Champlin Park, Park Center athletes look back on a strong spring sports season

Park Center junior Stephen Ayobamidele competes in the triple jump event at the Class 2A state meet June 9. (Sun Post staff photo by Chris Chesky) Park Center’s Alexis Colbert delivers a pitch in game action from the 2017 season. (Sun Post staff photo by Chris Chesky) Champlin Park’s Cole Albers delivers a pitch in game action from the 2017 season. (Photo by Brian Flanary) Champlin Park senior Sam Nolan looks to work around a defender in game action from the 2017 season. (Photo by Brian Flanary)
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Park Center junior Stephen Ayobamidele competes in the triple jump event at the Class 2A state meet June 9. (Sun Post staff photo by Chris Chesky)

The end of the 2016-17 school year for many local area high schools also marked the end of the 2017 spring sports season.

While the weather was suspect, to say the least, throughout the first few weeks of the spring, I believe many would agree that the end of the spring season brought great weather, great competition and great memories for many local athletes.

Every athlete, team and school made memories of their own during the spring sports season, but there are 10 specific moments that stood out to me throughout the spring.

Here, in no particular order, are 10 things from the spring season that I found particularly noteworthy.

Champlin Park baseball repeats as section champs

The Champlin Park baseball team was not expected to make a return trip to the state tournament this season. The Rebels graduated 14 seniors from the 2016 campaign, including seven of their nine seniors, with only seniors Cole Albers and Zach Loven returning. Rather than allowing themselves to commit to a rebuilding year, Champlin Park built off last season’s success and had another strong year in 2017. Champlin Park posted a 13-5 record in the regular season and rode strong pitching to a 4-0 record in the Section 5AAAA tournament. While the Rebels lost both their games in the state tournament, advancing to the state tournament this season was a big accomplishment for Champlin Park.

Rebel softball wins when it matters

The Champlin Park posted an 11-9 record during the 2017 regular season, but it took some time for the Rebels to find a groove. Champlin Park won its final five games of the regular season before earning wins over Mounds View and Centennial in the Section 5AAAA tournament. The Rebels, who were one game away from a spot in the section title game, fell 7-6 to Maple Grove and 2-0 to Spring Lake Park to end their season. Champlin Park will be on the lookout for new starters next season, as the Rebels graduated eight seniors from the 2017 roster.

Park Center baseball kick-starts its rebuild

The Park Center baseball team lost two of its top players from last season in departed seniors Dan Hansen and Kyle Schnobrich, and the Pirates were hoping to find a new core to build around. Park Center may have found that core in the sophomore trio of Riley Pederson, Tanner Stein and Mitch Maier. While Park Center endured its fair share of bumps this season, the Pirates are on track to put together a better team in the future as its youth develops.

Gerads bounces back

Champlin Park’s Allison Gerads kicked off her state track and field career with a bang, as she took home the Class 2A long jump title in 2015 as a sophomore. Gerads then tore her ACL during her junior season of basketball and missed the 2016 track and field season. Gerads was able to work her way back for the 2016-17 basketball season and was at full strength for the 2017 track and field season. Gerads was able to compete in four events at the state meet, and took fifth in the long jump competition.

Ayobamidele makes it four in a row

Park Center sprinter Feyisayo Ayobamidele advanced to the state track and field meet in each of her first three years with the Pirates’ track and field team. With one final shot at advancing to the state meet, Ayobamidele overcame injuries during the regular season to earn a spot at state’s 400-meter dash event. Ayobvamidele’s consistent success gave her the opportunity to join NDSU’s track and field team at the next level.

Young OPC boys learn how to win

The Osseo/Park Center boys lacrosse team had a slow start to the year, as it posted a 4-8 record in its first 12 games. With some strong but young players on the roster, it was only a matter of time before OPC took a step forward. OPC won three games in a row heading into its section quarterfinal game, where Osseo/Park Center fell to St. Michael-Albertville. With OPC’s young core of players set to return next season, the experience gained this year might help OPC become a contender in the near future.

Champlin Park girls take a step forward

One year removed from completing the 2016 season with an undefeated regular season record, Champlin Park appeared to take an inevitable step back with a 9-3 regular season record. As it turns out, Champlin Park saved its wins for the postseason, as it earned a spot in the section title game with two straight wins. While the Rebels fell 10-8 to Blaine in the section finale, Champlin Park has a solid group of young players that should help the Rebels maintain their success next season.

Rebel duo advances to state golf

Champlin Park juniors Michael Sauro and Megan Munneke have been two of the school’s top golfers over the last couple of years. The two represented the Rebels at the state tournament in 2016, and once again made the trip to Bunker Hills in 2017. Both golfers were able to finish in the top-40, and they will look to continue to climb up the rankings during their senior seasons next year.

Park Center softball learns on the run

Park center head softball coach Neena Mathers has had to rebuild the Pirates’ softball program twice in her two years with the program, but the Pirates’ future looks a bit brighter after the 2017 season. Mathers’ squad had many young players on the roster this season, and, while the Pirates’ record was not where they would have liked it, the team’s young players showcased their improvement throughout the season. If Park Center can continue to improve, the Pirates may see some different results next season.

Pirates send newcomer to state

The Park Center track and field team gained a talented athlete when junior Stephen Ayobamidele re-joined the team this season. Ayobamidele quit track in eighth-grade to focus on basketball and football, but decided to re-join track at the urging of his sister, Feyisayo Ayobamidele. Ayobamidele’s season was filled with ups and downs, but he was able to earn a spot at the state meet in the triple jump after he improved his best mark by roughly three feet during the section meet. Ayobamidele will look to build off this seaosn’s performance next year.

Follow Sun Post sports editor Chris Chesky on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris and on Facebook at SunSportsStaff.