Panthers' future is on the right track
Andrew Lachowitzer likes the direction that the Park Rapids boys track and field team is heading.
This year’s team featured 49 athletes competing. Those numbers helped the Panthers finish second at the Mid-State Conference meet, first at the Subsection 8-29A meet and tied for 10th at the Section 8A meet. Lachowitzer is counting on an increased number of athletes competing in track and field will lead to increased success down the road.
“The season went well overall,” said Lachowitzer, who concluded his fourth season as the Panthers’ head coach. “We were very happy with the number of boys that went out for track this season. This was the biggest team I’ve had since I have been the coach and it’s really exciting to see this team grow. I really like the direction we are heading.”
Leading the Panthers this spring were seniors Josh Baker, Matthew Benson, Bradley Graham, Bryce James and Damion Leon; juniors Seth Breitweser, Rylley Clark, Chris Day, Jeremiah Engst, Spencer Fritze, Zach Fritze, Kole Gieseke, Payton Hill, Thomas Melvin, Jake Reish, Preston Renneberg, Kian Scott and Jacob Stewart; sophomores Marcus Benson, Eli Bessman, Hunter Brandt, Kolby Brandt, Max Crist, Kamryn Etter, Joe Klein, Keegan Moses, Rex Robbins and Avery Wolff; freshmen Lane Monaghan, Elliot Nichols and Kyron Wohlenhaus; eighth graders Darryl Etter, Tristan Hill, Josiah May, Sam Reish, Kaleb Stearns, Zach Van Batavia, Sam Warne and Kiergon Wilkins; and seventh graders Chris Bruce, Dawson Dahring, Matt Dahring, Pierce DeBlieck, Luke Hartung, Blaine Hensel, Lucas Kritzeck, Randall Porter, Cameron Runyan and Gabe Scholz.
Breitweser took first in the 800-meter run as the Panthers opened the season by placing seventh at the 16-team Bemidji Lions Invitational at Bemidji State University with 36 points. Grand Forks Red River took first with 150 points. Park Rapids followed by placing third at the 20-team Little Amik Invitational at BSU with 43.50 points. Matthew Benson, James, Breitweser and Stearns won the 4 x 800 relay at that meet. Wadena-Deer Creek topped the field with 74 points. In the final indoor meet at BSU, the Panthers placed 16th with 14 points at the Beaver Relays. W-DC led the 35-team field with 59 points.
In the outdoor opener, Breitweser won the 800, Wolff took first in the discus while Matthew Benson, Renneberg, Monaghan and Stearns won the 4 x 800 as the Panthers won the title at the seven-team Park Rapids Invitational with 206 points. The Panthers followed by topping the 10-team field to win the title at the May Day Invitational at Walker with 99.50 points. Taking first were the 4 x 800 relay team of Matthew Benson, Breitweser, Jake Reish and Monaghan and the 4 x 400 relay team of Matthew Benson, Breitweser, Zach Fritze and Kolby Brandt.
Leon took first in the discus as the Panthers placed fourth at the 21-team Crookston Invitational at East Grand Forks with 103.50 points as the host Green Wave took first with 173.50 points. Park Rapids then placed third at the seven-team Detroit Lakes Invitational with 65 points as Moorhead led the way with 217 points.
At the Section 8AA True Team meet at Fergus Falls, the Panthers placed sixth with 344 points as Perham topped the 10-team field with 499 points.
Breitweser won the title in the 800 and joined Matthew Benson, Kolby Brandt and Stearns on the winning 4 x 800 relay team as Park Rapids claimed runner-up honors at the Mid-State meet at Crosby with 160 points. Placing second for the Panthers were Jake Reish in the high jump; Baker, Spencer Fritze, Zach Fritze and May in the 4 x 100 relay; Day, Spencer Fritze, Zach Fritze and May in the 4 x 200 relay; and Matthew Benson, Day, Zach Fritze and Kolby Brandt in the 4 x 400 relay. Detroit Lakes won the conference title with 211 points in this five-team meet.
Three winning efforts in the relays helped the Panthers win the subsection title for the seventh time in the last eight years. Park Rapids compiled 171 points to top the field at Lake of the Woods. Matthew Benson, Breitweser, Kolby Brandt and Stearns took first in the 4 x 800 relay; Spencer Fritze, Zach Fritze, Day and May won the 4 x 200 relay; and Matthew Benson, Kolby Brandt, Day and Zach Fritze led the field in the 4 x 400 relay. Breitweser was the runner-up in the 800, Spencer Fritze took second in the pole vault while Baker, May, Spencer Fritze and Zach Fritze took second in the 4 x 100 relay.
Placing third for the Panthers were Matthew Benson in the 800, Bessman in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles, Baker in the long jump, Day in the 400 and Jake Reish in the triple jump while placing fourth were Crist in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles, Monaghan in the 1,600, Moses in the 3,200, Engst in the pole vault, Stewart in the shot put and Jake Reish in the high jump.
Also competing at the subsection meet were Scott (fifth in the 400), James (fifth in the 3,200), Payton Hill (fifth in the shot put and sixth in the discus), Wolff (fifth in the discus, sixth in the high jump and sixth in the triple jump), Baker (sixth in the 100), Darryl Etter (sixth in the 110 hurdles and ninth in the 300 hurdles), Jake Reish (sixth in the long jump), Stearns (seventh in the 400), Clark (seventh in the 1,600), Van Batavia (seventh in the 3,200), May (eighth in the 100), Engst (eighth in the triple jump and ninth in the 200) Renneberg (ninth in the high jump), Klein (ninth in the pole vault), Monaghan (10th in the 800), Graham (10th in the shot put), Melvin (11th in the 200), Sam Reish (12th in the long jump), Tristan Hill (12th in the discus), Spencer Fritze (13th in the 100) and Hunter Brandt (14th in the 200).
The Panthers capped off the season by scoring 31 points at the Section 8A meet at Glyndon. East Grand Forks won the section title with 103 points. Breitweser just missed qualifying for the state Class A meet after placing third in the 800 and joining Matthew Benson, Kolby Brandt and Stearns on the 4 x 800 relay team that placed fourth. Breitweser and Matthew Benson qualified for state as members of the 4 x 800 relay team last season. Also scoring points for the Panthers at the section meet were Bessman in the 300 hurdles (fifth); the 4 x 100 relay team of May, Day, Spencer Fritze and Zach Fritze (fifth); the 4 x 200 relay team of May, Zach Fritze, Spencer Fritze and Bessman (sixth); Jake Reish in the high jump (sixth); Engst in the pole vault (seventh); the 4 x 400 relay team of Kolby Brandt, Zach Fritze, Day and Matthew Benson (seventh); Day in the 400 (eighth); and James in the 3,200 (eighth).
Park Rapids’ other section competitors were Jake Reish in the long jump (ninth) and triple jump (15th); Monaghan in the 1,600 (11th); Matthew Benson in the 800 (11th); Crist in the 110 hurdles (13th) and 300 hurdles (13th); Stewart in the shot put (14th); Bessman in the 110 hurdles (15th); Moses in the 3,200 (16th); Wolff in the high jump (no height); and Spencer Fritze in the pole vault (no height).
Matthew Benson was named the Panthers’ MVP while Breitweser led the team in points. Receiving other team awards were Baker (Rookie of the Year), Day (Most Improved), Zach Fritze (Best Leader), Kolby Brandt (Hardest Worker) and Scott (Most Spirit). Reish, Payton Hill and Stewart received Coaches Awards.
“We got off to a late start with the weather not cooperating, but the boys’ attitude was good the whole time,” said Lachowitzer. “We are going to miss some key seniors, but we also have a lot of talented athletes that will fit in nicely to big roles on the team next year. We will have a ton of upperclassmen and I believe we can be as good as we want to be. I feel like we are very close to being a team that consistently will be competing in sections for going to state in True Team and as individuals. We can definitely compete in True Team, subsections and sections and I believe we can send a lot of kids to state next year.”