The Olathe East girls cross country team only returned two runners from last year’s state champion team but it reloaded in a hurry.
By KATHLEEN GIER
The Kansas City Star
The Hawks are headed to state again after winning their fifth straight regional title at Saturday afternoon’s 6A Olathe Northwest regional race at Lone Elm Park in Olathe.
“We’ve had very good senior leadership and the kids have done everything I’ve wanted them to and more actually,” Olathe East head coach Tony Bozarth said.
Kayla Davis led the Hawks with a fourth-place finish while Kelsey Lathrop, Emily Schmeeckle, Allison Vermillion and Natalie Kopplin joined her in the top 11. The team finished with 40 points on the day, 40 points ahead of second-place Olathe Northwest. Blue Valley West also qualified for state with a third-place finish.
The Hawks also qualified on the boys side finishing third with 74 team points. Olathe East was one of two schools out of the regional to qualify both teams. The other was Blue Valley West, which finished second behind Olathe North on the boys side.
It will be the 16th appearance at state for the Olathe East boys team and 12th for the girls who have gone 11 straight years.
Olathe North took the regional crown on the boys side with five runners in the top 13 including the third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishers Alex Finestead, Easton Moore and Nathan Wickoren, respectively. Wyatt Heikes added a 10th-place finish and Josiah Heikes rounded out the scoring at No. 13.
“It’s really exciting,” Olathe North coach Levi Huseman said. “They’ve worked hard and they earned their spots today.”
The Shawnee Mission Northwest boys team will also get a chance to defend its state title after winning the Shawnee Mission East regional with 69 points.
The Shawnee Mission West girls team dominated the Shawnee Mission East regional finishing with 36 points after all five girls placed in the top 10.
“We had an awesome group last year and a lot of senior that graduated, so I think that is what people saw this year when they looked at us,” Shawnee Mission West head coach Jeff Onnen said. “These kids worked hard all summer long and all season long and they kept believing. I don’t know if anyone else thought they could do it, but they walked to the starting line ready to prove something.”
Freshman Amber Reed led the group with a 15:30.39 time for fourth place and she was followed by Chloe McMahon in sixth, Alex Elliott in seventh, Riley Kaiser in ninth and Emma Stamm in 10th place.
“We’ve had glimpses of this, but we’ve never put all the pieces together on one day,” Onnen said. “We had a great week of practice. Everyone was really focused and relaxed this week and it all came together at the right time.”
It will be the Vikings’ fifth straight state appearance, and they’ll be joined by the boys team which finished second in its regional. Shawnee Mission East and Blue Valley also advancedfrom the regional giving Blue Valley qualifying teams from both the boys and girls races.