By Eric Erickson
A full, complete season of activities, accompanied by supportive spectators, made the fall of 2021 memorable for Como student athletes. Here’s a sports recap, beginning with a historic accomplishment in cross country running.
Boys Cross Country
For the first time since 1981, the Como boys cross country team qualified for the State Meet. The Cougars won the Section 4AA Meet on Oct. 27 in impressive fashion, beating second-place Mahtomedi by 16 points and nine other teams by even larger margins.
Como junior Charlie Power-Theisen ran the 5K course at Highland Park in a blistering time of 15:59 to also earn the individual title.
The top five finishers for each school make up the team score. In a field of 75 runners, Como juniors Mason Aarness and Liam Schwie were seventh and eighth place respectively, while seniors Soren Sackreiter and Owen Finlay finished 11th and 16th—all in the 17-minute range.
The Cougars team effort is a byproduct of disciplined training that the boys have put in for years, including consistent summer workouts.
“It’s nice to see all the work pay off,” Finlay said. “We thought we had a chance to make state, and to get there feels good.”
The Minnesota State meet was held at St. Olaf College on Nov. 6, which was an unusually warm day. The team finished 14th for Class AA in a day of challenging conditions.
Senior Dylan Aarness returned to the state line-up after overcoming an injury and scored for the Cougars, along with his brother Mason, Power-Theisen, Sackreiter and Schwie. Finlay and Sig Isaacson rounded out the state roster.
For guiding the Cougars to their best season in 40 years, Tim Kersey was selected the St. Paul City Conference and Section 4AA Coach of the Year. He credited the team’s success to the commitment and work ethic of his runners.
“I enjoyed seeing how genuinely happy the team was when they were holding the section championship trophy,” Kersey said. “They don’t just give those away. The kids were consistent and made sacrifices.”
Girls Cross Country
The team peaked at the Section 4AA Meet with a fifth place overall finish out of 10 teams in the competition. Senior Saylor Landrum earned All-Conference. Sophomore Anna Lovat and freshman Margaret Spray were All-Conference honorable mention.
The Como/Johnson co-op team had a 2-4 overall record, 2-2 in the city. Eighth grader Aleia Lueck, at Murray Middle School, was All-Conference and Como sophomore Sophie Warner attained honorable mention.
The Cougars improved as the season progressed, pulling off an upset victory over St. Anthony Village in the first round of the section playoffs. In the St. Paul City Conference, the girls finished in third place with a 7-5 record. The overall record for the year was 11-11.
Seniors Jada James and Tess Freberg were selected as All-Conference players. Sophomores Ellery Tennison and Greta Seppanen received All-Conference honorable mention.
A challenging non-conference schedule to start the season led to growth and successful results in the second half. The Cougars went 4-2 in conference play and finished third in the St. Paul City.
Senior defender Mariatu Kanu was voted the team’s most valuable player. She earned All-Conference honors along with fellow senior Lenia Lopez and junior Betty Hebble. All-Conference honorable mention players were seniors Isabella Sanchez-Esparza and Nightin Day and freshman goalkeeper Eh Dah Wah.
Senior captain Eva Larson concluded her career with another All-Conference performance at No. 1 singles. The team finished 2-4 in the St. Paul City in fifth place. With 18 girls in the program and Larson the only senior, the team’s future is promising.
Sophomore Ashley Hartwich was another All-Conference player for the Cougars, and freshman Livina Schubert and Murray seventh grader Ela Cantellano earned honorable mention.
The Cougars posted an overall record of 6-6-4. Senior captain Soren Berg was named to the Minnesota All-State team in addition to his All-Conference recognition. Senior defender Ethan Lee was also an All-Conference selection.
Earning honorable mention were seniors Gordon Van Sant and Sae Reh and junior Abduli Tusa.
With the return to a full schedule and competition in the Twin Cities District for 2021, the Cougars rebounded from an 0-3 start to finish with an overall record of 4-6.
All-district players included seniors Santos Aguirre, Jude Breen, Caleb DuPaul, Aaron Adekplovi and Justus DeLoach. Honorable mention was earned by seniors Dekedrick Johnson, Damian Perryman and John Oo and sophomore Luke Glad.
Adekplovi was voted the Gold Sub-District Defensive Lineman of the Year and DeLoach was voted the Gold Sub-District Offensive Lineman of the Year.
Eric Erickson is a social studies teacher at Como Park High School and a longtime coach of school and youth sports in St. Paul.