By Jimmy Gillispie
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – The Olathe West girls won another meet Saturday, but it wasn’t quite the performance the Owls hoped for in their second-to-last competition of the season.
The defending Class 6A state champions won the regional on the Johnson County Community College course, but rival Olathe North gave the Owls a bit of a scare heading into next week’s state meet.
Olathe West scored only 40 points, beating Olathe North by 14 points, just a week after beating the Eagles by 40 points at the Sunflower League championship. The Eagles’ third runner finished before the second Olathe West runner at the regional meet.
“I was very excited,” Olathe West coach Kelsey Carbajo said. “Every race, we’re taking it day by day. … From the sounds of what I’m hearing, they aren’t the happiest after this race. They want to run a little bit better next week, and I think it’s going to happen if they say it. They have goals they want and they usually get those goals.”
Although Olathe North’s top three runners beat the Owls’ top two, the reigning state champs’ five scoring runners finished before the fourth from Olathe North. The Owls were once again led by sophomore Kate Miller, who completed the 5K course in 18:31.73.
Close behind Miller was junior Charis Robinson and sophomore Bree Newport. They placed sixth and seventh, running 18:44.93 and 18:46.88, respectively. The Owls’ fourth and fifth runners were junior Paige Baker (11th, 19:25.02) and freshman Elizabeth Browning (12th, 19:36.74).
Their sixth runner was junior Aubree Blackman. She was just 11 seconds and two spots behind Browning.
“It was nice to have Paige back,” Carbajo said. “We didn’t have Paige at Sunflower League, so it was nice to have her back.”
The second-ranked Olathe North team was led by a 1-2 finish across the finish line. Sophomore Anjali Hocker Singh added another victory to her resume, running the 5K course in a time of 17:47.41.
“I didn’t get the time that I hoped for,” Hocker Singh said. “I think I tried my hardest. I wanted to get 17-flat, but I think I went out too slow.”
Finishing runner-up to Hocker Singh was her teammate – senior Kaylee Tobaben. She was in second place for most of the race, before crossing the finish line in 18:06.31, holding off Blue Valley senior Tori Wingrove.
Olathe North sophomore Shea Johnson placed fifth, running 18:41.78, and cut off 45 seconds from the league meet at the Rim Rock Farm. Rounding out the team scoring was sophomore Cora Katzenberger (18th, 19:56.27) and senior Lexie Dockstader (20:29.35).
“We did really good today,” Hocker Singh said.
The final team to clinch a spot at the 6A girls state meet was host Blue Valley Northwest. The No. 6-ranked Huskies scored 94 points to clip Olathe East by 13 points.
They were led by senior Cecilia Fisher’s ninth-place finish. The next four Huskies – junior Laya Erickson (19), senior Lexi Liess (21), junior Abigail Allen (22) and senior Carly Gagnon (23) – finished within a 15-second window.
The 6A girls race is slated to start at noon Saturday at the 4 Mile Creek Resort in Augusta.
In the boys race, it was three completely different teams advancing to state. Top-ranked Olathe South took home the regional title with 51 points. No. 4-ranked Olathe East (68) and Gardner-Edgerton (101) finished second and third, qualifying for the 6A meet in Augusta.
Olathe South was coming off a Sunflower League title that came down to the sixth runner tiebreaker with Olathe East. Olathe South senior Matthew Tolman finished third overall at the regional meet, running a 16:03.11.
Back-to-back finishes by senior Rhys Allen (8th, 16:21.61) and junior Tyler Burns (9th, 16:23.33) helped the Falcons claim the title. Junior Bennett Meoli (13th, 16:42.17) and junior Cole Burkholder (18th, 16:51.77) rounded out the team’s scoring.
“They ran well. They weren’t super satisfied with last week at league,” Olathe South coach Zach Pope said. “Even with the win, they knew they could run better. They were really focused all week. They came out there and got the job done. We talked about not making this more than it is, because it’s still just about qualifying for state, which was the No. 1 goal. They competed hard and got out well, which we knew we had to. It was a really good effort, and hopefully next week is even better.”
Olathe East claimed two of the top five spots, including the top one. Junior Carter Stewart won the boys 5K, running 15:43.57. Senior Luke Jenkins was the second Hawks runner across the finish line, placing fifth and running 16:09.66.
The next four Hawks runners finished within an 18-second window between 17th and 25th place. They were senior Will Whitehead (17), sophomore Diego Barron (21), junior Ethan Ochana (24) and freshman Nate Barnes (25).
Gardner-Edgerton’s top two runners were seniors Kasen Keller (10th, 16:27.33) and Jordan Kilonzo (11th, 16:31.47). The other scoring runners for the Trailblazers were sophomore Paker Walion (15), junior Isaac Meili (32) and junior Landon Comstock (11).
The 6A boys race is slated to start at 10:40 a.m. Saturday at the 4 Mile Creek Resort in Augusta. Awards will be presented after all races have been completed.