Repeat just as sweet for Olathe West girls

AUGUSTA, Kan. — The Olathe West girls cross country team capped off an unbeaten season Saturday at the Class 6A state meet.

The Owls never lost a meet on their way to their second-straight state championship. They won meets in three different states, but it was the final meet that was arguably the most exciting.

Olathe West ended its 2021 season with a win over crosstown rival Olathe North. The Owls scored 52 points, beating Olathe North by 16 points for the title. Last year, they won the program’s first championship by a single point.

“It’s very special,” Olathe West coach Kelsey Carbajo said. “Olathe North has incredible runners at the top, but the one thing we have talked about from day one since we started the program is that we’re going to run as a team and run as a pack. I think that is what we’ve done and we continue to do it. Our girls work together and work their tails off to run as a team and place as a team. To us, that’s the most important part of our team.”

The Olathe West girls pack it up near the front at the beginning of the race Saturday. (Photo by Jimmy Gillispie)

Carbajo has said all season the Owls don’t need to have an individual winner, as long as it wins the team title. To do so, she knows the Owls must pack up near the front and use each other for motivation throughout the race.

They did exactly that Saturday.

Olathe West sophomore Kate Miller began the race in the front pack of four runners, but began to drop back several spots as the race progressed. She ended up finishing 13th as the third Owls’ runner across the finish line, earning her second all-state honor.

The Owls didn’t have a runner in the top seven, but once sophomore Bree Newport and junior Charis Robinson finished less than a second apart in eighth and ninth, respectively, the next three teammates came in within the next 40 seconds.

“If someone does have a bad day, we have to rely on some other runners to get the job done,” Carbajo said. “I think that’s what happened today. They worked together. They have each other’s backs. That’s the coolest thing about this team, and I love them so much for that.”

Junior Paige Baker placed 15th for the Owls, just before fellow junior Aubree Blackman finished 18th overall. Freshman Elizabeth Browning was the Owls sixth runner, and she placed 21st – one spot out of a state medal. Senior Madeline Karnei was the seventh runner for the Owls.

Olathe West junior Paige Baker placed 15th, becoming an all-state runner, Saturday at the Class 6A meet. (Photo by Jimmy Gillispie)

“Of course, we wanted to have more in the front, but we know our four, five and six runners are super strong,” Carbajo said. “Our gap between our 1-7 is tight. It was nerve-wracking a little bit, but when I saw our four and five come through, I said, ‘Let’s go, we got this.’”

The Owls’ biggest competition the past two weeks was Olathe North, which saw its top three runners finish in the top four Saturday. Leading the was two-time state champion ON sophomore Anjali Hocker Singh, who won the race by 26 seconds.

Olathe North sophomore Shea Johnson moved up a few spots late in the race en route to placing runner-up. She just narrowly clipped Shawnee Mission Northwest junior Paige Mullen by hundredths of a second. 

ON senior Kaylee Tobaben, who announced this week she will be running for Iowa State next year, finished fourth. Senior Alexis Lexie Dockstader (37), sophomore Cora Katzenberger (42), freshman Niah Blachly (53) and senior Kira Almsberger (61) rounded out the team’s scoring.

Olathe North senior Kaylee Tobaben finished fourth at the Class 6A state meet Saturday. (Photo by Jimmy Gillispie)

Blue Valley Northwest placed third and earned a state trophy. The Huskies scored 106 team points, beating Washburn Rural by nine points.

BVNW junior Cecilia Fisher was the lone medalist for the Huskies. She finished 10th overall. 

– Story by Jimmy Gillispie

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