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Cross Country: Park Rapids runners lived up to high expectations

Both the boys and girls teams were represented at the state Class A meet.

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Members of the Park Rapids boys cross country team prepared for the start at Wadena this fall. The Panthers ended the 2022 season by winning the Mid-State Conference title, finishing second at the Section 8A meet and placing fourth at the state Class A meet.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise
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Both the Park Rapids boys and girls cross country teams had high expectations entering the season.

Both teams lived up to those expectations.

While the boys fulfilled their main goal of returning to the state Class A meet, the girls just missed reaching their main goal of earning a trip to state. The Park Rapids boys followed a runner-up finish at the Section 8A meet by placing fourth at state while the Park Rapids girls ended the season by placing third at the section meet.

However, both teams were represented at the state meet as seniors Blaine Hensel, Logan Maanum and Eli Bervig along with junior Noah Huot, sophomores Ephraim Bervig and Thomas Lopez, and eighth grader Asher Bervig led the boys back to the Class A meet while senior Morgan Koppelman earned a return trip to state for the girls.

“I was happy with the season,” said Park Rapids head coach Patrick Richard. “A lot of the kids put in a lot of time running over the summer and they improved on their success from last year. One of the most encouraging things was the number of new runners who came out. They enjoy the sport and were fun kids to have around.”

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Boys delivered

The Panthers proved to be one of the top boys cross country teams in Minnesota all season.

Park Rapids held the No. 1 ranking for one week, the No. 2 spot for two weeks and the No. 3 position for the remainder of the season in the Class A polls.

At the season-opening Staples-Motley Invitational, the Panthers finished first with 28 points in the 17-team meet. Huot (second), Eli Bervig (fifth), Hensel (sixth), Ephraim Bervig (eighth) and Maanum (ninth) led the way with Asher Bervig (20th) and Lopez (33rd) also running.

Park Rapids followed by winning the title at the Perham Invitational with 30 points as Ephraim Bervig, Hensel, Eli Bervig, Huot and Maanum posted a 4-5-6-7-8 showing. Asher Bervig was 12th and Lopez placed 22nd.

The Panthers were rated No. 1 in the state poll after that win before falling back to the No. 2 spot after placing third at the 20-team Moorhead Invitational with 115 points. Perham led the way with 61 points. Huot (10th), Hensel (19th), Ephraim Bervig (21st), Maanum (29th) and Eli Bervig (36th) paced the Panthers with Asher Bervig (50th) and Lopez (51st) following.

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Cameron Runyan (536), Aidan Yliniemi Hensel (539) and Matt Dahring (520) concluded their senior seasons as junior varsity runners for the Panthers during the 2022 season.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

In the next three meets, the Panthers captured titles while securing the state’s No. 3 ranking. Huot (third), Hensel (seventh), Ephraim Bervig (eighth), Eli Bervig (14th) and Maanum (15th) led Park Rapids at the 18-team Ada-Borup Invitational with 48 points while Lopez (20th) and Asher Bervig (22nd) also competed. At the Bagley Invitational, the Panthers compiled 19 points to top the 22-team field with Huot, Ephraim Bervig, Hensel, Eli Bervig and Maanum going 1-2-4-5-7. Lopez was 16th and Asher Bervig finished 21st. Hensel, Huot, Eli Bervig, Ephraim Bervig and Maanum claimed the top five spots as the Panthers tallied a perfect 15 points at the five-team Park Rapids Invitational. Lopez and Asher Bervig finished seventh and eighth.

Perham won the title on its home course with 56 points as the Panthers finished third out of 30 teams with 92 points. Leading Park Rapids were Huot (fifth), Ephraim Bervig (16th), Eli Bervig (21st), Hensel (22nd) and Maanum (28th) with Lopez (39th) and Asher Bervig (74th) rounding out the varsity squad.

Maanum (11th) and Lopez (13th) were the only varsity runners who competed as the Panthers placed sixth at the eight-team Minnewaska Area Invitational with 145 points. Fergus Falls led the pack with 45 points. Also running for Park Rapids at that meet were eighth grader Parker Larson (38th), senior Jayson Ward (39th), sophomore Jarrett Galzki (47th), sophomore Damien Dejarlais (51st) and senior Pierce DeBlieck (56th).

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The Panthers repeated as Mid-State Conference champs by compiling 29 points at Long Prairie. Earning all-conference honors were Huot (second), Ephraim Bervig (fourth), Eli Bervig (sixth), Hensel (seventh) and Maanum (10th) while Lopez (12th) and Asher Bervig (14th) received all-conference honorable mention honors in this six-team meet.

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Senior Pierce DeBlieck ran in one varsity meet for the Panthers during the 2022 season.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

At the Section 8A meet, the Panthers earned a return trip to state with a runner-up showing of 48 points. Perham repeated as section champs with 42 points in this 21-team meet. Leading Park Rapids were Huot (second), Hensel (sixth), Ephraim Bervig (seventh), Lopez (16th) and Eli Bervig (17th) while Maanum (18th) and Asher Bervig (28th) followed.

Hout’s all-state finish of 10th place led the Panthers to fourth place at the state Class A meet with 139 points. Hensel finished 35th, Ephraim Bervig was 39th, Maanum placed 64th and Eli Bervig was 108th with Lopez (117th) and Asher Bervig (125th) rounding out the team. That finish was the second best for the Panthers in 13 trips to state. Heritage Christian Academy won the state title with 99 points with Luverne (102) and Perham (133) following.

“I knew we would be good and we hung with the big boys,” said Richard. “We tried to dethrone Perham and we came close, but we improved over last year.”

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Senior Nolan Eckmann competed on junior varsity for the Panthers during the 2022 season.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

Earning team awards for the Panthers were Huot (MVP and Hardest Worker), Maanum (Toughest Runner), DeBlieck (Spirit Award), Larson (Top Newcomer), Dejarlais (Most Improved) and senior Matt Dahring (Coaches Award).

Nine seniors, including three starters, will graduate. However, with four starters and several junior varsity runners returning, Richard is counting on the Panthers to produce another highly successful season next fall.

“It’s going to be hard to replace the seniors. They proved that if you put in the time, it’s going to pay off,” said Richard. “We’ll have a good core coming back who believe they can do it (get back to state) again. It comes down to staying in shape during the winter and taking advantage of running in the summer. The best runners are made during the summer. If they put the work in, we can be there again next year.”

Girls contended

The Panthers used the regular season to make a run for a state berth.

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In addition to Koppelman, seniors Julia Harmon, Natalia Lopez and Aleka London; freshman Sarah Hartung; and eighth graders Madeline Brandt and Embry Deshayes ran varsity most of the season. Also competing on varsity were senior Natalie Backmann; freshmen Brianna DeBlieck and Alessia Harmon; and eighth grader Amelia Gravdahl.

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Seniors Julia Harmon (left), Natalia Lopez (second from left) and Aleka London (right) provided leadership for the Park Rapids girls cross country team during the 2022 season.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

In the season opener at Staples, the Panthers finished second with 83 points behind Koppelman (fourth), Julia Harmon (11th), Lopez (22nd), Brandt (26th) and Hartung (34th) as Deshayes (52nd) and Alessia Harmon (54th) also ran. Staples-Motley took first with 32 points.

Leading Park Rapids to fifth place at Wadena with 122 points were Julia Harmon (10th), Lopez (14), London (26th), Hartung (29th) and Backmann (43rd). DeBlieck (46th) and Alessia Harmon (51st) also competed as Wadena-Deer Creek led the 14-team field with 54 points.

Perham won the title at Moorhead with 61 points as Park Rapids finished 11th out of 15 teams with 285 points. Koppelman (25th), Julia Harmon (61st), Brandt (82nd), London (83rd) and Deshayes (100th) comprised the team score with Hartung (101st) and Alessia Harmon (112th) following.

Park Rapids placed fifth out of 17 teams at Ada with 129 points as W-DC topped the field with 57 points. Julia Harmon (17th), Lopez (20th), London (40th), Hartung (47th) and Deshayes (50th) led the Panthers. Alessia Harmon (60th) and Backmann (82nd) also ran.

Koppelman (third), Julia Harmon (eighth), Lopez (14th), Brandt (20th) and Hartung (29th) paced the Panthers to the team title at Bagley with 54 points. London (30th) and Deshayes (49th) also ran in this 20-team meet.

The Panthers followed by winning the title at the five-team Park Rapids Invitational with 42 points. Koppelman (third), Julia Harmon (seventh), Brandt (ninth), Lopez (12th), London (14th), Hartung (16th) and Deshayes (18th) competed.

Perham won the title on its home course with 60 points as the Panthers placed 12th out of 30 teams with 347 points. Running for Park Rapids were Julia Harmon (47th), Brandt (66th), London (77th), Lopez (78th), Hartung (94th), Deshayes (100th) and Gravdahl (128th).

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Senior Natalie Backmann (right) ran in two varsity meets for the Panthers during the 2022 season.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

At Minnewaska, the Panthers placed fourth out of nine teams with 84 points as the host team took first with 62 points. Koppelman (seventh), Julia Harmon (17th), Brandt (18th), Lopez (19th), London (23rd), Hartung (36th) and Deshayes (42nd) competed for Park Rapids.

Koppelman took eighth to earn all-conference honors while Julia Harmon (11th), Brandt (14th) and Lopez (15th) received honorable mention honors as the Panthers claimed runner-up honors at the Mid-State Conference meet with 65 points. London finished 17th, Hartung was 25th and Deshayes placed 29th. Staples-Motley won the team title with 28 points.

At the Section 8A meet, the Panthers just missed qualifying for state by placing third with 97 points. Perham (26) and Hawley (89) claimed the two state berths. Koppelman qualified for state as an individual by placing seventh while Lopez (22nd), Brandt (24th), London (27th) and Julia Harmon (34th) completed the team score. Deshayes (35th) and Hartung (45th) rounded out Park Rapids’ squad.

Koppelman capped off the season by placing 59th in her second trip to the state Class A meet.

“Placing second in the conference and third in the section was solid. That was some of the gutsiest postseason running I’ve seen,” said Richard. “I knew it would be a battle between us and Perham and Hawley at sections and it was. The girls have nothing to hang their heads about. They went out and gave it their very best.”

Koppelman was named the team’s MVP and Hardest Worker while Lopez (Toughest Runner), London (Coaches Award), Julia Harmon (Spirit Award), Brandt (Top Newcomer) and Hartung (Most Improved) received the other awards.

With the graduation of four of the top runners, Richard will be looking for the underclassmen to step up and take over those leadership roles and fill out the varsity roster next season.

“We’ll be young, but we have a decent core returning with experience,” said Richard. “We’ll need the freshmen and sophomores to fill the shoes and follow in the footsteps of the seniors. We’re looking at continuing to build up runners and build off the success we had this year.”

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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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