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Golden aspirations met at state track meet

Park Rapids' 4 x 800-meter relay team, Nevis' Jade Rypkema expected to bring home gold medals.

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Lane Monaghan (left) anchored Park Rapids' 4 x 800-meter relay team that won the title at the state Class A boys track and field meet on June 18. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Bringing home gold medals from the state Class A track and field meet didn’t surprise Park Rapids seniors Nathaniel Bervig and Lane Monaghan, junior Kaleb Stearns and sophomore Eli Bervig or Nevis sophomore Jade Rypkema.

The Bervigs, Stearns and Monaghan won the state title in the boys 4 x 800-meter relay in 8:12.86 to break their school record on June 18. Rypkema captured the gold in the girls 3,200-meter run in 10:54.32 on June 17.

All five expected to be state champions.

Relay makes history

The four members of the 4 x 800 relay were confident of winning the state title.

That relay team went undefeated all season and entered the state meet as the No. 1 seed with a winning time of 8:15.67 at the Section 8A meet, which broke the school record. Living up to that top time provided plenty of motivation for the four Park Rapids runners.

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“The boys were thinking about doing this since way before the season even started. These young men put tons of work in during the off-season and wanted to be pushed like never before in practice this season. I preach all the time that hard work is the key to success and they embodied that all season long,” said Park Rapids head coach Andrew Lachowitzer. “By the time we were going to run at state, they knew what they were capable of and I wasn't surprised at all to see them run that well. It was fun to watch.”

“We were pretty confident going to state,” said Eli Bervig. “We were pretty confident that we would pull it off.”

“This relay has always meant so much to us. Our mentality is we have to win every single race,” said Stearns. “We were the top dogs and we carried that mentality to state. We came to win.”

“We really wanted to go undefeated. That was one of our goals,” said Nathaniel Bervig. “We wanted to win. Our expectation was to win.”

“Our plan all year was to go undefeated and it was really important to finish it off,” said Monaghan. “We had a plan to do it and that plan fell into place.”

That confidence didn’t diminish even though Pequot Lakes won the first heat in 8:15.29.

“We beat them at the Mid-State Conference meet and I knew we could beat them again,” said Eli Bervig. “We knew we had worked hard. We just had to go get it.”

“After we saw Pequot run that time, it boosted my confidence. We beat them during the season and knew we could do what they did and better,” said Stearns. “We had nerves before the race, but we always do. It’s just how it is. It’s almost like a calm before the storm. The nerves go away once the gun goes off. We all had been talking about how we knew we could win. We came in ranked first and winning was our expectation.”

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“We were still really confident,” said Nathaniel Bervig. “Their time was better than ours (at the section meet), but we knew we had beat them before. That gave us confidence that we could definitely do it again.”

“I was a little surprised by their time. We knew we had beat them before, but we also knew that we had to go,” said Monaghan. “In the back of our minds, we knew we had the best time coming in and we still had a good chance. Their time pushed us to run faster.”

The Panthers lived up to their expectations in the second heat.

Eli Bervig was in fourth place with a split of 2:05.23, Stearns stayed in fourth place with a split of 2:03.12, Nathaniel Bervig clocked a 2:04.85 to move into first place and Monaghan maintained that lead by running the final leg in 1:59.66 to give the Park Rapids boys track program its first state title in a relay. Nova Classical finished second in 8:14.55, Lake City took third in 8:14.60 and Pequot Lakes finished fourth.

“I was pretty nervous 20 minutes before the race, but I wasn’t nervous before the gun went off,” said Eli Bervig. “I wanted to stay in the mix and be in the middle of the pack. I was pretty happy and excited when we won it. It’s pretty awesome.”

“I didn’t watch the end of the race; I had my eyes closed,” said Stearns. “It felt so good to win it. That was the most excited I’ve ever been.”

“I’m very happy with how it turned out. Every guy did what he was supposed to do,” said Nathaniel Bervig. “I was determined to grab the lead. I stuck with the leaders and passed them at the start of the second lap. It was a special moment to see Lane cross the finish line. With 50 meters to go, I knew we had it in the bag. I was so excited. I couldn’t believe we did it.”

“When I saw the board, I was so excited and so relieved,” said Monaghan. “It was amazing that we did it. It was well deserved. We all worked hard for it.”

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Bringing home the gold medal was the perfect way to cap off a perfect season for this group in the 4 x 800.

“It feels really good that everybody is so proud of how we did,” said Eli Bervig. “This means a lot. It took a lot of hard work. We worked for this all season and that hard work paid off.”

“It feels so surreal to be a state champ. All the work we’ve put in as a team and everything we’ve been through has finally paid off,” said Stearns. “It means everything to bring the community the gold. It feels amazing. This program and coach Lachowitzer have invested a lot in us four and it feels so awesome to make them proud. My goal is to repeat next year.”

“It’s a great feeling. There is nothing like it,” said Nathaniel Bervig. “I’m really proud of what we accomplished. It was something special. This is what we wanted to do the whole year. I’ll never forget that race.”

“It feels amazing. It means a lot to us, the coaches and the school,” said Monaghan. “This is a once-in-lifetime thing for me. It’s kind of sad because it (my high school career) is done, but I can’t be too sad about it. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my senior season.”

Rypkema holds on

After winning the gold medal in cross country last fall, Rypkema was determined to win a gold medal in track this spring.

Even though the Nevis sophomore liked her chances to win the 3,200, she knew it wouldn’t be easy.

“Going into the state meet, I felt my chances were pretty good,” said Rypkema. “I knew that there were four other girls that, given a chance, could beat me on any given day.”

Rypkema (who broke her school record with a 10:45.55 during the regular season, but was seeded No. 10 out of 17 qualifiers after winning the Section 8A title unchallenged in 12:00.42) accomplished her goal by holding off Fairmont’s Laura Thompson, who was a close second in 10:54.40. Murray County Central’s Amanda Overgaauw was third in 10:55.12, Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Natasha Sortland finished fourth in 10:56.25 and Luverne’s Tenley Nelson placed fifth in 11:08.71.

“My strategy for the race was to go out smart, and then slowly work my way up to the lead pack. In reality, since the wind picked up, my competitors ended up going out really slow the first mile. Earlier, when I was talking to my coach (Tom Stambaugh), he told me I would need to go if it was anything slower than 5:35 at the mile. It was around that time that we neared the end of the fourth lap, and I decided to take the lead to get back on pace. This was when the race was broken up into the main four pack,” said Rypkema, who placed 13th in 12:00.63 in the 3,200 in her state track debut in 2019. “I was able to outsprint for the win. I would say winter miles and lifting helped me achieve that needed speed. Thankfully, I have an amazing team of boys and a coach that have helped me achieve my dreams. I wouldn't be where I am without them.”

Related Topics: TRACK AND FIELD
1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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