'A dream come true': Park track stars Alowonle, Farley sign with collegesTwo of Park’s fastest athletes will be running in different colors next fall.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
Two of Park’s fastest athletes will be running in different colors next fall.
Park track stars D’Monte Farley and R.J. Alowonle signed National Letters of Intent of Wednesday, Feb. 1, at a brief ceremony at Park High School. Both seniors, Farley signed to run track for the University of North Dakota and Alowonle will compete for the University of North Carolina.
Alowonle said it felt “unbelievable” to sign with a college.
“It’s the greatest feeling ever. Words can’t describe it,” he said. “All the hard work D’Monte and I put in is finally paying off.”
Last year, both Alowonle and Farley reached the state track and field meet in the maximum four events — something that no other male athlete has done at Park.
Park head coach Mike Moran said the two runners were among the top track athletes in school history.
“RJ is the most decorated male athlete we’ve ever had at Park High School,” Moran said. “He’s the best track athlete we’ve ever had. D’Monte is right there in the top five for sure. They’ve done really, really well. They’re leaders, they’re good kids, good students, good citizens and the kids really like them. When they go out, you know they’re going to make Park look good.”
Last year, Alowonle earned two state championships — winning the 110-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles — to become the first male athlete in Park history to win two state titles in the same year. At the state meet, Alowonle won the state title in the 110 hurdles with a personal-best time of 14.46 and defended his 300-meter hurdle state championship from 2010 with a Park-record time of 37.32. Also, as a junior, he was fourth in the triple jump and was part of Park’s 400-meter relay, helping the Wolfpack take third in the event and third as a team overall.
In 2010, Alowonle was the state champion in the 300-meter hurdles, took fourth place in the 110-high hurdles and was a member of the third-place 800-meter relay team.
Last year Farley reached state in the long jump and triple jump and took sixth place in the 100-yard dash for All-State honors. As a sophomore, Farley competed in the 100- and 200-meter races in the state track meet and was part of the Wolfpack’s 800-meter relay team that took third place at state.
“I can’t ever remember having two athletes this spectacular at the same time,” Moran said. “I’m glad they’re going somewhere and that track and field helped them get into school. School is the important part. There’s so few people that can make money doing track. You have to find somewhere that has the major that you want. If track can get you where you want to go, that’s terrific. But, track comes second to school.”
Moran, a University of Minnesota graduate and former Gopher runner, didn’t hide the fact he was hoping Alowonle and Farley chose to run at his alma mater. For Farley, it came down to UND or Minnesota. For Alowonle, it was UNC, Minnesota or Georgetown.
“I sure would have liked them to go to the U of M,” Moran said. “But D’Monte will thrive at North Dakota – he’ll be a dominant guy. And I can’t imagine R.J. not doing really, really well at North Carolina. School should agree with them and I hope it works out for the best for them. I’d love it to.”
Farley said the “whole process was crazy.”
“It was a great feeling to have coaches interested in me and wanting me to compete on their teams,” he said. “You see it in movies and wish it could happen to you. Once it is happening, you’re kind of shocked. Them telling me I’d be an asset to their team is sort of surreal and a really cool feeling.”
Farley said he chose North Dakota over the University of Minnesota because the financial offer was better and because of their commitment to him as a track athlete.
“They basically told me I was their No. 1 choice,” he said. “They said they wanted and needed me on the team. It was a good feeling knowing they were going for me all-out.”
Farley, who starred for the Wolfpack football team as a defensive back and wide receiver, said he hasn’t totally ruled out trying to play football in college, but it’s unlikely, because of his commitments to the track team and the time needed to study.
Farley visited the UND campus with his mom and his friend’s dad. He said he already knows a few people on the UND track team.
“The track team seemed really nice,” Farley said. “They were all interested in me and asking about me. They made me feel really good. After this is over I’m going to be a collegiate athlete. That’s surreal to me. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. Once it’s happening it’s unbelievable.”
Alowonle is the second family member to go to a Div. I college for track and field.
Alowonle’s older sister Jummy, a 2000 Park graduate, is the greatest female jumper in Park history. She also signed with a Div. I college – Iowa State – for track and field.
R.J. said he didn’t think going Div. I in sports was as hard as it actually is.
“I just thought if you wanted to, you could and it’s easy,” he said. “But as I got older I realized how hard it actually was. I’m super competitive and it was one of my goals as a kid to do sports in college, so every chance I could take to get better I did. It’s a dream come true for me today.”
Alowonle made an official visit to Chapel Hill from Jan. 13 to 15 and said he fell in love with the school.
“A lot of it was my gut feeling when I got there,” he said. “The team has a lot of talent in the events I would be running and I’d have a lot of training partners. The coaching is superb down there. There’s so many things – the weather, the team, the facilities, the feel, the town that it’s in – it was so much about the college. That’s what stuck out to me.”
A dominant runner in Minnesota, Alowonle said he’s looking forward to the challenge of running against the country’s best and not even being the best runner at his own school – to begin with.
“I don’t like it, but I kind of do like it,” he said. “I know that I’m really competitive. I won’t stop just because I’m not the best right away. I’m going to do everything in my power to get to the top spot.”
Feb. 1 is the first day of the regular signing period for students to sign a national letter of intent to participate in inter-collegiate athletics next year.
However, both Alowonle and Farley are looking forward to this spring. With the two speedsters leading the way, Park will be among the favorites to win the state track and field championship as a team. Park has never won state as a team in track before.
“I want to take advantage of the time I still have here and try to do as well as I can this track season and try to bring home a couple of track championships before I leave,” Farley said. “We’re not done here yet.”