The conundrum facing the Champlin Park boys track and field team was a shared one with most of their competitors April 26 at Hamline University.
Stock-piled with some of the best talent in program history, the Rebels had an idea they would be good.
How good, however, was of question.
The team was both the Northwest Suburban Conference runner-up and Section 7AA champion in 2012, and returned a pair of all-state sprinters to what was expected to be another solid core in 2013.
Then Mother Nature interfered.
“Gauging workouts, it has been kind of hard to tell where a lot of the guys are at,” said head coach Bob Knutson. “We’ve missed three meets. We got one it as Osseo early, but that’s been it, so we really don’t know much yet.”
Last Friday afternoon on the same Hamline University campus that will host the Class AA state meet in June, Champlin Park made up for the lost time.
The Rebels got a trio of top-nine finishes from senior sprinter Emannuel Egbujor, two more from senior race mate Joe Sando, another two from senior leaper Michael Sales, and a first place medal in the shot put from Joe Stephens.
That the core performed so well wasn’t a shock. That it came on that stage, however, was a sign of what could be a memorable spring for the Rebels.
The Hamline Elite Meet is held annually, with invitations going out to just the best track athletes in each class. This is the best of the best state wide from both Class A and AA.
“It is the best competition these kids will probably see all year, and that includes the state meet,” said Knutson.
That should bode well for the coming months.
Egbujor, who was the fifth place finisher in the 400-meter finals at the state meet last year, won the Elite Meet 100 in in 10.85 seconds. He was also fourth in the 400 in 48.50 seconds, and ninth in the 200 in 22.95 seconds.
Sando placed third in the Class AA 100 finals a year ago. He matched that finish in the Elite Meet Friday with a time of 10.91 seconds, and then placed eighth in the 200 in 22.64 seconds.
Sales was the 16th place finisher in the long jump at last year’s state meet. He improved that finish to fourth at the Elite Meet after with a leap of 20 feet, 11 inches, and he also placed third in the high jump after clearing 6 feet, 4 inches.
Stephens, a Division I football recruit with South Dakota State University who has slimmed down to around 270 pounds after weighing in at 295 last year, responded by taking the shot put title with a toss of 55 feet, 9.75 inches.
“The guys that we bring back are all pretty strong in their events,” said Knutson. “They know what they are doing out there.”
The rest of their teammates have some ability as well.
Knutson said senior Taylor Abram has also already cleared 6-4 in the high jump. He also said senior Davis Kabaka has added some depth to his team’s already loaded stock of sprinters, and that senior Ramadan Hassan gives the team some much needed depth in the distance running department.
Now, he just needs a chance to see the guys compete some more.
“We can’t really reschedule meets, so we just have to kind of move forward with what we have left,” Knutson said. “We want to be competitive in the end. We want to compete for the conference and section championships. That is always our thing. Last year, we got one out of the two. Hopefully this year we can get them both.”
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