A roundup of winter sports at Como Park Senior High and Murray Middle School
Girls basketball: The Lady Cougars earned a St. Paul City Championship for the first time in program history with an 11-1 conference record (20- 9 overall). Playing in the Twin Cities Championship game for the first time, they defeated Washburn, the Minneapolis champion, 70-65 in overtime.
With two new titles under their belts, the girls entered the highly competitive section play-offs and knocked off St. Anthony Village High School in the first round. The magical season came to an end in the semi-finals against DeLaSalle, a Top 10 team in the state rankings.
Junior DI recruit Andryah Adams led the team, and the state, in scoring with an average of 30 points per game.
Girls hockey: Several Como skaters formed the nucleus of the St. Paul Blades, the cooperative hockey team for girls in the St. Paul Public Schools. Team leaders included senior Mackenzie Olson and juniors Maddy Greeley, Brianna Menssen and Cassie Prescott.
The signature victory for the team was on Hockey Day in Minnesota, when the Blades hosted an old-school outdoor hockey game at North Dale Recreation Center on a frigid January day versus the Minneapolis Novas. The Blades grinded out a hard-fought 1-0 shutout to create a lasting memory.
Gymnastics: The dedicated gymnasts, who were featured in the December Bugle, continued developing their craft with focused training in their supportive atmosphere.
The team scored its season’s best mark at the section meet, showing evidence of its steady improvement. The score was the team’s highest in three years and earned seventh place overall. Senior Anna Fryxell was named All-Conference Honorable Mention. Coach Kirstyn Ouverson said Anna “finished her senior year with grace and prowess.”
Eighth-grader Chloe Hansen from Murray also consistently placed high marks in the varsity results.
Nordic skiing: The boys and girls teams trained together throughout the season, focusing on fitness and dry land training before Como Golf Course and other skiing venues had snow. Meets were held throughout January.
Highlights included a strong second-place team finish for the boys at the Tartan Invitational, featuring competition from six suburban schools including North St. Paul, Sibley and St. Thomas. Senior Stefan Hankerson was the top individual finisher at the meet held at Lake Elmo. The team had a combined GPA of more than 3.75, earning the MSHSL Gold Academic Award.
Wrestling: A young team relentlessly trained and stayed fit to compete in dual meets and tournaments against tough competition. Sophomore Tha Dah and senior Nelson Gay both earned All Conference. Dah and Gay also were place winners in the section tournament, along with freshman Drew Barnard.
Roy Magnuson is stepping down after 30 years of coaching Como Park wrestling. Next year St. Anthony Park, Murray, Como Park and University of Minnesota alum Tijl Vanderwege will take over as head coach.
Boys hockey: After a stellar start that garnered the attention of the Pioneer Press and other media outlets in the “State of Hockey,” the Cougars finished the season with an overall record of 16 wins and 10 losses. Junior Ian Tully led the team in scoring with 25 goals and 16 assists. Senior George Neisewander had 16 goals and 17 assists, and senior defenseman Matt Klein contributed another 14 assists. Senior goalie Carter McCoy kept the team in games with leadership and steady play between the pipes.
Boys basketball: An undersized but athletic team played a difficult nonconference schedule to prepare for the St. Paul City competition. A respectable 6-6 conference record was produced with energetic play and effort. Junior Demetric Mitchell led the team in scoring and rebounding. Senior Shawn Phillips led the team in assists and was second in both scoring and rebounding. Senior Ibrahim Isse provided veteran leadership, along with unselfish M teamwork.
While some seniors have played their final game for Como, next year’s squad will return several key dynamic players.
Boys swimming: The swim team finished fourth in the City Conference meet, which included impressive individual and relay performances from the Cougars.
Junior Israel Higuera, sophomore Joe McCune-Zierath, along with freshmen Jared Czech and Cole Napierala, placed third in the 200-meter medley. The same swimmers repeated the third-place result in the 400-meter freestyle medley.
Higuera placed second in both the 50- and 100-meter freestyle individual events. Talented and committed underclassmen make for a promising future.
Wrestling: With a hard-working squad of 18 wrestlers that only included two eighth-graders, the Pilots placed third in the City Conference. Three Murray wrestlers won individual titles at the conference meet: Elie Doby at 155 pounds, Chue Chang at 165 pounds and Pedro Acosta at super heavyweight. Second-place finishes were earned by Kaelyb Sears at 85 pounds, Stone Frasl at 95 pounds and Jesse Nelson at 105 pounds.
Coach Kirby Scull described the season as outstanding with “a great deal of improvement.”
Girls basketball: Winning five of their last seven games, the team finished with an overall record of 6-6. The Pilots were a young team with just two players returning from last year. After a loss to Hazel Park early in the season, the Murray girls’ turned the tables and defeated Hazel Park by seven points in the rematch. The coaching staff emphasized fundamentals that improved play through the season, while building a foundation for future success.
Boys basketball: As the Bugle went to press, the team was tied for first place in the conference with a record of 10-1 and on pace to play in the City Championship game once again. The boys have been working hard and carved out significant wins against other top-tier teams, including Hazel Park and Washington. The boys are also working hard off the court to become student role models in the Murray school community.
Spring sports: Baseball, softball, badminton and track began practicing on March 23.
Eric Erickson teaches at Como Park Senior High School. You can follow him at twitter @eestp for current school sports news.