By Eric Erickson,
Como’s winter athletic season concluded in early March at the Minnesota State Swimming Meet.
It was the third consecutive season in which Como swimmers qualified for the state meet, and their performance in the premier event reached a new level of success.
Also qualifying for a state meet this winter was freshman Nordic skier Henry Simmons. The Como girls’ basketball team secured another conference crown, while boys basketball players and wrestlers worked hard and made their own unique memories as well.
Boys swimming: The Cougars entered the Section 4A Meet on Feb. 24 with high expectations. Como’s upperclassmen had state qualification on their minds, but they also had goals of setting personal, and potentially, school records.
Mission accomplished! Como swimmers set three school records and qualified for state in eight events.
Gabe Napierala, Sig Isaacson, Kai Sackreiter and Kyle Kosiak set a new school record in the 200-yard freestyle relay. Charlie Power-Theisen and Oskar Helgen combined with Napierala and Sackreiter to break the school record in the 200-yard medley relay. And Napierala added a new all-time Como record for the 100-yard breaststroke.
There are three relays in high school swimming and Como advanced to state in all three, thanks to the 400 freestyle relay race by Isaacson, Power-Theisen, Helgen and Kosiak.
Additional individual qualifications in their specialty events were achieved by these same swimmers, which gave Como a great opportunity to produce points toward a high team score at the state meet on March 3 and 4 at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center.
Cougar supporters in the stands were thrilled to see Como swimmers advance out of the preliminary events on Friday and into Saturday’s finals. The overall team score resulted in a 10th place state finish — a phenomenal achievement for a group of swimmers that has kept improving through years of dedication.
At state, Isaacson was 11th in the 100 free style and 13th in the 200 freestyle. Napierala was 12th in the 100 breaststroke and 13th in the 100 butterfly. Sackreiter was 10th in the 50-yard freestyle and 16th in the 100 freestyle .
The ultimate team success came in the 200-yard freestyle relay, when the school record holders of Napierala, Isaacson, Sackreiter and Kosiak earned a spot on the podium with a fourth-place finish. Celebrating with state medals around their necks was a special way to end a spectacular season.
And for seniors Isaacson, Napierala and Power-Theisen, it was a fitting end to their Como swimming careers.
Nordic Skiing: Freshman Henry Simmons burst onto the scene in the Twin Cities Nordic Conference by placing fifth overall and earning all-conference. Simmons then qualified for the state meet by placing in the top 10 at the Section 4 Meet.
Skiing in the state meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik was a proud moment for Simmons and Como Nordic, with promise of more state meets to come.
Senior captain Liam Schwie finished his career as an all-conference honorable mention skier. Junior Sophie Warner and sophomore Margaret Spray were the top performers on the girls side.
Girls Basketball: The Cougars conference winning streak surpassed 80 games as the team rolled to its ninth straight city title. The streak set a record for the St. Paul City Conference.
In the Section 4AAA Tournament, Como earned the No. 3 seed and advanced to the semifinals before losing to Visitation.
This year’s squad was led by senior captain Shania Nichols-VanNett who reached the 1,000-point milestone for her career.
Senior Zhane Singer was the team’s leading rebounder and shot blocker. Senior captain Kayla James brought versatility to the Cougars offense and intensity to the defense.
Junior standouts Alice Wagner-Hemstad and Greta Seppanen added skill, hustle and strong defending and are ready to lead next year’s team in pursuit of another conference championship.
Boys Basketball: Junior Mason Aarness was the leading scorer for the Cougars who finished the season with a 4-8 conference record (6-17 overall.) Sophomores Dejaun Jones and Ja’Hari Hill both averaged over ten points a game and showed great potential in their first varsity season.
While most of the team will be back next season, the program will miss the senior leadership of Oliver Pletch and Levi Nichols.
Wrestling: Cougars earning all-conference awards were seniors Ve Ah Ree Shar and Thay Ler See, and junior Luke Glad. Junior Will Stiles and sophomore Farhan Idris gained honorable mention.
Stiles and Ve Ah Ree Shar both finished in fourth place for their weight classes in the Section 4AA Tournament.
Eric Erickson is a social studies teacher at Como Park High School.
Photo cutline: Como’s 200-yard freestyle relay team of Kai Sackreiter, Sig Isaacson, Gabe Napierala and Kyle Kosiak (L to R) earned fourth place in the state swim meet. Photo by Gwen Kosiak.