Packy Invite is back on trackFollowing a one-year hiatus, the Packy Paquette Invitational makes its return Thursday to the Lydia Thering Fieldhouse on the UW-Superior campus.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The Packy is back.
Following a one-year hiatus, the Packy Paquette Invitational makes its return Thursday to the Lydia Thering Fieldhouse on the UW-Superior campus.
The annual track and field meet, hosted by Superior High School, was canceled in 2012 due to problems with the indoor track surface at UWS.
The event is named in honor of Francis “Packy” Paquette, a 1967 graduate of Superior Senior High School who was killed in a car accident in 1968.
“I’m very happy to see it return,” said Kris Leopold, head coach of the SHS boys track and field team. “I know it was difficult for the family to not have the meet last year.
“We tried moving it outdoors; we looked at lots of different options to hold it.”
Paquette was a four-sport athlete for the Spartans. He excelled in the 100- and 220-yard distances in track and attended the University of Minnesota on a full athletic scholarship for football.
The first track meet in his honor was held in spring of 1969, and it continued until 1980.
Leopold then led the effort to revive the Packy Invite in 2008, and it has been an annual event for the Spartans since.
“Bill Torguson, who ran with Packy and who donates the awards, says he likes to see good competition,” Leopold said. “With 11 teams this year, he will definitely see that.”
Teams scheduled to compete this year are Ashland, Chippewa Falls, Cumberland, Duluth East, Eau Claire North, Hayward, Northwestern, Rice Lake, Shell Lake, Spooner and Superior.
“We are excited for the level of teams that Superior brought in for the Packy,” said Noah Jurek, Northwestern head coach. “I’ve been preaching to my kids that this is going to be a high-caliber meet.”
Superior has won three boys titles and two girls titles at the Packy Invite since 2008.
The Spartan boys topped Spooner by 10.5 points to win in 2008, and the Spartan girls took second to the Northwestern Tigers by five points.
Superior then swept the boys and girls titles in 2009 and 2010 before being shut out in 2011.
“We talked about expectations during the first few days of practice. Not winning a team title was tough on us,” Leopold said. “We look at this meet in a few different ways: We want the kids to be successful, and at the same time stay healthy for the season. It’s pretty early in the season to be pounding the kids in three or four events each.”
Leopold said if his athletes give their best efforts and finish in second place, he’ll be content.
“But when one or two kids don’t give their all, or save themselves for other events, it leaves me empty,” he said.
The Rice Lake will try to defend its boys team victory from 2011, but the girls field is missing its champion.
The Bloomer Blackhawks finished more than 10 points ahead of the second-place team to win the 2011 girls title. It was Bloomer’s first appearance at the Packy Invite since 2008. The Superior girls placed sixth, and Northwestern placed fifth.
The Spartan boys finished just two points behind Rice Lake in 2011 to take second place.
“Rice Lake went ‘nutso’ the whole meet. They came to our meet, dominated and had fun with their victory lap,” Leopold. “There are some who think we only won because we had light competition. They think differently now. The teams who go to the meet represent their school and community very well.”
Rice Lake is expected to have a strong team again this year.
Leopold said he’s also keeping an eye on the teams from Ashland and Northwestern.
The Tiger girls, in particular, have kept up a friendly rivalry with Superior at the Packy Invite.
Northwestern placed ahead of Superior in two of the four meets since 2008 and finished as the runner-up to Superior in 2010.
“After our girls won the Dennis Simpson Invitational Northwestern meet, one Northwestern coach was already talking about the Packy,” Leopold said. “He was making changes in his head and telling me how it was going to be different at our meet. I said I could not wait.”
The Tigers are favored in a number of events. In the pole vault, the Tiger girls will be going for their fourth straight win. The Tiger boys placed second in the pole vault for the past two events and are now looking to move up to first.
“This year’s team has a nice balance to it with leadership from our upperclassmen mixed with some talented, hardworking underclassmen,” Jurek said. “Our captains, Connilyn Hursh, Tess Nelson, Duncan Magerl and Ty Rankin have been doing an outstanding job leading and motivating this team. They have inspired young, competitive athletes new to the team.”
Mitch Graskey and Carter Shelafoe are among the new athletes who have made an early impression for Northwestern. Graskey won the long jump at the Simpson Invite on March 22 and is looking to hit 40 feet in the triple jump on Thursday, Jurek said.
Shelafoe has shown his speed in the sprints and relays, and Mason Lombard has given the Tigers a boost in the mid-distance races. Jurek said Lombard’s determination is “a true representation of a Northwestern team.”
For the Tiger girls, Tess Nelson is the favorite in hurdles, and Jordan Johnson will be a top challenger in the distance events.
NOTES: Leah Holmes is the only Spartan winner returning from the 2011 Packy Invite. She won the 1,600 over Bloomer’s Ali Olson by less than half a second. Holmes also won the 1,600 in 2010 as a freshman. … Logan Holly is the only returning event-winner for Northwestern. She won the girls pole vault in 2011. … Tess Nelson, of Northwestern, finished second in the 55 hurdles in 2011 to Bloomer’s Jaime Ludwigson. Evan Walpole took second in the 3,200 for the Superior boys. … Eau Claire North is making its first appearance at the Packy Invite since the meet’s reintroduction. ... Members of the boys and girls Northwestern teams are: Elias Alexandrou, Abby Altman, Olivia Amber, Hayden Anderson, Rachel Anttila, Ahmed Ben-Moussa, Shaylee Burke, Cerina Cimermancic, Brandon Copp, Austin Corey, Sami DeRosia, Brandee Dittbrender, Kelly Erkkila, David Fechtelkotter, Brianne Freeman, Alyssa Frick, Kalsey Gamst, Tyler Gamst, Jordyn Goddard, Mitch Graskey, Trevor Guenard, Beth Gurske, Chloe Hagenson, Timothy Heikkila, Logan Holly, Connilyn Hursh, Jordan Johnson, Anna Kalin, Raymond Koivisto, Alex Kolodziej, Emma Korn, Nate Lindahl, Brett Little, Justin Little, Mason Lombard, Daisy Mack, Leo Mack, Duncan Magerl, Nathan Markon, Lucus Masterson, Brooke McCauley, Taya McClure, Madison Misjack, Katie Moen, Reilly Moore, Nick Murray, Emma Nelson, Mariah Nelson, Jonathan Nelson, Tess Nelson, Taryn Neubauer, Carmen Ormston, Allyscia Palomo, Johnny Parkins, Brecken Paulus, Nate Pearson, Sierra Peterson, Ty Rankin, David Rautio, Kyle Rautio, Taylor Rose, Michaela Ruhman, Casey Schiff, Tim Schulz, Donald Sexton, Carter Shelafoe, Evan Simmons, Connor Smith, Angela Snow, Travis Sznaider, Breanne Tapani, Thomas Trzynka, Alex Tuura, Cody Waters.