Boys Track and Field: Park Rapids enters season with high expectations
A veteran group returns as the Panthers seek to win conference and section titles, send multiple athletes to state.
Despite graduating a talented senior class, head coach Andrew Lachowitzer again has high expectations for the Park Rapids boys track and field team this spring.
A year ago, the Panthers captured the Mid-State Conference and Subsection 8A East titles and finished second at the Section 8AA True Team and Section 8A meets while sending 12 athletes in eight events to the state Class A meet.
At the state meet, Kaleb Stearns, Parker Harmon, Noah Huot and Eli Bervig placed third in the 4 x 800-meter relay while Tristan Hill took seventh in the discus and Luke Hartung finished eighth in the shot put as the Panthers reached the podium in three events and scored 13 points to tie for 27th place. That group earned all-state honors.
Also competing at last year’s state meet were Huot (11th in the 3,200), Eli Bervig (12th in the 800), Blaine Hensel (16th in the 3,200) and Ephraim Bervig (16th in the 1,600). Cameron Runyan, Jayden Walen, Hill and Logan Jackson took 12th in the 4 x 100 relay while Sam Warne, Stearns, Hartung and Eli Bervig were 12th in the 4 x 400 relay.
Of the 12 state qualifiers, five – Stearns, Harmon, Hill, Jackson and Warne – graduated. Darryl Etter, Zach Van Batavia, Sam Reish and Kiergon Wilkins also graduated. However, the Panthers still return a talented group, led by the seven returning state participants.
In addition to Eli Bervig, Hartung, Hensel and Runyan, the other senior letterwinners ready to lead the Panthers this spring are Matt Dahring, Malachi Martin, Logan Maanum and Pierce DeBlieck. Huot is the lone junior letterwinner back while Landon Strasburg joins Ephraim Bervig as the returning sophomore letterwinners. Corbin Schiller joins Walen as the two returning freshmen letterwinners while eighth grader Asher Bervig is the other letterwinner.
“We have very high expectations this season. We have a big senior class and we have the potential to be really competitive this year. We believe that we can compete for a True Team section title again this season. We finished second last season and this group is really motivated to make the next step to be True Team section champs. We definitely have the pieces to make it happen and that's an exciting thing,” said Lachowitzer. “In our conference, we want to repeat as conference champs. We are in a very competitive conference, but we know we have a great chance to repeat if we go out and hit our potential. We won our subsection and finished second at sections last season as a team for the second straight year. We really want to bring that section championship to Park Rapids.”
Park Rapids won the Mid-State Conference title for the first time since 1996 by racking up 163 points. Among those winning conference titles were Eli Bervig (800), Ephraim Bervig (1,600) and DeBlieck (300 hurdles). Huot and Eli Bervig return from the winning 4 x 800 relay team while Eli Bervig and Hartung are back from the 4 x 400 relay that won the conference title. Back after taking second are DeBlieck (110 hurdles) and Hartung (discus) as well as Runyan and Walen in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relays.
The Panthers also won the subsection title for the fifth straight year and for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons by compiling 227 points. Winning individual subsection titles were Runyan (pole vault), Huot (3,200) and Eli Bervig (800). Park Rapids also led the way in three relays with Huot and Eli Bervig helping to win the 4 x 800; Runyan and Walen running on the winning 4 x 100; and Eli Bervig and Hartung returning from the 4 x 400.
Finishing second were Ephraim Bervig (3,200) and Hartung (discus and shot put) while Runyan (100 and 200), Hensel (1,600), DeBlieck (110 hurdles and 300 hurdles) and Walen (long jump) placed third. Also qualifying for the Section 8A meet were Hensel (fourth in the 3,200), Ephraim Bervig (fifth in the 1,600), Maanum (sixth in the 1,600), Martin (sixth in the 400) and Walen (seventh in the 100).
The other subsection competitors were Dahring (seventh in the 200 and pole vault), Strasburg (ninth in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles) and DeBlieck (15th in the triple jump).
At the Section 8A meet, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton tallied 133 points to edge out the Panthers’ 125 points for the team title in this 20-team meet. The returning section champs are Huot and Eli Bervig in the 4 x 800 relay, Huot in the 3,200, Eli Bervig in the 800, and Hartung in the shot put. Returning after placing second at last year’s section meet are Runyan and Walen in the 4 x 100, Eli Bervig and Hartung in the 4 x 400, Ephraim Bervig in the 1,600 and Hensel in the 3,200. Hensel also contended for a state berth by placing third in the 1,600.
Also scoring points at last year’s section meet were Runyan (fourth in the pole vault and seventh in the 200), Hartung (fourth in the discus), Maanum (fourth in the 1,600), DeBlieck (fifth in the 300 hurdles and seventh in the 110 hurdles) and Ephraim Bervig (seventh in the 3,200).
Last season’s other section competitors looking to move up this spring are Martin (ninth in the 400), Runyan (12th in the 100) and Walen (13th in the long jump and 14th in the 100).
Among those being counted on to play key roles on the varsity this spring are seniors Jordan Odor and Jayson Ward; juniors Henry Thorson and Owen Van Batavia; sophomores Damian Dejarlais, Jarrett Galzki, Thomas Hartung, D’Andre Johnson, Castle London and Kaleb Weaver; and freshmen Kaden Gartner and Alex Huot.
“For individuals competing, we believe all of our relays, if we can put a few things together, have a great chance to make it to state. That's our goal. We sent three of four relays to state last year, so we would like to do one better this season. The 4 x 800 finished third last season and they are very motivated to be in contention again this season. Our 4 x 100 was just a few places away from getting on the podium last season and they really want to make it happen this season. The 4 x 400 ran their best time of the year in state and we have about eight guys really working to be on that team, which could make it a very competitive event for us. Luke Hartung placed eighth last year in shot put and he is looking to place even higher this season and will look to add discus to that as well. He has been looking great so far this season,” said Lachowitzer. “Noah Huot placed 10th in the 3,200 last season and he is highly motivated to get on the podium this season. Elias Bervig placed 12th last season in the 800 and he really wants to be on the podium this season. Noah and Eli were both on the 4 x 800 team last season as well. Rounding out the other individuals who made it to state last season are Blaine Hensel in the 3,200 and Ephraim Bervig in the 1,600. They both look excellent this season so far and wherever we end up putting them, they are going to be really competing at the highest of levels for us.”
With talent in every event, Lachowitzer is looking for his team to dethrone Fergus Falls for the Section 8AA True Team title and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton for the Section 8A title while once again sending multiple athletes to state in multiple events.
“It's a really great group to coach. They are motivated, hard-working and dedicated young men,” said Lachowitzer. “You know you got a fun job as a coach when many of the athletes are making goals for the season and they are writing goals to go to state, set school records and win section titles as a team. This is going to be a fun season.”
REMAINING SEASON SCHEDULE
April 11 – at Bemidji State University Invitational, 11 a.m. April 13 – at Plainview-Elgin-Millville Invitational, 11:30 a.m. April 18 - Park Rapids Invitational, 3:30 p.m. April 25 – Park Rapids Invitational, 3:30 p.m. April 28 – May Day Invitational at Walker, 3:30 p.m.
May 4 – at Detroit Lakes Invitational, 3:30 p.m. May 9 – Section 8AA True Team meet at Fergus Falls, 11:45 a.m. May 16 – Mid-State Conference meet at Pequot Lakes, 3 p.m. May 25 – Subsection 8A East meet at Walker, 12 noon
.June 2 – Section 8A meet at Roseau, 12 noon.