”

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“I was very confident,” said Bervig. “I thought we had a great shot at making it (to state).”

The 4 x 800 relay team dominated that race as Thief River Falls was a distant second in 8:22.97. Thief River Falls got a little revenge in the 4 x 400 relay with a winning time of 3:36.31 as the Panthers were close behind.

“I was 100 percent sure in the 4 x 8 and almost certain in the 4 x 4,” said Monaghan, who anchored both relay units that entered the section meet with the best seed times of 8:50.80 in the 4 x 800 and 3:40.11 in the 4 x 400. “We wanted to get first place in both and we wanted to break the school record in the 4 x 8. It feels good to go in both.”

“We wanted to take first in both, but it didn’t quite pan out,” said Nathaniel Bervig. “I trust all the guys. I knew all the guys would win their matchups. All the guys stepped up and did really well.”

When she began competing in the long jump in seventh grade, Morgan set a goal of competing in that event at state.

That goal was finally accomplished this season.

Morgan just missed qualifying for state in the long jump as a sophomore by placing third at the section meet. Morgan broke the school record with a leap of 17-4 early during her sophomore season.

“Going to state in the long jump has definitely been a goal of mine since the seventh grade,” said Morgan, who was a member of Park Rapids’ sprint relay teams that qualified for state in 2017, 2018 and 2019. “I wanted to go as a sophomore after breaking the school record, but I didn’t jump that well and took third at sections. I didn’t jump that well at subs (this year), but I knew what I could do.”

Morgan, who entered the section meet as the No. 5 seed with a distance of 15-10 at the subsection meet, soared 17-2 on her third attempt to reach the state-qualifying standard. That trailed the 17-3 by Pelican Rapids’ Tatianna Wiley, but was more than good enough to qualify for state.

“I was focused and had my best jump of the season,” said Morgan. “I knew if I jumped 17 feet that I would qualify. That was my goal.”

Hill was also confident of qualifying for state for the first time.

Hill was the heavy favorite to win both throwing events after entering as the No. 1 seed with throws of 151-6 in the discus and 46-6 in the shot put at the subsection meet.

Hill delivered in both events.

Badger-Greenbush-Middle River’s Brady Skeim was a distant second in both throws with a distance of 132-8 in the discus and 43-3.25 in the shot put.

“I knew my chances were pretty good. I was pretty happy with how I did,” said Hill. “I think my chances are extremely good to get on the podium at state. My goal at state is to get first and break the school record in the discus and finish in the top five in the shot put.”

The Panthers are also looking to contend for state titles and earn medals in the other events.

“I want to get on the podium and get another medal around my neck,” said Morgan, who will be competing in track for Southwest Minnesota State University this fall. “I’m going to shoot for the school record at state. I want to pop another 17-footer or pop an 18-footer. I’m going to shoot for the stars.”

“I’m really excited. I’ve never been down to state before,” said Nathaniel Bervig, who plans to run cross country and track at Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa. “We’re looking to make some noise and do some big things down there. Our goal is always to win and that’s our goal at the state meet. It should be a great experience.”

“We’re looking to take first in the 4 x 8 and we’re hoping to stay with the pack and drop some time and make it on the podium in the 4 x 4,” said Monaghan, who ran on the Panthers’ 4 x 800 relay team that placed 11th at the 2019 state meet with a time of 8:23.31. “I think we have a good shot at winning it all in the 4 x 8. We just have to have all of us PR (personal record) and put it all together at the state meet.”