On a sparkling fall afternoon after a full day of classes, Como Park Senior High School’s cross-country team headed out for an “easy” day of training. Forty runners—25 boys and 15 girls—headed out from Como’s brand-new track, across Victoria Avenue and onto the path around Lake Como.
The runners kept a comfortable pace, discussing subjects ranging from AP Calculus class to the upcoming meets as they rounded the lake and headed across Lexington Parkway. The run proceeded along the south side of the park and Como Zoo. This “easy” route would extend down Como Avenue past the state fairgrounds into St. Anthony Park.
Add the return along a meandering route back to school and the Cougars covered 8 miles. Tomorrow, they would take it to another level.
Como cross-country coach Tim Kersey, a St. Anthony Park native who grew up on Doswell Avenue, has a proven training regiment that his earnest runners know will maximize their potential. “Hard” days involve nearly 10 miles of overall distance, including a middle segment of repetitions that total three to four miles in total volume and are run at race pace.
This dedicated training has improved all runners’ times and brought several to the upper echelons of competitive races.
On the girls’ side, sisters Kathleen Miles (a senior) and Mary Miles (a junior) are serious contenders in qualifying for the state tournament. At the Blaine Invitational on Oct. 2, with a field of 70 competitors, Kathleen finished third overall and Mary finished fifth.
Girls’ cross-country races in the Minnesota State High School League are 4 kilometers (2.5 miles.) Kathleen finished the Blaine course in 15:46 and Mary followed at 16:04. Rounding out Como’s top six runners (five of whom count for the varsity team score) were Hope Helmin, Makayla Van Nett, Ana Caballero and Maddie Post. The team placed seventh out of 14 teams in Blaine.
Boys’ Cross Country races are 5 kilometers (3.1 miles.) The team finished in sixth out of 19 teams at the Blaine Invitational. The top finisher was Geleto Roba with a time of 17:45, good for fifth place overall out of 95 participants. Senior John Proper finished at 18:49 in 21st place.
Other varsity contributors at Blaine were Stefan Hankerson, Jacob Heiberger, Tuomas Sivula and Matt Klein. Kersey said the top finishers are usually the same from race to race. He is proud to note that every runner in the program supports all teammates across the finish line at every race. Being a team player and exhibiting kindness are key components of the team’s philosophy.
The supportive and spirited bond of the team is nurtured at team events that include pasta carbo-loads, Saturday morning runs and breakfasts at team members’ homes. The captains made similar comments about how tight the team bond is. “Everyone on this team supports each other because we are all friends,” Hankerson said. Some have been friends since their elementary days at St. Anthony Park or Chelsea Heights elementary schools.
Some of the friendships are newer, with Como cross-country as the origin. Regardless of history, the present season is full of spirit. Heiberger noted that, “We are always the loudest team at every meet. We cheer on all our runners. There’s a lot of pride and effort.”
Kersey agreed. This group has “leaders by example when it comes to support, caring about one another and acting as team players,” he said. “It is a privilege to meet with them at practice and see them perform at meets.”
The cross-country season concludes with the state meet on Nov. 1 at St. Olaf College in Northfield. If Como qualifies runners as it has in previous seasons, you can bet there will be some loud and proud support from the Como Cougars down in Northfield.
Check back in next month’s Bugle for an update on this team and a season summary of all Como and Murray fall sports teams.
Eric Erickson is a social studies teacher at Como Park Senior High School. He has coached a variety of school and youth sports teams in St. Paul over the last 20 years.