Eden Prairie boys show variety of strengths at Lake Relays

Jason Olson
Sports Editor

Some of the state’s top sprinters put on an early-season display at Aerie Stadium

Wayzata swept both boys and girls team titles at the Lake Conference Relays April 11.

The Eden Prairie boys garnered points from a variety of events to place third with 91 points, 20 points behind runner-up Edina and 27 points behind Wayzata.

With only one day of team practice after returning from spring break, Eden Prairie coach Bruce Kivimaki wasn’t sure how strong the team would perform without much contact leading up to the meet.

Eden Prairie senior Denzel Brown picked up where he left off last season by turning in a blazing quick time, winning the 100 dash in 10.91 with junior teammate DJ Johnson third in 11.37 and senior Nikhil Tammana 10th in 11.67.

Minnetonka junior Goodness Akindemowo was runner-up in 11.22 seconds and is a training partner with Brown at Real Athletics during the weekends and summer.

Tammana and Brown ran the first two legs on the state runner-up 4×100 relay team last June turning in a time of 42.56 seconds in the final.

With so many sprinters, the Eagles captured the 4×100 relay by nearly a full second with the team of Tammana, Brown, Johnson and Devionne Young in 43.22.

DJ Johnson, left, takes the baton from Denzel Brown during Eden Prairie’s winning 4x100 relay Tuesday. The Eagles turned in a time of 43.22 seconds. (Sun Current photo by Jason Olson)
DJ Johnson, left, takes the baton from Denzel Brown during Eden Prairie’s winning 4×100 relay Tuesday. The Eagles turned in a time of 43.22 seconds. (Sun Current photo by Jason Olson)

Johnson said the first test went well after a shaky day of practice the day before where they struggled to get the handoffs down cleanly.

One obstacle in practice was running through the rain which made the final result on Tuesday that more sweet for Brown.

“We did a lot better than expected,” he said. “We’ve had some trouble the last couple weeks and it just came together today.”

After missing out on his junior season because of a basketball injury, Johnson is focused to make the most of his final prep season.

“It feels good to be back running with my teammates again,” Johnson said who is looking to get close to a time in the low 42 second range, perhaps a new school record. The current record of 42.32 was set in 2012 by Rashawn Fountain, Steve Frisbie, Met Hines and Matt Griffin.

The current 4×100 foursome also captured the 4×200 relay by more than one second in 1:31.87 in a different order of Young, Johnson, Tammana and Brown.

Brown is also coming into the season off a nagging hamstring injury sustained at nationals last summer.

“I had trouble getting back on it,” he said. “But I’m doing a lot better than I thought I would.”

Brown, the reigning 200 dash state champion (21.65) was runner-up in the 100 dash state final to Armstrong’s Evan McClellon, 10.51 to 10.61. Coming into 2016, Brown said his times are better than one year ago which help him stay on track to break McClellon’s state 100 record set in the state prelims last year of 10.46.

Eden Prairie senior Kirk McNeil clears a hurdle around the turn during the 300 hurdles April 11 at Aerie Stadium. He placed fifth in 43.05 seconds. (Sun Current photo by Jason Olson)
Eden Prairie senior Kirk McNeil clears a hurdle around the turn during the 300 hurdles April 11 at Aerie Stadium. He placed fifth in 43.05 seconds. (Sun Current photo by Jason Olson)

“I’ve gotten pretty close,” Brown said, reaching a 10.50 so far in 2016 where he’s focused on the start. “And reacting faster.”

During the winter indoor season, Brown recovered from a rough start to that club-team season before turning in a 60-meter dash time of 6.91 seconds and 22.7 in the 200 dash.

Brown and Kivimaki are looking in to adding the 400 dash to his events.

“I’ve got to get stronger for my 200 (time) to drop and just stay relaxed,” Brown said.

Eden Prairie’s 4×400 relay was third in 3:37.95 with the team of Justin Young, Parker Phillips, Ethan Jones and Jacob Kelly. The 4×800 relay was runner-up in 8:21.98 with the relay of Jack Larson, Justin Young, Parker Phillips and Bryce Whitley.

Eden Prairie senior Tommy Hoag clears the bar at Aerie Stadium April 11. (Sun Current photo by Jason Olson)
Eden Prairie senior Tommy Hoag clears the bar at Aerie Stadium April 11. (Sun Current photo by Jason Olson)

David DeJong was 10th in the 1,600 run and Zach Risken was seventh in the 3,200 run.

Senior Kirk McNeil was fifth in the 300 hurdles in 43.05 with sophomore teammate Connor Kline seventh in 44.59 and junior Darion Evasku 10th in 45.69.

Kelley tied for third in the high jump clearing 5-10 with teammate Dan Boehm tying for fifth place at 5-8.

Evasku and Kelly finished fifth (39-4 1/2) and sixth (39-1 1/2), respectively in the triple jump.

Eden Prairie heads to Robbinsdale for the Armstrong Invitational April 21 where they face Chanhassen, Champlin Park, St. Louis Park, Park Center, Edina and Osseo starting at 2:55 p.m. with the Star Spangled Banner and meet dedication. Field events start at 3 p.m. and track events at 3:30 p.m.

The 33rd annual Eden Prairie Booster Invitational is April 29 at Aerie Stadium starting with field events at 9:30 a.m. Joining Eden Prairie in the field is Edina, Moorhead, Blake, Minneapolis Edison, Minnehaha Academy, Robbinsdale Armstrong, St. Thomas Academy (boys) and Wayzata (girls).

Contact Jason Olson at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @SunSportsJason