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Park Rapids cross country teams eye trips to state meet

The outlook for the Panthers is promising with several talented runners returning along with increased numbers.

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Providing the leadership for the Park Rapids cross country teams this season will be seniors Holly Johnson (left) and Darryl Etter. Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

With increased numbers and no COVID restrictions, head coach Pat Richard is looking forward to a normal season for the Park Rapids boys and girls cross country teams.

Last season, teams could only compete in triangular meets and couldn’t compete at state when COVID concerns forced the cancellation of the Class A event. This year, things will return to normal with invitational meets scheduled as well as the usual section and state meets.

The Panthers will return three boys and four girls with extensive varsity experience as well as having several runners competing to earn the other varsity spots.

Looking to lead the boys are senior Darryl Etter, junior Eli Bervig and freshman Ephraim Bervig while senior Holly Johnson (who returns after missing last season) and juniors Julia Harmon (who missed all last season with an injury), Natalia Lopez and Aleka London will lead the girls.

At last year’s Mid-State Conference meet, Etter and the Bervigs earned all-conference honors as the Panthers claimed runner-up honors with 54 points behind Staples-Motley’s 29 points. That was Park Rapids’ best showing at the conference meet since placing second in 1995. Etter, Eli Bervig and Ephraim Bervig finished in the 7-9 spots to lead the way. For the girls, London finished 16th and Lopez placed 19th.

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Etter would have qualified for the state meet after placing 10th at the Section 8A meet at Bagley. Ephraim Bervig (25th) and Eli Bervig (35th) helped the Panthers to a team score of 136 points for third place. Perham won the section title with 50 points and East Grand Forks followed with 87 points. London finished 45th overall as the only runner for the girls. Perham won the girls section title with 56 points while Hawley was second with 69 points.

The boys have four key spots to fill with the graduation of Nathaniel Bervig, Ronaldo De La Cruz Gomez, Skylar Hagen and Owen Wagner. Bervig finished 12th, De La Cruz Gomez was 18th and Wagner placed 28th at the Mid-State meet while Bervig finished 28th, De La Cruz Gomez was 52nd and Wagner placed 67th at the section meet.

Looking to help fill the voids left by graduation for the boys are juniors Dawson Dahring, Matt Dahring, Pierce DeBlieck, Damien Dejarlais, Nolan Eckmann, Blaine Hensel, Cameron Runyan and Aidan Ylineimi-Hensel along with sophomore Noah Huot and freshmen Jarrett Galzki, Leo Kaufenberg, Castle London and Thomas Lopez. Juniors Olivia Davis, Morgan Koppelman and Lyvia Livermore are expected to fill the other starting spots for the girls.

Etter, Eli Bervig, Hensel and DeBlieck will serve as captains for the boys while Harmon, London and Lopez will be the captains for the girls.

Starting out the season on junior high are seventh graders Asher Bervig and Owen Hoverson for the boys and eighth graders Breanna DeBlieck, Grace Etter, Alessia Harmon, Sarah Hartung and Jalen Hensel and seventh graders Embry Deshayes, Alli Eischens, Amelia Gravdahl and Makenzie Mack for the girls.

“Our numbers are solid. It is very exciting to see so many students interested in cross country. This group seems to have some good energy and clicks well for being a bigger team than we have seen in the past,” said Richard. “We have a number of junior high runners out as well who have been working very hard this season and will certainly be competing in their junior high races and possibly varsity depending on times this season. We feel with our numbers, we will be very competitive from the junior high races all the way through varsity.”

With complete varsity squads for both the boys and girls, Richard is looking forward to seeing how the Panthers match up with the other teams in the conference and section this fall.

“The community should be proud of how much work this group has put in and will continue to put in. It is a fun, motivated and positive group,” said Richard. “It is the first time we have had a full girls varsity team in at least three years, so we are excited to see what they will do. With finishing third in sections last season, the goal for our varsity boys this season is to make it to state as a team. We believe we have the depth, talent and work ethic to make that happen.”

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1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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