Cougars, Pilots wrap up winter sports season

Sports news and analysis

More than 200 students at Como Park High School and Murray Middle School played in 11 athletic programs this winter and, win or lose, hopefully they all benefited from that experience.

For the Bugle community, we offer a snapshot of the winter sports season and what these programs produced at Como Park High School and Murray Middle School. 

Como Park Cougars  

Boys’ swimming—Having graduated several leaders including three state meet participants from the prior season, the Cougars were a younger, less experienced team in 2018-19. But the depth of the program increased with 25 participants.

Como captain Ethan Napierala swims the 100-yard butterfly in
the St. Paul City Conference Meet.

With positive energy and consistent workouts, the novices made rapid improvement. As for returners, they continued to shave time off their races and kept Como a competitive program in the city, as well as Section 4A. The Cougars finished third in the St. Paul City Conference. Out of 10 teams in the section, Como placed fourth. This was accomplished despite senior captain Joe Miller being sidelined with an injury.  

The 200-yard medley relay team of sophomores Ethan Napierala, Kaeden Warnberg-Lemm, Mark Remuto and freshman Soren Sackreiter placed third in the city meet. Junior Jack Schumacher joined Napierala, Warnberg-Lemm and Sackreiter for the same relay race in the section meet, where they finished fourth.

Sophomore Ian Brudnak Voss was part of the 200-yard freestyle relay team that was third in the city. Junior Mason Salverda helped swim a big leg of the of the 400-yard freestyle relay that also finished third in the city meet. 

     Soren Sackreiter earned All-Conference. Napierala, Warnberg-Lemm, Schumacher, Salverda and Aaron Ramsey earned honorable mention.

     Most impressively, the Como swim team earned the Gold Academic Award from the Minnesota State High School League based on the team’s overall GPA of 3.99 on a weighted 4.0 scale. 

Wrestling— As previously reported in the Bugle, Como Park won the St. Paul City Conference team title for the first time since 2004. Three Cougars were city champions in their weight classes as well: Mu Ku Shi, Stone Frasl and Sully Lucy. 

In the highly competitive Section 4AA Meet, junior Kaleb Sears battled his way to a third place finish in the 160-pound weight class. Senior Alonte Johnson also finished his career with a medal, finishing third in the 126-pound weight class, narrowly missing a state tournament berth.

With a second-place finish in the 138- pound division, sophomore Stone Frasl qualified for the state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center. While Frasl lost his two matches in the state meet, he represented Como well on the big stage and gave the Cougars a chance to cheer on their teammate where everyone wants to finish the season—at the X in downtown St. Paul.

Boys’ Basketball The Cougars had many close and competitive games this season, both in the St. Paul City and in their non-conference schedule. While the team didn’t win as many of those games as they’d have liked, Coach Robinson and the seniors were pleased with the effort they put forth.

Como finished 3-9 in the conference and 6-20 overall. Seniors Josh Ward, Mohamed Ahmed, and Donzello Barros all stepped up at different times to lead the team in the major statistical categories of scoring, rebounding, and assists. Their leadership kept the Cougars working hard throughout the entire season. 

Nordic Skiing There are three St. Paul Public Schools that have Nordic Skiing programs Como, Central and Highland. To create more events, the St. Paul teams are part of the Twin Cities Nordic Conference, which also includes Orono, Mound-Westonka, Holy Family, and Visitation. The Como boys finished fourth in the conference and the girls finished fifth. 

At the Section 4 meet, which includes several big suburban schools, the Como boys finished eighth out of 11 teams. Senior Antero Sivula finished in 29th place out of 73 skiers. The next Cougars to finish and earn varsity points were Alistair Pattison, Jackson Lee, Nicholas Jacobsen, Will Larson, and Owen Finlay. 

The Como girls placed ninth in the section. Freshman Saylor Landrum was the top Como finisher, coming in 25th place out of 73 competitors. The other varsity contributors were Claire Olson, Kiersten Howatt, Justine Wulff, and Emma Wolters. Landrum said, “everyone improved to make an impressive and amazing end to a fun season.”

Girls’ Basketball For the fifth consecutive season, the Como girls’ basketball team won the St. Paul City Conference Championship. Dating back to 2015, the Cougars are on a 52-game winning streak within the conference. Como capped off its regular season with another Twin Cities title by defeating Minneapolis South, the champion of the Minneapolis City Conference, with a dramatic 56-55 victory. 

In the Section 4AAA tournament, Como defeated St. Anthony Village 78-56 in a quarterfinal game at home. The semifinals are held at neutral sites. The Cougars faced highly-ranked DeLaSalle at East Ridge High School in Woodbury on March 2, falling to the Islanders by a score of 68-54. 

The young Cougars featured a starting lineup of four freshmen and a sophomore, finishing the season with the best basketball record in school history at 23-3.

The Como Girls’ Basketball had a record of 23-2 and won their fifth straight city title. Top Row (L-R) Andre Tellis, Jada James, Linda Mitchell, Cloey Dmytruk, Head Coach Alexis Gray-Lawson. Middle Row (L-R): Dilonna Johnson, Kaylynn Asberry, Jaylen Smith, Demya Riley, Yolanda England. Front Row (L-R): Shania Nichols, Ronnie Porter, Dinnea Riley, Shakyla Walker, JaShawna Baker.

Girls’ Hockey The St. Paul Sibley Riveters were formed by merging the St. Paul Blades and the Henry Sibley High School programs, creating full junior varsity and varsity teams for the 2018-2019 season.

Senior Gigi Gabrielli was the Riveters’ leading scorer, tallying 10 goals and seven assists for the varsity team that finished 4-19-1, while playing in the Metro East Conference. Senior Isabelle Hoppe, junior Anisa Smith, and sophomore Emilie Hanson were the other Como Park students in the program.  

Gymnastics The Cougars had an exciting season with the highest participation in many years. Fifteen girls brought energy and fun to practice while improving their skills. Sophomore Amelia Christ was the top Como finisher in all four of the events. She finished 10th in the conference for the all-around competition. The second-highest placement in each of the events for the Cougars included Lily Klett on the vault, Alyssa Aarthon on the uneven bars, and Jennifer Rosos on the floor exercise and the balance beam.  

Murray Pilots

Wrestling The Pilots started the season with just four returning wrestlers. With a fun, inclusive, and welcoming practice setting, the team welcomed several first-time participants and grew to a roster of 15 wrestlers.   

Murray finished third in the city meet at the end of the season, keeping the Pilots’ position in the top tier of the conference. Jeremiah Ayala was the city champ in his weight class. Second-place medals were earned by Dieudonnee Respone, Peter Her, Ju Lei Hei, Veah Ree Shar, Jackson Olenski and Yaz Lightfeather.

Girls’ Basketball The Pilots put together an undefeated season in the middle-school division of the St. Paul City Conference. With an overall record of 13-0, the team started strong and kept improving while capturing the city title.

Murray defeated Highland Park (the second-place team) on two occasions, by scores of 36-30 and then 42-19 in the final game of the season. The Pilots also posted an impressive non-conference victory defeating Roseville Middle School 25-24. 

Boys’ Basketball With the bulk of the schedule falling during the Polar Vortex and record month of February snow, the Pilots had to be patient to get their games played.  Despite the disruptions, cancellations and make-up games, the boys were developing chemistry as the season progressed and had compiled a record of 7-1 (as the Bugle went to press), which put the team in a tie for first place.

Spring Sports Murray track and field, baseball, softball, and badminton begin practice on April 8.

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

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