Crispin Kamundala demonstrating his triple jump at the Lewiston High School track. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

 

LEWISTON — Crispin Kamundala competed in track and field in Nairobi, Kenya, during the four years he spent there before his family packed up and moved to Maine.

The Lewiston High School senior was a shot put thrower as well as a triple jumper and long jumper, but it was nothing like it is in the United States.

A line would be drawn in the ground where the athletes had to jump. There was no sand pit, instead just grass and dirt, and the distances were marked by sticks spiked into the ground with the jumper’s name written on an attached piece of paper.

Kamundala said he learned track and field “the hard way.” He also started boxing in Kenya, following in the footsteps of his father, who was a fighter in their native Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Both sports have followed him to the United States, and have both paid off.

Kamundala won the KVAC indoor triple jump title by jumping 44 feet and also finished third in the shot put and was runner-up in the long jump before going on a trip to Florida and missing the state and New England championship meets.

In boxing, Kamundala has started to fight competitively this year after training with Cugno Boxing Club in Lewiston since just after he arrived in Maine. He has a record of 2-1.

Kamundala has seven siblings and his mother is pregnant with another, which made it hard for his family to find a living space when they tried to leave Kenya in 2016.

“I was born in Congo, and I moved because of security purposes from the Congo,” Kamundala said. “Me and my family came to Kenya, because my dad refused to go to a refugee camp in Kenya because the life there is bad, so we stayed in Nairobi.

“We have a big family. They didn’t have an apartment, so it was so hard to get a big room for us. We were supposed to stay in Connecticut, but we didn’t have a place so we came to Maine.”

The family lived in a hotel room when they first arrived in Maine, but now have an apartment in Lewiston and Kamundala says his father is working on getting them a house.

Track was learned the hard way, but Kamundala’s upbringing was harder than most. In his final sports season at Lewiston, coach Paul Sorraco can’t think of a harder worker on his team.

“He’s always pushing himself, challenging himself, and he’s gotten better every year,” Sorraco said. “He works hard in practice, and that’s what we are looking for. He’s made huge strides the last couple of years, he really has. Just to see him focused, he’s locked in during the meet, he just wants to go and wants to win. I love that about him.”

In the boxing gym, Kamundala is the same way. The strides he’s taken in boxing are as wide as his phases in the triple jump.

“He first came to us, he was a shy, quiet kid, but now he’s full of confidence,” Glenn Cugno, of Cugno Boxing Club, said. “He walks around and is in a whole different world, and ever since he started fighting he’s come a long way. His confidence is way up, matured into a young man. He’s incredible.”

In the ring, Kamundala’s boxing ability and strategy have also been ratcheted up.

“When he first came to us, his punching and defense wasn’t very good, real sloppy,” Cugno said. “Now, he’s refined into a boxer instead of a brawler. When he came first he wanted to fight and swing. Now, he’s nice and calm and looking for shots and picking shots and making you pay.

“His boxing ability has come 100 percent from where it was. That’s probably why he’s so interested in fighting, because he’s not getting hit a lot, he’s not taking a lot of punches. His body shots are beautiful and they take the steam out of people.”

Kamundala already has a giant family at home, but he said the trainers at Cugno gym “are like family to me.” Cugno agrees.

“Our gym is a family-oriented gym,” Cugno said. “Parents come down with their kids and watch, everybody’s like family there. He’s a good kid, we take him everywhere and make sure he has what he needs and we get it done. He’s just part of the boxing family.”

While his boxing skills have been on the upswing, so have his triple jump abilities. Kamundala’s main goal is breaking the Class A state triple jump record of 46-05, set by Scott Sawyer of South Portland in 1991. Kamundala jumped 44 feet indoors, a far-cry from his 42-07 mark last spring at the outdoor state meet.

“I know I can jump better,” Kamundala said. “My form right now is better, my second phase over the past year in triple jump is nice, I just need the last phase and I know I can do better.”

Kamundala also wants to win the New England championship in the triple jump and be named an All-American.

College is in his sights, but Kamundala said he’s not quite ready for it yet. Instead, he will be attending Hyde School in Bath as a bridge-year to get him ready for higher-level track and field.

Kamundala credits Soracco for helping him get to where he is today.

“Coach Sorraco is the best coach ever,” Kamundala said. “He’s just like a parent to me. He gives me advice, not only in school. Sometimes he takes me and I sit with him and he just gives me advice. He helps me with home, school, with work, just life advice. A person that gives you life advice is the best person ever. You need that person in your life.”

With so many goals and high expectations for this season, Kamundala is excited for the opportunity to win his first state title in front of his home crowd at Lewiston High School. The Class A state championship meet is scheduled for June 1 at Lewiston’s new outdoor track, barring any field setbacks.

“I am so happy, this is home,” Kamundala said. “Coach told me that states was here and I was so happy. I have been practicing here everyday and it’s just like I’m in my house and I know everything. A neighbor doesn’t know anything about my house.”

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