Panthers set sights on final North Suburban titles

The Spring Lake Park/St. Anthony Village track and field teams are usually in the thick of things when it comes to the North Suburban Conference championship chase. Those expectations aren’t any different under new head coach Jason Liston.

This is the final track season in the North Suburban Conference, and the Panthers are gunning for one last NSC title.

“We are looking, for the boys and girls squads, to win the final NSC conference championship this season,” said Liston. “Although we are young this season, we feel like we have a great shot at winning the final conference title for both genders.”

The SLP/SAV boys enter the season as the four-time defending conference champions and return ten top athletes. Junior Nick Lawson from St. Anthony Village High School is the team’s top distance runner and is looking to get his 3,200-meter time below 10 minutes this season.

Grant Walter and Richie Toweh are set to lead the sprinters and Joey Lee is a top thrower.

Top newcomers include sophomore hurdlers Jimmy Zeller and Jake Portratz, freshman distance runner George Elsesser and sophomore sprinters Ebenezer Fanibi, Tai Mohammed and Harun Anshuur.

The Panthers girls team was third in the conference standings last spring and returns five top athletes. St. Anthony senior Melissa Marsh leads the distance crew while the team’s top sprinter is senior Ashley Fleischfresser. Newcomers who could have an impact this season include sophomore sprinter/jumper Mindy Froehle, freshman sprinter Hannah Schultz and junior sprinter Becca Carpenter. A thrower to watch is sophomore Katie Loes.

“We were a young team with good talent last year and we expect the girls team to start to make some noise this season and next,” said Liston.

Overall, both teams are young but they appear to be hard-working athletes.

“We’re young, but hungry,” said Liston. “We’ve had a great start to the season with intense practices where we see the kids working extremely hard to be as successful as they can be this season.”

The new coach

Liston replaces longtime SLP/SAV track coach Don Fineran after spending 10 years as an assistant under Fineran. Liston was a conference-champion and state-meet triple jumper while at Baldwin-Woodville High School in Wisconsin.

He was also a triple jumper at Jamestown University in North Dakota and won conference titles and qualified for nationals.

Joining Liston’s staff are Bob Bichler, who is also a new physics teacher at Spring Lake Park High School, and Dustin Sluzewicz, a recent Bemidji State graduate. Bichler is the distance coach and Sluzewicz is an assistant sprint/horizontal jumps coach. Sluzewicz was a state finalist in the 200 meters while in high school in Illinois.

“One of our main strengths, as always, is the coaching staff,” Liston said. “We have an amazing assistant coaching staff with a combination of knowledge, passion and years of experience who, year in and year out, get the most out of our athletes.”

Brian Meyers can be reached at


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