By Eric Erickson,
Sports analysis

Here is an update on a fall sport and a look ahead to the winter sports season at Como Park Senior High School.

Lueck places fourth at state swim meet: Como Park sophomore Aleia Lueck qualified for her second consecutive state swim meet when she won the 50-yard freestyle at the Section 4A Meet in November. She qualified for the 100-yard backstroke as well when she finished third in a highly competitive section.

At the Minnesota State Meet one week later, Lueck set personal records in both events, earning two fourth-place medals.

Lueck’s year-round commitment to swimming, in-season training, athleticism and competitive drive have yielded elite results in high school competition with two seasons still in front of her.

“State was really exciting,” Lueck said. “Fourth place is so much better than I’ve ever done before and I really only started getting good like two years ago.

“I’ve become more motivated, and teammates always rooting for me helps a lot. Everyone on the team did really awesome and we had a big team which made everything more fun.”

Winter Sports

Girls basketball: The Cougars have the skills and depth to extend their 82-game conference winning streak and secure a 10th straight St. Paul City championship.

Strong senior leadership provided by captains Alice Wagner-Hemstad and Greta Seppanen, along with inspiration from injured junior captain Cece Davis, will ensure the team puts in the work for non-conference success as well.

“There’s a lot of positive energy,” Wagner-Hemstad said. “We have a lot of younger girls so everyone’s working hard and putting all they’ve got into it.”

As the Bugle went to press, Como was 5–0 in non-conference play with a starting line-up featuring the two senior captains plus senior SaySay Hinton, junior Makyia Kenney and freshman Naijiona Shaw.

Boys basketball: Senior captain Mason Aarness was the leading scorer in the St. Paul City Conference last season, averaging 18 points per game. He’s excited for his fifth year of playing for the Cougars (having been a varsity player as a Murray eighth grader).

“I’m looking forward to playing all the conference teams one more time and competing,” Aarness said. “Everyone’s engaged in practice and committed. We’re ready for a good season.”

Key players on the Cougar roster include senior Zalaen MacCallum, juniors Ja’hari Hill and Dashawn Robinson, and sophomores Contrell Jenkins, Kavaughn Lissimore and Hezekiah Bradshaw.

Boys swimming: Senior captains Kai Sackreiter and Kyle Kosiak are aiming to compete in another state meet.

Last year, Sackreiter placed 10th in state for the 50-yard freestyle and made the finals in the 100 free. Kosiak and Sackreiter were part of a relay team at state that earned fourth place in the 200 free and ninth place in the 400 free.

Senior Oskar Helgen is another state meet participant with goals of getting back. Last season he helped the 200 medley relay team and the 400 free team qualify for state. Fellow seniors Garrett Seppanen and Adi Toe, along with sophomore Joey Schumacher who is a rising talent, figure to be prominent point-earners for the Cougars this season.

“Overall, we’ve got a great environment,” Kosiak said. “We’ve got like 20 people, and with everyone working hard together every day, I think it’s going to be a fantastic season.”

Nordic skiing: The Cougars have a new head coach, Heather Norton-Bower, who brings a decade of Nordic ski coaching experience to the program. Norton-Bower is also in her first year as a science teacher at Como.

Sophomore Henry Simmons qualified for the state meet last season, hopes to do it again and is serving as the boys’ captain. Senior Sophie Warner is the captain for the girls. They are assisted by Nordic leaders Anna Lovat, Wil Finlay and Niko Turnure.

“I feel very lucky to work with them and all the Nordic athletes,” Norton-Bower said. “They have been a very welcoming group!”

The collective group is a mixture of experienced and novice skiers who are over 30 strong in total. The team was able to purchase two pairs of roller skis for dryland training.

Norton-Bower explained that while a few Como athletes own roller skis, most don’t because they are expensive. Giving more athletes access to the equipment will help the skiers develop their skills.

Wrestling: Senior captain Will Stiles has wrestled deep into the section tournament the past couple seasons, narrowly missing state qualification. A three-sport athlete, he’s training to be at his best in the 160 lb. division.

There are 25 wrestlers in the program, including eight girls. Minnesota added girls wrestling as a sanctioned sport with their own competitive divisions, and the Como coaching staff is thrilled to have new participants. 

Eric Erickson is a social studies teacher at Como Park High School and a longtime coach of youth sports.

Photo cutline: Como sophomore Aleia Lueck finished fourth in the state for both the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard free. Photo by Christina Ward.

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