By Jim Hague
Kevin Momnohin has an Irish-sounding name (his last name is pronounced like MONAHAN) but the Queen of Peace sophomore’s name has its origins from the Ivory Coast in Africa.
That’s where Momnohin’s father was born and in a country where the national language is called “We,” the name means “You did it,” in the native tongue.
Well, it’s safe to say that Momnohin certainly has done it and done it well as an athlete at Queen of Peace. Momnohin first attended Don Bosco Prep and intended to be a football standout at the nationally-ranked powerhouse, but since his twin brother, Keith, was enrolled at Queen of Peace, he decided last September to join his brother at QP.
“I wanted to be there with my brother,” said Kevin Momnohin about his younger fraternal twin, born two minutes apart. “It made sense to me to be there. We push each other every day to become better athletes. We are very close.”
It didn’t take long for Momnohin to feel comfortable at his new school.
“I felt at home with the students, the athletes, the coaches,” Momnohin said. “It made sense for me to be there.”
When the outdoor track season began, the Momnohin twins joined the Golden Griffins’ program, headed by veteran respected coach Nick Mazzolla.
It didn’t take long for Mazzolla to realize that both twins had talent, but Kevin was something special.
“I knew that this kid was a natural athlete,” Mazzolla said. “I could tell that right away.”
Momnohin was joining the QP track team for one reason.
“I wanted to get ready for football,” Momnohin said. “I thought it would be the best way to work on my strength and stamina. I figured I could do the sprints.”
Momnohin had never competed in track and field before, but his father said that both Kevin and Keith were always running after each other since they were toddlers, so running track made a lot of sense.
Mazzolla didn’t know where Momnohin would fit in.
“We did a series of workouts to see where his talents were best,” Mazzolla said. “I figured he could do the 100-meter high hurdles, the 100 and 200-meter dashes and the long jump.”
Momnohin knew that he could run the sprints, but was a little unsure about doing the hurdles.
“I never did them before,” Momnohin said. “I just had to jump over it.”
Seems easy enough. Mazzolla saw rapid improvement from his budding star.
“Meet after meet, he just kept getting better and better,” Mazzolla said. “As he continued to improve, his performances also got better. Our assistant coach, Terry Iavarone, used some unique cross training methods to get Kevin ready. He used it with all the kids, but it really worked with Kevin. Halfway through the season, you could see that Kevin was getting stronger and faster. I was toying with him, thinking of using him in the 400-meter run and the middle distances.”
Mazzolla then came up with an idea that would best utilize Momnohin’s talents.
“I thought about putting him in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles,” Mazzolla said. “I knew he had the ability. I thought that his speed would help him in between the hurdles.”
Momnohin didn’t know what to think.
“I knew I never did it before,” Momnohin said. “But Coach Mazzolla was behind me and had faith in me, so I did it.”
Just like the meaning of his name.
With no practice in the event whatsoever, Momnohin lined up at the recent NJSIAA Non-Public B state sectional championships and in his first-ever attempt at the 400-meter intermediate hurdles, Momnohin finished second in 1:00.7.
“I was a little surprised,” Momnohin said. “I was a little nervous, but once I got over the first hurdle, it was actually kind of easy. I never thought it could happen.”
At that same meet, Momnohin also finished second in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and finished fifth at the long jump.
A week later, Momnohin went to the overall NJSIAA Non-Public B state championships and this time, he won the 400-meter intermediate hurdles in 58.44 seconds.
“I told the kid that not only was he going to do well, but that he was going to win the thing,” Mazzolla said. “I knew he would do well. He cut his time by two seconds as well.”
“I never thought I could get this far,” Momnohin said. “I could never have predicted this.”
At the overall Non-Public B group championships, Momnohin also finished third in the 100-meter dash and fourth in the 200-meter dash, meaning that he secured three medals and earned the right to compete in the NJSIAA Meet of Champions in three events.
For his efforts, Momnohin has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week. Momnohin also earns the distinction of being the final honoree for the 2011-2012 scholastic sports season. The presentation for the Observer Male and Female Athletes of the Year will take place in the coming weeks.
Mazzolla is overjoyed at Momnohin’s progress.
“He works hard in practice and deserves this,” Mazzolla said. “He’s also a real gentleman and he’s very coachable. By the time he’s done and if he uses track as his vehicle, he could get to college. There’s no doubt about it. He’s done very well with very little experience.”
Very little? Try just two attempts at the intermediate hurdles and it produced a state champion. That’s almost too mind boggling for words.
“Sometimes, you have to take a chance in this sport,” Mazzolla said. “It worked out. I just had a hunch.”
“Of course, I think there’s a big future for me,” Momnohin said. “I’m going to keep doing track. It’s now sort of equal with football.”
However, QP football coach Steve Romano is going to look forward to have both Momnohin twins in the fall.
“It’s a big pleasure for me to represent Queen of Peace,” Momnohin said. “Coach Romano told me the other day that I’m making the school proud, that I have to keep making the Queen of Peace name get out there.”
Much like the Momnohin name, meaning “you did it.” Yes, Kevin Momnohin certainly did it. He’s a state champion.