Panthers look to achieve lofty goals
The Park Rapids girls track and field team returns talent and depth in search of winning True Team, Section 8A titles.
After not being able to compete last season because of COVID, the Park Rapids girls track and field team is motivated to achieve some extremely lofty goals this spring.
Two years ago, the Panthers finished sixth at the Section 8AA True Team meet and third at the Mid-State Conference meet before winning the Subsection 8-29A title for the 14th consecutive year and earning runner-up honors at the Section 8A meet with 58.50 points to trail Barnesville’s 59 points.
With 18 members returning who scored points in 2019, head coach Corey Hill is counting on the Panthers to contend to win titles at all four of those meets as well as compete for the state True Team title this spring.
“This is a very young and talented team,” said Hill, who will be assisted by Melanie Priebe. “With that being said, we have a great core of athletes that have a lot of experience and that combination should help us out.”
Looking to return to the state meet are seniors Hannah Morgan and Kendra Scholz; junior Holly Johnson; and sophomores Morgan Koppelman and Natalia Lopez. Morgan, Scholz and Johnson placed seventh in the 4 x 100-meter relay while being disqualified in the 4 x 200-meter relay at the 2019 state meet. Koppelman and Lopez ran on the 4 x 800-meter relay that placed 15th at the state meet.
In addition to that group, 13 other athletes are returning who scored points in 2019. Seniors Savana Damar, Taylor Dravis and Liesl Smee; juniors Quinn Hunter, Mackenzie Laferriere and Simone Wolff; sophomores Olivia Davis, Julia Harmon, Nadia Yliniemi Hensel, Lyvia Livermore and Riley Pike; and freshman Cece Chase and Ava Godwin are back after placing among the leaders in meets two years ago.
Earning all-conference honors with winning times were Morgan in the long jump; Scholz in the 300 hurdles; and Morgan, Scholz and Johnson in the 4 x 100 relay. Placing second for all-conference honorable mention honors was Morgan in the 200.
Park Rapids once again dominated the competition at the subsection meet by winning all four relays and taking first in two individual events. Morgan was the subsection champion in the long jump while Johnson took first in the pole vault. Morgan, Scholz and Johnson led the field in the 4 x 100 relay and 4 x 200 relay; Koppelman and Lopez ran on the winning 4 x 800 relay; and Johnson, Koppelman and Lopez took first in the 4 x 400 relay.
Adding runner-up finishes were Morgan (200), Scholz (300 hurdles), Hunter (100 hurdles) and Davis (triple jump). Placing third were Damar (pole vault) and Chase (100 hurdles) while Harmon (3,200), Pike (triple jump), Ylliniemi Hensel (100) and Smee (1,600) finished fourth. In fifth place were Hunter (300 hurdles), Davis (400), Koppelman (pole vault) and Godwin (high jump).
The other subsection competitors were Pike (sixth in the 300 hurdles and seventh in the long jump), Hunter (sixth in the high jump), Livermore (sixth in the 3,200), Wolff (seventh in the triple jump), Davis (seventh in the 100), Yliniemi Hensel (eighth in the long jump), Guida (eighth in the 1,600), Engst (ninth in the 100 hurdles), Godwin (ninth in the 400) and Dravis (13th in the shot put and 17th in the discus). Sophomore Haley Nevala (11th in the 800) also competed in last year’s subsection meet.
At the Section 8A meet, Morgan, Scholz and Johnson helped the Panthers win the two sprint relays while the 4 x 800 relay team that included Koppelman and Lopez took second. Just missing state trips by placing third were Morgan in the long jump and Scholz in the 300 hurdles. Also scoring points for the Panthers were the fourth-place 4 x 400 relay team that included Johnson, Koppelman and Lopez along with Morgan in the 200 (fifth).
Rounding out Park Rapids’ list of returning section competitors are Pike (10th in the triple jump), Damar (tied for 10th in the pole vault), Harmon (11th in the 3,200), Hunter (12th in the 100 hurdles and 15th in the 300 hurdles), Johnson (13th in the pole vault), Chase (13th in the 100 hurdles), Smee (14th in the 1,600), and Yliniemi Hensel (15th in the 100).
Joining senior Sydney Lange as candidates to compete on varsity are Madelyn Evink, Nora Gwiazdon, Bailie Karkinen, Olivia Lange and Aleka London.
Rounding out the roster are eighth graders Nora Bolton, Maari Clark, Kiera Demoret, Kate Dravis, Rhianna Greenlee, Brooke Kritzeck, Addison Lauwagie, Jena Meier, Olivia Miller, Brandi Morgan, Aracely Quixan Gutierrez and Laney Vrieze; and seventh graders Summer Berndt, Kennedy Campbell, Breanna DeBlieck, Alessia Harmon, Kaelynn Hartig, Sarah Hartung, Emma Johnson and Grace Johnson.
Perham won the Section 8AA True Team title while Detroit Lakes captured the Mid-State title two years ago. Hill is looking for the Panthers to win both of those titles this season in preparing to end the season by defending the subsection title, winning the Section 8A crown and qualifying multiple athletes for the state Class A meet.
“We have a very talented team this year,” said Hill. “The subsection and section titles will remain our year-end goals as well as taking as many girls to state as possible. We are looking forward to competing for a chance to compete in True Team and have a chance to chase our goal of winning state.”