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Girls track team eyes section title, state trips

Looking to help the Park Rapids girls track and field team to another successful season are seniors (from left) Julia Johnson, Whitney Steffel and Izzy Villarreal. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Head coach Corey Hill has the same high expectations for the Park Rapids girls track and field team this season.

The Panthers had another highly successful season last spring by winning the Subsection 8-29A title for the 13th consecutive year, placing fourth at the Section 8A meet and qualifying five individuals in four events for the state Class A meet. Park Rapids also placed third at the Mid-State Conference meet and ninth at the Section 8AA True Team meet.

Four of those state qualifiers return as senior Julia Johnson, sophomores Hannah Morgan and Kendra Scholz, and freshman Holly Johnson will lead the way this spring. In addition to those four, Hill is counting on 16 other athletes who competed at last year's subsection meet to help lead the Panthers to another successful season on the track and in the field.

In addition to the four state qualifiers, senior Whitney Steffel; juniors Kayleah Breitweser, Kamree Carlson, Jada Renneberg and Cora Willenbring; sophomores Taylor Dravis and Liesl Smee; freshmen Quinn Hunter and Simone Wolff; and eighth graders Olivia Davis, Christina Engst, Morgan Koppelman, Natalia Lopez, Riley Pike, Emma Vrieze and Nadia Yliniemi Hensel return from last year's subsection squad.

Highlighting last season was sending five athletes to the state meet. Julia Johnson, Morgan, Scholz and Holly Johnson comprised the 4 x 100 relay team that placed second while the Johnsons and Morgan ran on the 4 x 200 relay team that took runner-up honors at the section meet to advance to state. Both relays placed 14th at the state Class A meet.

Also helping the Panthers place fourth at the section meet with 64 points (to trail Frazee's 77, Crookston's 76 and Pelican Rapids' 74) were Scholz (fourth in the 300 hurdles), Carlson (sixth in the 400), Holly Johnson (seventh in the pole vault), Renneberg (eighth in the 3,200), and Morgan (eighth in the long jump). Renneberg, Koppelman and Lopez ran on the 4 x 800 relay team that placed fourth while Julia Johnson, Carlson and Holly Johnson ran on the 4 x 400 relay that finished fourth.

Park Rapids' other section competitors who are back are Morgan (ninth in the 100), Scholz (10th in the 100), Julia Johnson (10th in the triple jump), Koppelman (14th in the 400), Hunter (14th in the 100 hurdles), Lopez (14th in the 800) and Smee (15th in the 1,600).

That group led the Panthers to the subsection title with all four relays taking first along with Morgan in the long jump and Scholz in the 300 hurdles. Morgan was second in the 100, Carlson was second in the 400 and Holly Johnson took second in the pole vault. Other top finishers at the subsection meet were Julia Johnson (third in the triple jump), Hunter (third in the 100 hurdles), Smee (third in the 1,6000), Koppelman (third in the 400), Scholz (fourth in the 100), Lopez (fourth in the 800) and Renenberg (fourth in the 3,200).

The other subsection competitors featured Hunter (fifth in the 300 hurdles and sixth in the high jump), Steffel (fifth in the 3,200), Vrieze (fifth in the 1,600), Breitweser (sixth in the 1,600), Carlson (seventh in the 200), Engst (seventh in both the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles), Pike (seventh in both the 400 and triple jump and ninth in the long jump), Yliniemi Hensel (eighth in both the 200 and long jump), Wolff (eighth in the high jump and ninth in the triple jump), Willenbring (eighth in the discus and ninth in the shot put), Davis (ninth in the 100 and 10th in the 200) and Dravis (10th in the shot put and 18th in the discus).

Earning all-conference honors with winning efforts were Morgan in the 100, the Johnsons and Morgan in the 4 x 200 relay, and the Johnsons, Morgan and Scholz in the 4 x 100 relay.

The Panthers have four key performers to replace with the graduation of Jaiden McCollum (who rounded out the 4 x 200 relay team and qualified for state in the shot put and discus), Jordan Klemmer (who placed third in the pole vault at the section meet), Kennedy Carlson (who placed sixth in the high jump at the section meet) and Tori Hilmanowski (who ran on the fourth-place 4 x 800 relay team and placed 15th in the 800 at the section meet).

Looking to help fill in the spots left by graduation are senior Izzy Villarreal; juniors Bridgette Basswood, Dannielle Brakefield, Megan Fuller, Madeline Guida, Hanna Heltemes, Paige Johnson (who missed all of last season with an injury) and Mary Nichols; sophomores Savana Damar, Tiffany Smith and Destiny Villarreal; freshmen Chelsea Dennis, Mackenzie Laferriere and Haley Nevala; eighth graders Katilina Addison, Coley Girtz, Julia Harmon, Haley Kerr and Lydia Livermore; and seventh graders Cece Chase, Maddy Evink and Ava Goodwin.

"We have set some big goals for this year and I feel that we are on track to accomplish many of those goals. Our big goal is to compete to the best of our ability and continue to evaluate athletes for the best team we can put together," said Hill, who will be assisted by Leah Hilmanowski. "As we prepare for subsections and sections, I feel that if we stay healthy we will be in a position to retain our subsection streak and contend for the top spot at sections once again. We understand that it will not be an easy task, but we do feel confident that we will be one of the teams fighting to be section champs. It is a goal of ours."

REMAINING SEASON SCHEDULE

April 23 - Park Rapids Invitational, 4 p.m. April 26 - at Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Invitational, 4 p.m.

May 2 - at Detroit Lakes Invitational, 3 p.m. May 7 - Section 8AA True Team meet at Detroit Lakes. May 14 - at Mid-State Conference meet at Detroit Lakes, 3:30 p.m. May 23 - Subsection 8-29A meet at Park Rapids.

June 1 - at Section 8A meet at East Grand Forks, 10:30 a.m.