Team effort leads Park Rapids girls to runner-up finish, return trip to state

At the beginning of the season, Kerry Johnson liked the chances of the Park Rapids girls cross-country team to return to the state Class A meet since all seven runners were back.

And they're off
Park Rapids’ Kinley Nordin (from left), Whitney Steffel, Abby Mueller, Megan Olson, Lydia Kantonen, Ellery Overmyer and Kendra Coborn took off from the starting line at Friday’s Section 8A meet at Bagley.

     At the beginning of the season, Kerry Johnson liked the chances of the Park Rapids girls cross-country team to return to the state Class A meet since all seven runners were back.

     During the season, the Panthers battled injuries and illnesses and weren’t at full strength entering Friday’s Section 8A meet at Bagley.

     Despite not being at 100 percent, the Panthers rose to the occasion by earning their fifth trip to state in the last six years.

     Thanks to a pair of top-five finishes by Lydia Kantonen and Megan Olson and pack running by Kendra Coborn, Whitney Steffel and Ellery Overmyer, the Panthers compiled 85 points to finish second behind Perham’s team total of 66. Roseau was third with 103 points and United North Central took fourth with 106 points in this 21-team section meet.

     “Taking second at sections felt somewhat like an upset. I still had plenty of hope and I knew if we could get the girls together and relatively healthy, we had a chance. Our season for a few of our runners has been such a roller coaster. I was truly hoping that we would be at the top of that roller coaster when it mattered most. Thankfully it turned out that way,” said Park Rapids head coach Kerry Johnson. “I just told the girls that they were ready and to just go run their races. Every single person they could beat was important. It wasn’t just a yellow (UNC) or green (Roseau) jersey; it was anybody they saw. I also told them that there was no pressure from me. I was proud of all of them for their work this season and heaven knows they put enough pressure on themselves. I just wanted them to do their best and if that wasn’t enough, so be it. I also told them that a trip to state was possible and I wasn’t ready to give up.”


     Bagley/Fosston’s Marissa Carlson won the section title by covering the 4,000-meter course in 15:27 while Roseau’s Ellie Nelson finished second in 15:40. Kantonen took third in 15:44, Perham’s Caitlin Covington was fourth in 15:45 and Olson finished fifth in 15:48.

     “I really knew that Lydia and Megan had great chances to advance individually,” said Johnson. “They have both been right up there in every race and I know they both wanted it badly.”

     Rounding out the Panthers’ team score were Coborn (25th in 16:59), Steffel (27th in 17:06) and Overmyer (28th in 17:08). The other Park Rapids runners were Kinley Nordin (56th in 18:29) and Abby Mueller (76th in 19:23).

     “I think having almost our whole team having raced at sections before and having been at state, they knew what they needed to do to get back. To beat Roseau and UNC, we needed to have our whole team together. We needed each girl to push and to get past the pain. I told them there was no sense holding anything back. They had to give it their all to keep the hope alive,” said Johnson. “We all wanted it so badly. They ran some very good races and yet I know this team can be even healthier. It is so rewarding to return to state. This is the best second place finish ever because it was somewhat unexpected and I know we caught other teams by surprise.”

     UNC’s Alyssa Peterson claimed the final individual state berth by placing 13th in 16:13. Completing the Warriors’ team score were Annika Aho (16th in 16:26), Anna Olson (19th in 16:32), Andrea Korvela (29th in 17:10) and Cierra Ahlf (34th in 17:34). Placing fourth was the highest section finish for the Warriors in school history.

     “The girls ran amazing. I truly feel we got everything we could possibly get out of this team and that is an amazing feeling as a coach,” said UNC head coach Steve Schreiber. “Alyssa had an incredible finish to catch two girls in the last 100 meters to grab the last individual spot.”

     The Panthers will be seeking to improve on last year’s state showing. Kantonen, Olson, Coborn, Overmyer and Mueller return from last year’s state team that placed 10th with 244 points. The state meet will be held Saturday morning at 11 at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

     “After racing at sections, we have a couple girls who aren’t 100 percent, so I’m not sure how the team will do. My hope is that this week will be a bit of a recovery time and they will be ready to run Saturday,” said Johnson. “Depending on how everyone feels, the team should do all right. Looking at other section times, there are some very fast girls. However, it’s hard to compare since not everyone runs on the same course. Lydia, Megan and the rest of the team are such competitors. I know they will have the eye of the tiger when Saturday rolls around.”



Girls team totals: Perham 66, Park Rapids 85, Roseau 103, United North Central 106, Pequot Lakes 123, Bagley/Fosston 163, Wadena-Deer Creek 218, Staples-Motley 224, Warroad 236, East Grand Forks 237, Frazee 239, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 311, West Marshall 342, Pine River-Backus 378. Incomplete teams: Crookston, Hawley/Ulen-Hitterdal, Pillager, New York Mills, Lake of the Woods, Trek North, Lake Park-Audubon.


Individual results

1, Marissa Carlson, BF, 15:27. 2, Ellie Nelson, Ros, 15:40. 3, Lydia Kantonen, PR, 15:44. 4, Caitlin Covington, Per, 15:45. 5, Megan Olson, PR, 15:48. 6, Ellie Morgan, Fra, 15:53. 7, Katherine Geist, Crk, 15:56. 8, Megan Danielson, Fra, 15:59. 9, Gina Garai, PL, 16:03. 10, Jenna Wegscheid, Per, 16:09. 11, Emma Brunelle, War, 16:10. 12, Brynnan Covington, Per, 16:12. 13, Alyssa Peterson, UNC, 16:13. 16, Annika Aho, UNC, 16:26. 19, Anna Olson, UNC, 16:32. 25, Kendra Coborn, PR, 16:59. 27, Whitney Steffel, PR, 17:06. 28, Ellery Overmyer, PR, 17:08. 29, Andrea Korvela, UNC, 17:10. 34, Cierra Ahlf, UNC, 17:34. 44, Jen Stifter, UNC, 17:54. 51, Megan Hendrickson, UNC, 18:06. 56, Kinley Nordin, PR, 18:29. 76, Abby Mueller, PR, 19:23.

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