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Cross Country: Park Rapids looking to send both teams to state meet

Talented runners return to make the Panthers a serious contender in Section 8A.

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Leading the 2022 Park Rapids boys and girls cross country teams this season will be seniors (front from left) Natalie Backmann, Julia Harmon, Morgan Koppelman, Lyvia Livermore, Natalia Lopez; (back) Jayson Ward, Eli Bervig, Cameron Runyan, Pierce DeBlieck, Aidan Yliniemi Hensel, Nolan Eckmann, Matthew Dahring, Blaine Hensel, Logan Maanum. Not pictured: Aleka London.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise
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With solid numbers on both rosters, head coach Patrick Richard is expecting another successful season from the Park Rapids boys and girls cross country teams.

Six starters return from the boys team that finished second at the Section 8A meet to earn a trip to the state Class A meet. The Panthers ended the season by placing sixth at state.

The girls also had a successful season by fielding a full seven-runner squad and just missing a trip to state by placing third at the Section 8A meet while sending one runner to state.

“We had a lot of kids show up for our summer running program and put in the time and effort,” said Richard, who will be assisted by Tarja Nelsen. “I’m excited about our numbers and about the season.”

Boys look to return to state

Looking to lead the Park Rapids boys back to state are the six returning starters: seniors Logan Maanum, Eli Bervig and Blaine Hensel; junior Noah Huot; and sophomores Ephraim Bervig and Thomas Lopez.

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The Panthers have one spot to fill with the graduation of Darryl Etter. Looking to fill that vacancy are seniors Matt Dahring, Pierce DeBlieck, Nolan Eckmann, Cameron Runyan, Jayson Ward and Aidan Yliniemi Hensel; sophomores Jarrett Galzki, Kamron Hagen, Damien Dejarlais, Leo Kaufenberg and Castle London; freshmen Joshua Conway and Kaden Hoyer; eighth graders Asher Bervig and Parker Larson; and seventh graders Owen Ackerman, Tobias Bervig, Dominic Brissett, Max DeBlieck, Levi Gack, Andrew Mercil and Jack Mitteness.

Park Rapids tuned up for last year’s section meet by winning the Mid-State Conference title for the first time since 1994. Huot (third), Eli Bervig (fifth), Etter (ninth) and Ephraim Bervig (10th) earned all-conference honors while Maanum (12th) and Hensel (15th) were all-conference honorable mention runners as the Panthers compiled 39 points to edge out Staples-Motley’s 42 points for the title. Lopez placed 21st to round out Park Rapids’ seven-member team.

At the Section 8A meet, the Panthers tallied 72 points to trail Perham’s 34 points to earn a trip to the state Class A meet for the first time since 2012 and 12th time overall. Huot finished eighth overall with Maanum (12th), Etter (15th), Eli Bervig (19th), Hensel (20th), Ephraim Bervig (25th) and Lopez (40th) following.

The Panthers capped off the season by placing sixth at the 16-team state Class A meet with 194 points. That was Park Rapids’ best showing at state since placing sixth in 1995. Huot led Park Rapids by placing 30th while Maanum (66th), Etter (71st), Eli Bervig (89th), Ephraim Bervig (96th), Hensel (108th) and Lopez (129th) followed. Nova Classical Academy won the state title with 122 points and Perham was second with 128 points. Perham only graduated its No. 1 runner.

“The boys want to get back to state and finish even higher than last year. I feel their chances are really good,” said Richard. “We have great leadership and they’re motivated and determined. They want it and that’s half the battle. They feel that anything less than getting back to state will be a letdown.”

Girls set high goals

Richard is hoping the return of six section runners will make the Park Rapids girls team a contender to claim a state berth.

Leading the Panthers this season are the six returning section runners: seniors Morgan Koppelman, Julia Harmon, Natalia Lopez, Aleka London and Lyvia Livermore along with eighth grader Embry Deshayes. Koppelman capped off last season by qualifying for the state Class A meet as an individual.

Looking to fill the spot vacated by the graduation of Holly Johnson are senior Natalie Backmann; freshmen Breanna DeBlieck, Alessia Harmon and Sarah Hartung; and eighth graders Madeline Brandt, Amelia Gravdahl and Makenzie Mack.

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Park Rapids concluded the regular season a year ago by placing third at the Mid-State Conference meet with 79 points. Staples-Motley (34) and Detroit Lakes (73) led the six-team field. Koppelman placed 11th and Harmon was 13th to earn all-conference honorable mention honors. Lopez (16th), London (17th), Johnson (22nd), Hartung (28th) and Gravdahl (29th) rounded out Park Rapids’ conference squad.

Koppelman qualified for state by placing 13th overall in leading the Panthers to third place at last year’s 20-team Section 8A meet with 117 points. Perham won the section title with 35 points and Hawley followed with 42 points. Harmon (21st), Lopez (22nd), London (26th) and Johnson (41st) rounded out the Panthers’ team score while Deshayes (52nd) and Livermore (91st) followed. Koppelman made her state debut by placing 84th at the Class A meet to cap off the season.

Perham returns its entire team while Hawley graduated three of its top four runners.

“The girls would like to get to state. The girls have a lot of talent and are working hard. Seeing Morgan get to state last year lit a fire under them to train hard,” said Richard. “There’s stiff competition with Perham and Hawley, but I definitely think the girls have a chance to compete for that second state spot.”

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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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