Rebel boys win Section 5AA track title

Six of Champlin Park’s individuals qualify for state in nine events

BY NICK CLARK

nick.clark@ecm-inc.com

The math was what it was for the Champlin Park boys track and field team.

After the first day of the Section 5AA track and field finals May 30 at Hamline University, the Rebels had a lead.

One problem though – only two of the 19 events had been scored.

"We had a good first day, an then we did the calculations and we were looking good," said Rebels head coach Bob Knutson. "But a lot can happen, and a lot did happen."

Most of it was good for Champlin Park, and that was enough to lead the Rebels to what was believed to be just their second section track and field championship in school history.

The Rebels finished with 121 team points, which was seven better than runner-up Spring Lake Park/St. Anthony in the 15-school event.

In the process, six individuals qualified for this week’s state meet in nine different events.

Junior Emmanuel Egbujor won the 400-meter run going away in a school record 48.85 seconds. He also ran the 200 in 22.17, as all nine participants beat the state qualifying standard time to advance into next week.

"Never have I seen that happen," Knutson said. "What a race."

Junior Joe Sando and senior Kweku Kwabi were also in that 200. Sando placed fourth and Kwabi was ninth.

Sando also qualified in the 100, finishing second in 11.06 seconds.

"My goal was to get to state, so it feels good to know I achieved that goal," said Sando. "I’m glad I could prove to people that I belong, and now next week, I’ll go and do it again and find a way to place."

Senior Bryce Johnson has loftier goals next week.

The Section 5AA champion in both the shot put and discus throw is heading back to the state meet for a third time in four years, and even with the best thrower Minnesota High School track has ever produced – Andover’s Thomas Anderson – in the field with him, Johnson said his expectation is to win.

"He’s just another person I have to beat," Johnson said. "It’s not that big of a deal to me. I just try to make myself better, and try to do my own thing and try to beat him."

Junior Michael Sales qualified for state after finishing second in the long jump competition with a leap of 21 feet, 6 inches, and senior Jay Alexander qualified in the 100 hurdles after placing fourth in 14.98 seconds, which bested the state standard qualifying time by .18 seconds.

Alexander also placed eighth in the 300 hurdles finals. Sales was fifth in the high jump and Kwabi was sixth in the 400.

Junior Taylor Abram just missed qualifying for state in the high jump, as he placed third. Junior Joe Stephens (fourth) and junior Tim Ross (sixth) joined Johnson on the shot put podium, and ninth-grader Datrice Mulsomo (eighth) was up on the podium with Sando after the 100.

In the relay events, Champlin Park’s 4×100 and 4×400 teams both placed fourth, while the 4×400 team ended up sixth.

And when it was all added up in the end, that point total the Rebels came up with in the math equation the night before added up to a title that needed contributions from everybody to become a reality.

"The neat thing about it is it really is a team thing," said Knutson. "You need everybody to perform well, and that’s what we had. I was pretty proud of what they were able to do."

Two captains go for girls

Two of the three captains from the Champlin Park girls track and field team extended their seasons by a week.

Both Melanie Hill and Nkem Nwaokolo qualified for the Class AA state track and field meet out of the Section 5AA finals June 1 at Hamline University.

Hill was the section long jump champion after turning in a jump of 17 feet, 2.25 inches.

Nwaokolo qualified in both throws after placing second in the shot put and the discus.

Hill was also a double medalist individually, as she added a seventh place finish in the triple jump.

"We have a lot of really great seniors this year," said Hill, who was a state participant a year ago. "We all want each other to go, so for me and Nkem, this is great."

The hope was senior Michelle-Noella Ndely would also be going, but the Rebel tri-captain just missed out after running to a third place finish in the 100 hurdles and then a seventh place finish in the 300 hurdles.

Champlin Park had three fourth place finishers. Junior Carly Denler was fourth in the pole vault, sophomore Titi Russell finished fourth in the 100, and junior Cassidy Soli was fourth in the 1,600.

Soli also placed sixth in the 3,200, and ninth-grader Hanna Stoebe was seventh in the 300 hurdles.

The Champlin Park girls ended up fourth as a team in the event, just four points behind Blaine for third.

The boys and girls Class AA state track and field meet is scheduled for Friday, June 8 and Saturday, June 9 at Hamline University.

Events begin at 9 a.m. both days.

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