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Park Rapids girls swimming and diving team has same high expectations

Despite fielding a young team, the Panthers are focused on producing another successful season.

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Allison Offerdahl is the lone senior on this year's Park Rapids girls swimming and diving team. Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

COVID-19 limited the Park Rapids girls swimming and diving team to only seven dual meets and prevented the Panthers from sending three individuals in five events to state when the Class A meet was canceled last season.

Head coach Todd Fritze can’t wait to return to a normal season this fall.

The Panthers handled last year’s abbreviated season well by going 6-1 in dual meets and placing third at the Section 8A meet with 360 points to trail Grand Rapids (535) and Detroit Lakes (364). Park Rapids would have had three state qualifiers after Ellie Ulvin repeated as the section champion in the 50-yard freestyle and was the runner-up in the 100 freestyle, Aleah Voigt finished second in both the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke, and Emma Vrieze was the section runner-up in the 500 freestyle.

The graduation of Ulvin and Voigt along with Savana Damar and Analise Smee leaves the Panthers with four key swimmers to replace. Ulvin broke the school record in the 100 freestyle and holds the No. 2 spot in the 50 freestyle and the No. 5 spot in the 100 butterfly while Aleah Voigt ranks No. 3 in the 200 individual medley, No. 4 in the 100 backstroke and No. 8 in the 500 freestyle. Smee ranks No. 8 in the 100 butterfly and Damar ranks No. 10 in the 100 butterfly. Ulvin led the Panthers with 152 points while Voigt (139), Damar (103.50) and Smee (83.50) were also key contributors and provided leadership last season.

However, with 19 swimmers and divers returning with varsity experience, Fritze is counting on another very successful season this fall.

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“We can’t replace Ellie, Aleah, Savana and Analise, but we have a pretty good bunch coming back,” said Fritze, who will be assisted by Megan Rykhus and Baylee Gartner. “We’re really young, but the girls are focused on doing what we need to do to be successful this season.”

Leading the Panthers this season are senior Allison Offerdahl; juniors Massie Lee, Emma Vrieze and Maria Wagner; sophomores Amelia Bagstad, Maya Deshayes, Lizzie Seifert, Gabi Shepersky and Claire Voigt; freshmen Nora Cederstrom, Mylee Edevold, McKenzie Himango, Laura Kaufenberg, Addison Lauwagie, Allie Rowland and Laney Vrieze; and eighth graders Macie Maninga, Grace Officer and Maggie Randall. Rowland, Laney Vrieze and Officer will be the Panthers’ divers this season.

Returning after scoring points at last year’s section meet are Emma Vrieze (fifth), Seifert (eighth), Deshayes (12th) and Edevold (15th) in the 200 freestyle; Lee (ninth) and Bagstad (12th) in the 200 individual medley; Lauwagie in the 50 freestyle (sixth); Claire Voigt in the 100 butterfly (12th); Edevold (13th) and Bagstad (15th) in the 100 freestyle; Deshayes (sixth) and Seifert (seventh) in the 500 freestyle; Lauwagie (fourth) and Wagner (14th) in the 100 backstroke; and Shepersky (seventh), Cederstrom (10th) and Lee (13th) in the 100 breaststroke. Park Rapids also took third in all three relays a year ago with Lee and Lauwagie swimming in the 200 medley relay; Lauwagie and Emma Vrieze competing in the 200 freestyle relay; and Emma Vrieze and Seifert competing in the 400 freestyle relay.

The other section competitors last season were Himango (30th in the 50 freestyle and 20th in the 100 breaststroke), Offerdahl (23rd in the 100 butterfly), Wagner (29th in the 100 freestyle), Cederstrom (21st in the 500 freestyle) and Claire Voigt (tied for 18th in the 100 backstroke).

Scoring points on varsity last season were Emma Vrieze (129.50), Lauwagie (114), Seifert (93.50), Lee (82.50), Deshayes (53), Bagstad (43), Shepersky (39, Edevold (34),Wagner (21.50), Cederstrom (20), Claire Voigt (18.50), Himango (14), Laney Vrieze (9) and Offerdahl 3.50. Emma Vrieze moved into the school’s top 10 list in the 200 freestyle (fifth) and in the 500 freestyle (sixth).

Looking to fill in varsity spots and swimming junior varsity this season are seventh graders Molly Cederstrom, Julia Grande, Macie Lichter, Avery Schueller, Whitney Seifert and Marnie Shepersky.

“We had a great first week of practice. The girls are working hard and have good attitudes, which is going to be huge for us this year,” said Fritze. “Even though we’re young, we have a lot of girls with a lot of varsity experience. We have some good, young swimmers who broke through at the end of last year. They’re starting to take ownership of their training.”

Grand Rapids (7A) and Bemidji (8AA) have moved out of Section 8A, leaving the Panthers battling against Bagley/Fosston, Crookston, Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Perham/New York Mills, Thief River Falls and Warroad/Roseau/Badger-Greenbush-Middle River in the eight-team section for individual state berths this fall.

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Fritze is looking for this year’s group to build off the learning experiences of having to deal with the COVID protocols of last fall and put together another successful season.

“The girls learned some valuable lessons last year. Knowing the season could have been canceled at any time, we didn’t worry about tomorrow. We only worried about today. We’re going to do the same this year,” said Fritze. “I’m excited for the kids. If we do the right things that we’re supposed to do every day, we should be pretty successful.”

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