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Park track & field: New faces hope to set new standards

Park junior Benson, who will also be playing varsity baseball for the second-straight season, will be the lone state qualifier from last season to return to this year's team. Benson finished in eighth place in the high jump and earned all-state honors last season.

Last year, Park 2008 grads Nik Hawley, Jackie Voigt and Kelsey Joson each made it to state in individual events, along with then-sophomore Drew Benson.

Hawley, Joson and Benson each earned All-State honors with their finishes at the state meet. Hawley finished second in the discus toss and Joson was runner-up in the triple jump. Benson finished in eighth place in the high jump and Voigt was 10th in the shot put.

The team also broke two school records last season. The girls 3200-meter relay team of Katie Borner, Kelsey Gleich, Sarah Meemken and Nicole Westphal broke its own school record of 9:53.75 with a 9:50.28 in the Section 3AA meet to come in fifth place in the section and Voigt broke her own school shot put record of 39-9, with a toss of 40-6 at the Suburban East Conference championships.

Benson, who will also be playing varsity baseball for the second-straight season, will be the lone state qualifier from last season to return to this year's team.

Park took part in a pair of indoor meets on March 21 and 26. Its first outdoor meet will be the Conference Relays on Tuesday, April 7. The boys will be at White Bear Lake, while the girls will stay at Park and play host to the meet. The Wolfpack Invitational will then be on Thursday, April 9 at Park High School.

Boys team has record turnout, hopes for true-team success

Over 90 boys signed up for track and field this year, which head coach Mike Moran happily says is a record.

"I've never had anywhere near that many boys before," Moran said. "I think we had 77 or 78 one point before, but that's been the most in the past."

Moran felt the school's persistence on promoting athletes to play multiple sports is a factor on why so many boys came out for the team this season.

"Track turns out to be the ideal thing for that philosophy," Moran said. "You can't all of a sudden start playing hockey or basketball, but you sure can all of a sudden try track."

Moran hopes the influx of athletes will help lead to greater overall success, especially in the true team contests, where team depth plays a greater factor.

"I think we're going to be very competitive in true team this year," Moran said. "We'll be able to fill all of our spots."

Moran believes two of Park's best events are the hurdles and the pole vault -- which are typically the two trickiest events to be good at.

"Both hurdle races, the pole vault and the disk are usually things you need to be experienced at to be good and we're experienced at the 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles and the pole vault," Moran said.

The Wolfpack's main 110-meter hurdlers will be seniors Tony Perkins and Josh Dorweiler and the 300-meter hurdlers are seniors Steve LaTour and Cole Meyers.

Perkins finished 11th at last year's Section 3AA meet in the 110 hurdles, while LaTour was 10th in the 300 hurdles.

In the pole vault, Park returns junior Peterson Pierre, who Moran says has the necessary skills to be a top-flight competitor in the event.

"He has the three requisites to be good in pole vault -- you have to be nuts, you have to have good upper body strength and you have to have good body control," Moran said. "He's enthusiastic about it too, he's working on it every day."

Park sophomore Ezekiel Okeleye will also be an athlete to keep an eye on this spring. Okeleye finished fourth in the section in the 200-meter dash, 11th in 100-meter dash and sixth in the long jump last year.

"We're not going to be in the bottom in anything," Moran said. "We have a deep core of distance runners, some good jumpers and sprinters too."

Girls looking to fill holes with bevy of young talent

Park head girls track and field coach Matt Maher is stressing that his athletes will need to take part in multiple events this season.

The Wolfpack girls lost a number of its best athletes from last season and will be looking for new stars to rise.

"We need a lot of holes filled from last year," Maher said. "We had a large graduating class of athletes that were with us for multiple years and they did a lot of events. We had a lot of four-event athletes last year.

"We need the girls that do one or two events to now step up and do three or four events this year. The one or two-event person is a luxury that is not available at Park High School this year and for years to come."

Park will not only need to replace its two state competitors -- Joson and Voigt -- along with key grads Kelsey Gleich, Meghan Horihan and Kacey Kline, but will also be without two current seniors in thrower Tina Fisher, who is out for the year with a knee injury, and distance runner Nicole Westphal, who did not sign up for track.

However, Park had more than 70 girls sign up for track this spring, which is 15-20 more than it had come out last season.

"We're going to rely heavily on a lot of our underclassmen," Maher said. "We have some good leadership, along with a large ninth grade class with some good athletes. There are going to be some freshman athletes that will participate and hopefully score some points for us this year."

In fact, Park's best chance at a representative at the state meet may be an eighth grader -- Larissa Lurken. Lurken reached the state cross country meet this past fall and finished in fourth place in the 3200-meter run and in seventh place in the 1600-meter run at last year's Section 3AA meet.

Maher also expects Josie Brinkman, a sophomore jumper and sprinter, to play a key role on the team as well as junior Hannah Davy in the hurdles.

The biggest unknown for Maher comes in the sprint events.

"Basically, we are starting from scratch with our sprints," Maher said. "But, we have a couple of new individuals in our distance crew, our relays are wide open and our jumps are basically wide open. The learning curve is going straight up."

Park boys track and field

-- 2008 - 09

Key returners: Drew Benson, jr.; Tony Perkins, sr.; Steve LaTour, sr.; Josh Dorweiler, sr.; Cole Meyers, sr.; Peterson Pierre, jr.; R.J. Alowonle, fr.; Andy Voigt, sr.; Tyler Jones, sr.; Ezekiel Okeleye, soph.; Jon Fuller, sr.; Matt Ressler, sr.; Jared Flaata, jr.; Tomi Awosika, jr.; Nick Koethe, jr.; Nate Boening,sr.; James Talisesky, sr.; Kyle Laabs, sr.; Caleb Fink, sr.

Key graduates: Nik Hawley, Todd Kremin, Friday Omot, Mike Callan, Nick Alverson.

Main competition: SEC: White Bear Lake, Stillwater, Mounds View, Woodbury, Roseville. Section 3AA: Eastview, Rosemount, Burnsville.

Park girls track and field

-- 2008 - 09

Key returners: Katie Borner, sr.; Larissa Lurken, eighth grade.; Josie Brinkman, soph.; Hannah Davy, jr.; Megan Bresnahan, fr.; Holly Riesselman, sr.; Ashley Wilson, jr.; Tessa Sikich, soph.; Katie Kilgore, jr.; Lauren Kiefat, jr.; Kaelie Kennedy, soph.; Katrina Holmstrom, soph.

Key graduates: Kelsey Joson, Jackie Voigt, Kelsey Gleich, Kacey Kline, Meghan Horihan.

Main competition: SEC: Roseville, Stillwater, White Bear Lake, Mounds View, Woodbury. Section 3AA: Eastview, Prior Lake, Apple Valley.