Como Park Senior High School junior Trevon Clay and senior Nate Parsons have never had a class together. None of their extra curricular activities overlap. But one thing they understand and appreciate about each other is where they’ve been and where they want to go again: the state tournament.
Parsons has been to the promised land of Minnesota high school sports in tennis. Clay has done the same in track and field. Both are working hard and producing results that make return trips to their respective state tournaments in June possible.
Neither is overconfident. Both are humble. Their coaches and teammates respect and admire those traits and are witness to the work being put forth in the attempt to repeat history and build upon it.
Clay qualified for state in 2014 as a sophomore in both hurdling events: the 110-meter and the 300-meter. He has learned to love the hurdles and the challenge of mixing speed with mobility.
A two-sport athlete, Clay also excels on the football field. His athleticism has been combined with technique taught to him by legendary Como coach Marv Rouse. Rouse was a hurdler in college, and Clay credits him for improving times, saying, “he’s a really smart man.”
Clay’s times have improved since last year when he qualified for state. He’s encouraged by this and was pleased to set all-time track records at Mounds View High School this April in a meet against strong competition. Clay says setting the records “builds confidence and shows the hard work is paying off.”
Head track coach Roy Magnuson has worked with thousands of Como athletes in 36 years of coaching in multiple sports. As for track and Clay, Magnuson puts him near the top with other Como runners who have gone on to state and medaled at that level.
“Ultimately, Trevon will want to be a state-place winner to cap his career,” Magnuson says. He adds that Como’s champion track athletes “were able to perform at their highest level on the biggest stage. I think that Trevon will join them.”
In addition to hurdling, Trevon also tops the conference in both the long jump and triple jump. The only other triple jumper close to Clay is teammate Richard Martin, also a junior. “People from other schools know about Tre(von) and his reputation,” Martin says. “People know how good he is. Competing against him makes me better.”
As a junior Parsons became the first Como tennis player to advance to the state tournament as a singles player. As a sophomore, Parsons was part of the first doubles team to make it to state, when he partnered with then-senior Ian Olesak.
Making it to state for a third consecutive year would be a crowning achievement for Parsons. There is pressure to get there again, but Parson’s not letting it get to him. “I’ve been more relaxed this year, enjoying it all more, and being with my teammates,” he says. “We win as a team and lose as a team. I still get nervous before my matches, but experience helps.”
He’s undefeated this season with a 13-0 record against city and suburban opponents. (The team is also holding its own with a 7-6 record.) Como’s tennis coach, Ron Filstrup, credits Parsons with encouraging his teammates and for his leadership in physical conditioning.
Filstrup is in his fifth season leading the Cougars. Prior to that he coached for more than 20 years at Woodbury High School, sending four elite players to the state tournament during that time.
Filstrup notes that Parsons has invested significant time working on the deficient areas of his game. Parsons is aware of the areas needing improvement and has focused on them to become a complete player.
When asked to compare Parsons to his previous state participants, Filstrup says simply: “He’s the best player that I’ve ever coached. He’s put in the time to erase any weaknesses.”
This spring sports season at Como is typical with a few hundred student athletes having fun with peers in activities they enjoy and working to achieve their personal bests. Trevon Clay and Nate Parsons are two shining examples among many.
They’re also two individuals who can relate to each other through their shared experiences of competing at the highest levels of state competition, dealing with high expectations, mental pressures and physical sacrifices. Two different sports, two different kids and one common goal: represent Como with their quest to be the best.
Eric Erickson teaches at Como Park High School and has coached a variety of school and youth sports teams in St. Paul over the last 20 years. Follow twitter @eestp for current school sports news.