Park track & field: Individual stars shine brightest at True Team meetOutstanding personal performances highlighted fourth place finishes for both the Park boys and girls track teams at the Section 2AAA True Team meet, held Tuesday, May 10, at Eagan High School.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, South Washington County Bulletin
In a meet that rewards team depth, it was Park’s individual track and field athletes who stole the show.
Outstanding personal performances highlighted fourth place finishes for both the Park boys and girls track teams at the Section 2AAA True Team meet, held Tuesday, May 10, at Eagan High School.
Park’s R.J. Alowonle, D’Monte Farley, Temi Ogunrinde and Tessa Sikich grabbed the spotlight from some of the state’s top track and field athletes at the Section 2AAA True Team Championships.
“The weird thing is that we finished fourth, but we had a lot of good things happen” Park head coach Mike Moran said. “We are not even at full strength. But, it was a real good finish for us.”
With athletes limited to a maximum of four events, Alowonle, a junior, finished in first place in three solo events and helped Park’s 400-meter relay team take first place. Also a member of the winning 400-meter relay and a junior, Farley won two events individually and took second place in another, while breaking a Park High School record. In the girls meet, Ogunrinde, just a freshman, won three sprint events and Sikich, a senior, earned first place in the discus throw.
Alowonle, last year’s state champion in the 300-meter hurdles, won the event at the True Team Section meet with a time of 39.26 seconds. His state championship time of 38.10 from last year is a Park High School record. Alowonle also won the 110-meter hurdles at the section True Team meet with a time of 14.71 and won the triple jump with a leap of 47 feet, 5.75 inches.
“He has some of the best times in the state this year, but the weird thing is that he’s not really hurdling that well,” Moran said. “His form isn’t as good as it has been. We haven’t had as many races as we usually have because of the weather. He’s still getting his form down for what we need to get done in June.”
Not to be outdone by his friend and classmate, Farley won the long jump with a leap of 22-03.5, which set a new Park High School record, and took first place in the 200-meter dash with a time of 22.76. Farley’s leap topped Ryan Schutz’s 22-2 from 1995.
Additionally, he only finished second to Alowonle in the triple jump with a leap of 44-09.25. Two weeks ago, in Blaine, Alowonle broke his own school record in the triple.
“I think it’s going pretty well for them,” Moran said with a smile. “That’s just a casual observation. They are certainly doing very well.”
The dynamic duo also teamed up with sophomores Irving Gutierrez and Dylan Smallidge to win the 400-meter relay with a time of 43.42, which is only .15 off the 30-year old all-time record at Park of 43.27, from 1981. Stillwater was second in the event with a time of 44.23.
“We’ve been trying to break that one for a long time,” Moran said. “We’re just inching closer and closer to it. They are certainly running very well. This year the four-by-one seems to be working a little better than the four-by-two. The downside is there isn’t much of a chance to win the four-by-one at the state meet because the fastest kid in history in the state of Minnesota is anchoring Edina’s four-by-one. It’s pretty amazing.”
In the girls meet, Ogunrinde had a break-out performance winning the 100-meter dash with a time of 13.14, the 400-meter run in a personal-best 58.81, and the 200-meter dash in a personal-best 26.66.
Her time in the 100 was .20 better than second place Aleah West of Woodbury, her finish in the 400 was the fourth best in Park history and bested Woodbury state participant and senior Athena Award winner Lauren Domski’s time of 59.93 and her 200 time beat Stillwater’s Kelcie Kempenich by half a second and put her just .20 out of Park’s all-time top eight.
“I knew Temi was fast, but I honestly didn’t expect her to win three events,” Park head coach Matt Maher said. “I think the biggest surprise was the 400. It was that shot in the arm the whole team needed. We are lucky that she is ultra-competitive — and I know she can go even faster.”
Sikich won her top event, the discus, with a throw of 110-02. She is sixth on Park’s all-time list with a personal-best throw of 110-10. Eagan’s Brooke Loeffler was second with a throw of 104-07.
In True Team competition each competitor earns points toward their team’s finish. In individual events, the first place finisher is awarded 24 points, the second gets 23 points and so on. The 24th place finisher earns one point. In relays the first-place team earns 32 points, the second 28 points, the third 24 points down to the eighth place team which earns four points.
Stillwater won both the boys and girls Section 2AAA True Team championship titles with 878 points on the boys side and 745.50 on the girls side. Eagan took second on both fronts with 753.50 points and 719 points from its boys and girls, respectively.
St. Thomas Academy (596) earned third place in the eight-team boys meet and Woodbury (634) was third in the seven-team girls meet. The Park boys scored 568 points and the Park girls totaled 439.50 points.
“Last year we took seventh out of seventh,” Maher said. “Over the past 10 years we had a string of years that we took fourth. It was a step in the right direction. Should we be able to do that consistently, or even better in the future? Yes, I think so. We are getting there.”
Other top finishes turned in by the Park boys came from Gutierrez, who was fourth in the 100-meter dash with a 11.74 time, from Ben Mair, who was fourth in the 200 with a time of 23.81, from senior Antonio Dominguez, who was fifth in the discus throw (120-04) from its 800-meter relay team, which placed fourth, from Smallidge, who was sixth in the triple jump (42-03.25) and from Dominic Fraboni and Cole Rhein, who each took 10th place — in the 300 hurdles and 800-meter run, respectively.
“Dylan is really coming along as our third triple jumper,” Moran said. “We have three 42-foot triple jumpers which is absolutely amazing.”
In the girls meet, in addition to Ogunrinde and Sikich, Park freshman Sarah LaBrosse earned third place in the triple jump (34-05.5) and sixth place in the long jump (15-06.5), sophomore Kasondra Tulloch took sixth place in the triple jump (32-11.25), Jerrilynn Koltveit took fifth place in the discus toss (96-06) and sixth place in the shot put (33-09), Gabrielle Fitzgerald and Karen Banks took seventh and eighth, respectively, in the 100-meter hurdles with times of 18.79 and 18.84, McKay Zurn earned seventh place in the high jump (4-08), Morgan Schank took seventh place in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 52.24 and Larissa Lurken finished in ninth place in the 1600-meter run with a 5:46.69 time.
“Our big meet as a team is True Team,” Maher said. “It would be nice to be in the top three. We haven’t done that yet in the 13 years I’ve been here. If we can get the kids to believe that they are a good team and get them to consistently come to practice and work hard it’ll be a turn around here.
“I don’t think a lot of the kids understand how big True Team is. A lot of our kids are first-year track athletes. We’re young, but we’re getting there and these girls know they are athletes and know that they can compete with the best.”
The Park boys and girls teams host a quadrangular meet at home on Thursday, May 19, at Park while they prepare for the Suburban East Conference Championships, held Tuesday and Thursday, May 24 and 26, at East Ridge. Last year, three Park athletes were SEC champions and the team had six All-Conference showings.
“It came up fast,” Moran said. “I think we can thank the weather for that. I always sit back and worry about what is best for us as a team and them as individuals. We’ve always felt that getting as many athletes as we can to the state meet is what’s most important.”