Track and Field: Park Rapids girls lived up to high expectations
Winning Section 8A title, placing in three events at the state Class A meet highlighted season.
Even with the delayed spring, the Park Rapids girls track and field team lived up to head coach Corey Hill’s high expectations.
The Panthers ended the regular season by winning the subsection title for the 16th year in a row and claiming the Section 8A title before qualifying for the state Class A meet in four events. Senior Holly Johnson, juniors Morgan Koppelman and Natalie Lopez, and freshman Addison Lauwagie advanced in the 4 x 800-meter relay while Koppelman, Lopez, Lauwagie and junior Olivia Davis qualified in the 4 x 400-meter relay. Advancing as individuals were Koppelman in the pole vault and Lauwagie in the 800. Those five scored 10 points to tie for 31st place at the state meet.
“The weather this spring made things very difficult, but once we got outside, the girls really stepped up and competed hard. They performed well in every meet,” said Hill. “We had great numbers and had great leadership. We were relatively young, but we developed well and were strong in all 18 events. Our expectations were extremely high this year and the girls met those expectations. We had one of our better years.”
During the five indoor meets, the Panthers finished fourth at the 25-team Little Amik Invitational at Bemidji State University with 58 points as Frazee took first with 91 points, finished fifth at the 16-team Thundering Herd Invitational at North Dakota State University with 54 points as Central Cass led the field with 111 points, placed fourth the 18-team Beaver Relays at BSU with 54.33 points as Frazee compiled 99.5 points to win the title, scored 1,084 points to finish third at the 14-team Mankato Relays with Stillwater leading the way with 1,260 points, and took fourth at the 15-team Craig Hougen Invitational at BSU with 74 points as Perham finished first with 112.5 points.
In the outdoor opener, the Panthers placed sixth at the seven-team Ed Babcock Invitational at Rocori with 64 points as Rocori finished first with 195.5 points and followed by scoring 96.4 points to finish third at the 11-team John Reimer Classic at Pillager. Becker won that title with 117 points. Park Rapids placed fifth at the Craig Fredrickson Invitational at Detroit Lakes with 103.5 points as the host Lakers topped the six-team field with 155 points.
At the Section 8AA True Team meet at Fergus Falls, the Panthers finished fourth with 467 points as Detroit Lakes won the title with 561 points in the 11-team meet. Park Rapids then placed third at the five-team Mid-State Conference meet at Vern Weekley Field with 137 points. Detroit Lakes also won that title with 167 points. Taking first for the Panthers in the conference meet were Davis, Lauwagie, Lopez and Koppelman in the 4 x 400 relay and Lauwagie, Lopez, Johnson and seventh grader Madeline Brandt in the 4 x 800 relay. Lopez also won the 400 and Koppelman finished first in the pole vault while Pike (long jump) and Koppelman (1,600) had runner-up finishes.
Park Rapids dominated at the initial Subsection 8A East meet at Roseau with 188 points. Winning individual subsection titles were Lauwagie in the 800, Lopez in the 400 and junior Riley Pike in the long jump. Davis, Lauwagie, Lopez and Koppelman won the 4 x 400 relay while Lauwagie, Lopez, Johnson and Koppelman won the 4 x 800 relay. Adding runner-up showings were Johnson along with freshmen Laney Vrieze, Olivia Miller and Brooke Kritzeck in the 4 x 100 relay and 4 x 200 relay. Koppelman also took second in the 800 and pole vault.
Also qualifying for the section meet were Vrieze (fourth in the 100), Davis (third in the 400, sixth in the triple jump), Lauwagie (third in the pole vault), Johnson (tied for fifth in the pole vault), Miller (third in the 200), junior Julia Harmon (third in the 3,200, eighth in the shot put), seventh grader Avery Schuller (seventh in the 200), senior Simone Wolff (fifth in the discus), Pike (third in the triple jump), Brandt (third in the 800, fourth in the 1,600), Kritzeck (third in the 100 hurdles, third in the high jump, fifth in the 300 hurdles), senior Quinn Hunter (fifth in the high jump), freshman Jena Meier (sixth in the high jump), freshman Nora Bolton (eighth in the 3,200), freshman Brandi Morgan (fourth in the triple jump), seventh grader Embry DeShayes (fifth in the 1,600) and eighth grader Grace Etter (sixth in the 1,600).
The other subsection competitors were Miller (sixth in the long jump), Harmon (eighth in shot put), Schueller (ninth in 100), Wolff (15th in shot put), Hunter (seventh in 100 hurdles), junior Aleka London (ninth in 3,200), Morgan (seventh in long jump), eighth grader Grace Officer (eighth in 300 hurdles), sophomore Nora Gwiazdon (15th in the 400), eighth grader Breanna DeBlieck (eighth in 100 hurdles), sophomore Olivia Lange (10th in discus, 16th in shot put), seventh grader Amelia Gravdahl (13th in 100), eighth grader Sarah Hartung (11th in discus) and freshman Kiera Demoret (16th in 200).
Leading the Panthers to the Section 8A title with winning times were the 4 x 400 and 4 x 800 relay teams as well as Koppelman in the pole vault. Lauwagie was the runner-up in the 800 to qualify for state. Taking third were the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relay units and Koppelman in the 800 while Miller finished fourth in the 200. Also scoring points were Harmon (fifth in the 3,200), Brandt (fifth in the 800), Vrieze (sixth in the 100), Johnson (tied for sixth in the pole vault), Pike (sixth in the long jump and sixth in the triple jump), Davis (seventh in the 400 and eighth in the triple jump), Morgan (seventh in the triple jump) and Kritzeck (eighth in the high jump).
Rounding out Park Rapids’ section squad were Harmon (10th in the shot put), Schueller (10th in the 200), Wolff (13th in the discus), Brandt (11th in the 1,600), Kritzeck (10th in the 100 hurdles and 15th in the 300 hurdles), Hunter (ninth in the high jump), Meier (tied for 10th in the high jump), Bolton (12th in the 3,200), Deshayes (14th in the 1,600) and Etter (15th in the 1,600).
At the state Class A meet, Koppelman, Lopez, Miller and Lauwagie finished sixth in the 4 x 400 relay; Koppelman placed sixth in the pole vault; and Johnson, Koppelman, Lopez and Lauwagie placed eighth in the 4 x 800 relay. Lauwagie finished 17th in the 800 as Eden Valley-Watkins won the state title with 81 points.
“I was really happy with how we did at state. Our goal was to bring medals home in each event and we brought home medals in three of the four,” said Hill. “There is such good competition at state. The girls worked hard to get there and they just wanted to do their very best. The girls stepped up to the plate and had their best times, which all you can ask for. I’m really proud of them.”
Even though the Panthers will have to replace the contributions of Johnson, Hunter and Wolff, Hill is counting on the experience gained this season to pay off with another successful season next spring.
“This was a fun group to coach. They motivated themselves, worked hard in practice and bought into what it takes to be successful,” said Hill. “We’re going to be strong in all 18 events again next year. I’m very excited about this group in the coming years. I expect big things next year. We’re going to be a team to be reckoned with.”