You can feel the buzz around Park of Cottage Grove High School.
R.J. Alowonle and D’Monte Farley attained star status at Park before graduating in 2012. Both qualified for the Minnesota state track and field meet in four events two consecutive years and nearly led a four-man Park team to state titles their junior and senior years.
Next season the duo will run together once again at the University of North Carolina. But first, the longtime friends took time this summer to coach at Park’s strength and conditioning summer camp.
Wolfpack strength and conditioning coach Justin Ellevold said he’s asked Alowonle and Farley to help him out the past two summers.
“They’re just very positive, influential young men,” Ellevold said. “For our kids to see them here working out and helping me out is a win-win for everyone involved.”
Park’s strength and conditioning summer program runs all day long four days a week for boys and girls in middle school through their senior year.
Jake Goecke, who will be a Park freshman this fall, said he’s well aware of Alowonle and Farley and what they’ve accomplished.
“To see them here helps motivate me,” said Goecke, who plays soccer and is a downhill skier. “They don’t have to do this at all. It’s really cool to see them come back here to help us. They’re pretty amazing.”
Alowonle and Farley have always had pride in Park and said they feel the need to give back to their alma mater.
“I remember, growing up, seeing the athletes that worked hard in high school and seeing their results from that,” Alowonle said. “They gave me insight and advice and I really took that to heart.”
Alowonle won seven state championships, shattered two long-standing records and is regarded as one of the state’s best prep track athletes ever.
More recently, he finished fifth in the nation in the 400-meter hurdles for North Carolina, earning his third All-American honor in two seasons with the Tar Heels.
“The kids know us and I think they respected us when we were here,” Alowonle said. “The coaches and teachers at Park did so much for me, I’m just honored to come back and help however I can.”
Farley will rejoin his buddy at North Carolina this coming school year. The past two years, Farley excelled for North Dakota, earning All-America honors in the triple jump as a freshman and recording the second-best school mark in the event as a sophomore.
At Park, he won a state championship along with being named all-state three years and winning numerous Suburban East Conference and section championship titles in the triple jump, long jump, 100- and 200-meter dashes.
Ellevold said he likes to bring back former student-athletes to help them shift from a high school environment to a real-world setting. He said he remembered his first job after high school, as a commercial roofer, wasn’t much fun.
“By involving kids in my summer program it allows them to build some real-world skills like being able to communicate and multi-task, things they’re going to need to do in their careers and jobs,” he said.
“It’s positive. Plus, they get outside and run around and have some fun at the same time.”
Farley said, after graduating, he originally saw the coaching job as “a good gig,” but he’s since come to appreciate it even more.
“The coolest thing is seeing older kids take younger kids under their wing,” Farley said. “When you can instill that dynamic with everyone in the program, you’ll be successful. You need people pushing you. That’s what R.J. and I had and you can see it in the other athletes in this program, too. That’s been cool.”