Como Park Senior High School’s fall sports season ended with the winning of city and section championships in three sports.
The volleyball team won the St. Paul City Championship for the second time in three years. They clinched the title in the Como gym against Central in the last match of the regular season, to finish 11-1 in conference (20-8 overall).
Coach Kim Smisek and her players were confident they could do it, but a packed gym of Como fans, and maybe even the team itself, was impressed by how they did it. Saving balls all over the court and converting kills with precision and power produced happy faces that beamed for the post-match photos. The Lady Cougars created a memory they will always cherish.
Cross Country involves individual competition within the team sport. Conference champions are crowned for both teams and individuals. Both the Como boys and girls teams finished third in the conference. The individual champions for each team were Como’s brother-and-sister dynamic duo of Innocent Murwanashyaka and Florence Uwajenza.
This thrilling feat was celebrated and shared by teachers, friends and teammates who gathered on the Como Golf Course to cheer them on and capture the historical event of siblings winning the city meet.
Innocent’s excellence carried over into the Section 4AA meet, where suburban and private schools of the northeast metro competed for slots in the state meet against city teams. With a third-place finish (out of 80) in the section, Innocent qualified for state, showing a larger audience that the city champ was the real deal.
Then there’s that Como soccer team. The St. Paul City is a gauntlet of fierce competition in boys soccer. Playing in it has always prepared the Cougars for section tournaments. The Cougars won the conference in 2012 and 2013 before heading to state, but it’s not a prerequisite.
The 2014 team went to State after a second-place finish in the conference. This year’s team finished third, and was the No. 4 seed for the Section 4A Tournament. Casual fans did not expect much from Como. Section competitors in the know feared losing to their Como opponents. Their fears were realized.
After a come-from-behind quarterfinal win against city rival Washington, the Cougars traveled to play the No. 1 seed Mahtomedi in the semifinals. Como dominated the top seed, winning 1-0, and advanced to the section Championship vs. the No. 3 seed Mounds Park Academy.
With the opportunity to go back to state right in front of them, the Cougars seized the day and enjoyed everything about their convincing 3-0 victory. The resiliency of the team was remarkable. They never, ever quit. They improved and found their form with each game. And they created another fond memory for the school and Como community could celebrate with pride.
Eric Erickson is a social studies teacher at Como Park High School and a longtime coach of school and youth sports in St. Paul.