By Eric Erickson
Practices for spring sports in the Minnesota State High School League started in mid-March. Most Como teams had three weeks of indoor practices before warmer weather finally melted the winter’s plentiful snow.
As April advanced, competitions increased with games, matches and meets for multiple Cougar teams each day after school.
For a glimpse of each Cougar varsity team, we present this spring sports preview. Schedules and results for all Como and St. Paul City Conference teams can be found at saintpaulsports.org.
Track and field: Many student athletes are trying track and field for the first time this spring and that boosts the combined boys and girls roster to more than 50 team members. The Cougars have produced solid third-place finishes in the St. Paul City Conference for each of the past two years.
That will remain a goal for both the boys and girls teams in 2023.
On the girls side, Ellery Tennison is a top-tier hurdler and triple jumper, Alice Wagner-Hemstad and Greta Seppanen are versatile athletes and leaders of relay teams and Sahara Hinton is one of the best high jumpers in the conference.
The distance events are a strength of the boys team led by cross country runners. Juniors Mason Aarness and Garret Seppanen, senior Liam Schwie, plus senior captain Charlie Power-Theisen are in top form and ready to score points in the 1600M and 3200M.
Boys Tennis: New courts at Como, donated by retired coach Kathy Dumas, are scheduled to be constructed during the summer. Before that, a young Cougar team will strive to create a memorable season. Ninth and tenth grade players will form the core of the roster, anchored by No. 1 singles player sophomore Nolan Rognerud.
Baseball: New head coach Ian Zangs is excited to have a good group of senior leaders including Gabe Napierala, Nic Everson and Frank Barnard. The team is emphasizing the need to be flexible and play multiple positions to accommodate a lack of pitching depth.
Veterans and newcomers will be asked to step up and try new things for the good of the group. Program goals are to improve upon last year’s 5-10 record and to develop younger players. Having a full junior varsity team and schedule should help with that.
Softball: The team’s early season fundraiser created some team bonding and community connections. Players produced Easter egg hunts and baskets for their “Egg My Yard” event with earnings going towards new equipment.
There is positive momentum in the program coming out of 2022 when the varsity posted a 10-7 overall record. This year’s senior captains are Kayla James, Dawn Weins and Par’iz Battee. Junior Desiree Vang will also be a captain. Callie McDermott will be the Cougars’ new head coach.
Golf: The top of the girls lineup will feature sophomore Genevieve DeGaetano and freshman Robin Engman-Phiri who are both prepared to reach a new level this season. Other returning players are Rakya Blackwell and Sar Yi.
Sophomore Sonom Vang will be the No. 1 player for the boys. He was an all-conference player last year who had a strong showing in the section tournament as well. Juniors Elliot Donahue and Johntavion Hudson are also returning players for the Cougars.
Badminton: The St. Paul City Conference contains the state’s top badminton teams, which means the Cougars will once again share the most challenging schedule possible.
New head coach Kyle Johnson has an eye on building for the future while helping this year’s varsity team reach their full potential. Of nearly 50 girls in the program, only five are seniors.
Three top seniors are Betty Hebble, LahSher Wah and Kaya Solheid. Juniors playing critical roles for the varsity are Xee Lee, Ta’Liyah McNeil and Lisa Truong. Team goals are to improve fitness and be at their best by the year-end conference and state tournaments.
Boys volleyball: The Cougars will continue to compete in the Minnesota Boys High School Volleyball Association. Momentum is building for the Minnesota State High School League to add boys volleyball as a sanctioned sport.
In the meantime, Como’s squad is working hard to try and match last season’s success. The 2022 team had a 10-1 record for the regular season and advanced to the quarterfinals of the association’s state tournament. Como alumni Koob Lee will coach the team.
Ultimate Frisbee: Another club sport in the spring is ultimate frisbee. Como Park has a long tradition of participation in the Minnesota Ultimate League, but this will be the first spring season competing in the “Open Division” as a co-ed team.
The team is enjoying their spirited practices. They have strong numbers with 28 players and are excited for games. Veteran leaders include seniors Ayden Brudnak Voss, Liv Miller, Vi Eicher and junior Emmett Driscoll.
Eric Erickson covers Como Park Senior High School sports for the Bugle and is a longtime coach of school and youth sports in St. Paul.