The Kansas City Star’s Fab Five from the spring sports season were selected by members of the high school sports staff, who consulted with coaches before making their decisions.
An athlete must participate in at least 60 percent of his or her team’s competition to be eligible.
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Bradley Frye, Barstow, tennis
The lure of a state championship prompted Barstow’s Bradley Frye to alter his plans. After spending his sophomore year on the tennis tournament circuit, he returned to the school team for his junior season.
Sure enough, the state title came with it.
In his return, Frye finished 23-0, won a handful of tournaments and was crowned the Missouri Class 1 champion.
“I’ve always loved team sports — basketball, baseball, soccer — and high school tennis puts that team aspect into it,” Frye said. “I just wanted to win a state championship for myself but also for my team. Playing for something other than myself was a lot of fun.”
His state-championship match — which his coach called the best he’s ever played — featured a wrinkle. After the first set against Pembroke Hill’s Josh Bortnick was played outdoors, the match concluded indoors because of a storm. Frye won all seven games played outdoors but adjusted fine to the transition, finishing off a 6-0, 6-2 victory.
Frye didn’t drop a set in the entire tournament.
“I tried not to let the move to indoors get to me,” Frye said. “I knew I need to stay strong mentally.”
Frye also captured tournament titles in Blue Springs and at the Blue Valley Northwest Invitational on the Plaza. Frye dominated both events, dropping only four games in the Plaza tournament.
“The kid has a variety of shots I’ve never seen before,” Barstow coach Tom O’Brien said.
Frye is ranked 23rd in the nation in his class, per TennisRecruiting.net. He has not yet finalized his college choice but has multiple high-level Division I opportunities.
Noah Green, St. Thomas Aquinas, track and field
The wind is never on a hurdler’s side.
So on a windy day at Kansas’ Rock Chalk Park in April, with a tail wind of 2.6 mps during the high school finals of the 90th KU Relays, Aquinas junior Noah Green took his place at the starting line of the 110-meter hurdles and just hoped he’d keep his trail leg high.
Green had come close to breaking the Relays record of 13.92 seconds as a sophomore, when he was at Blue Valley Southwest. While he placed first, he finished in 14.05 seconds.
This year, Green scorched the field, winning by 0.80 seconds and crossing the finish line at 13.71.
Because the wind was not allowable, Green’s name won’t go into the history book as the record holder for the event — but his second straight Relays win set the tone for another incredible season.
With Green leading the way, Aquinas repeated as Class 5A champions. Green became a back-to-back state champion in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles as well as the 1,600-meter relay. As he did throughout the spring, he split 48.40 as an anchor to give Aquinas a 2.5-second edge over BV Southwest.
He broke his own state meet record in the 110 hurdles by .08 seconds, completing the race in 13.90, and came in just shy of the 300 record (36.80) when he finished in 37.15.
Green also placed third in the long jump, crossing a distance of 21 feet, 8 inches.
At this pace, the nationally-ranked hurdler would be on track for a three-peat during his senior campaign. Green, however, is transferring out of state in the fall due to family reasons.
At least he’ll have three new gold medals to take with him.
“Our head coach, coach Justin Wrigley, was always in my ear, texting me, helping me get to the next level,” Green said. “He always tweets about me, which was eye-opening to see coaches who care about their athletes like that...
“It felt great to hear the crowd cheering and knowing I did it again and reached one of my goals. It was just a great experience.”
Cailey Grunhard, Bishop Miege, swimming
On an evening in May, treading water in a pool in Topeka’s Capitol Federal Natatorium, Cailey Grunhard took a glance at all her Bishop Miege teammates and coach Dennis Mueller and finally felt like the job was done.
Grunhard committed one thing to memory then — and it wasn’t her four gold medals. It was jumping off the podium with her friends and coach, reveling in becoming the first girls swim team to hoist a state championship trophy in school history.
Still, Grunhard played arguably the biggest role in getting Miege to that podium. Her gold medals in the 100-yard butterfly and 100 backstroke laid a wide enough foundation for Miege’s 289 points.
Grunhard split 23.90 seconds on the butterfly leg of the 200 yard medley relay to keep her team on pace for a final of 1:47.16. It was the best finish in state meet history. She also anchored the 400 freestyle relay team, which finished in 3:40.66 and beat Bishop Carroll by five seconds.
Despite not setting any individual records, Grunhard capped an already successful career by becoming an All American in the butterfly. She touched the wall at 54.12 at the state meet, besting the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Assocation standard of 54.64 seconds for an automatic qualification. She won the backstroke in 55.72.
“For me to do it with my friends and my sister, I’m glad I did it,” said Grunhard, who will swim at Notre Dame next year. “(Winning) was kind of a relief. State is kind of stressful but it was a fun experience. I was sad (for it) to be over, but I was glad we got the championship.”
Carlie Queen, Summit Christian Academy, track and field
The state championships came easily to Summit Christian Academy athlete Carlie Queen. She won her first as a freshman, a title that included a school record in the high jump.
So for the next three years, she aimed for loftier target — a new Missouri state record.
“I don’t think I’ll be satisfied,” she said midway through her senior year, “until I get that.”
It finally arrived this spring.
Queen set the state’s high jump mark when she cleared the bar at 5 feet, 11 inches at the Missouri state track meet in Jefferson City last month. It easily broke the old record of 5 feet, 9 inches, which had been in place since 2000.
“That has just plagued me for so long. I’m like I’ve jumped over this so many times (that) I can do this,” Queen said after breaking the record on a rainy day in Jefferson City. “And so it was just such a relief to finally get that.”
Queen cemented herself as the most decorated high jump female athlete in state history. And it was more than her final record-breaking jump. She was a four-time state champion.
Earlier in her senior season, she won the prestigious Kansas Relays with a leap of 5-10, the best mark the event had seen since 1987.
Queen, who was also The Star’s Female Scholar-Athlete of the year, will attend Arkansas on a track scholarship.
Mady Young, Olathe Northwest, softball
After teammate Natalie Hamm barreled the 10th or so pitch of her final at-bat in the Class 6A softball championship, Mady Young turned to watch the walkoff hit land in left field and crouched down to pound homeplate. Young had scored the game-winning run for Olathe Northwest’s first state title since 2011, and she fathom it.
Young and her fellow seniors had been on that Arrocha Ballpark field in Lawrence before. In 2015, they experienced heartbreak there, losing to Olathe South 7-3 in the title game. The year after that, they placed third and made a vow to do whatever necessary to avoid feeling that sinking disappointment again.
So Young put in the work, from the weight room to team practice and individual hitting lessons. The effort had paid off when, at season’s end, she read her final stat line to find a .575 batting average accompanied by 43 RBIs and 25 extra-base hits. Young, who hit leadoff for Northwest all season, stole 27 bases, walked 12 times and only struck out twice.
In three games at the state tournament, Young was 4 for 9 with two doubles, a walk and a hit-by-pitch. She also scored five runs.
And when it was all said and done, she’d been named Sunflower League Player of the Year, earned All-State honors and received Gatorade Player of the Year recognition for the state of Kansas. She’d accomplished her mission, proving that the four appearances Olathe Northwest made in the state tournament — the Ravens placed fourth her freshman year — during her time playing for coach Mark Mahoney weren’t a fluke.
“Even now it gives me chills. Even though it’s just high school ball, and we’re just in the state of Kansas, we’ve all been working for that for four years,” said Young, who’ll play at the University of Northern Colorado next year. “It made it sweeter that we tasted the win and had been on the field when the other team has won. We all wanted it so bad and had been working so hard for it, it was just a flood of emotions and relief. All the passion and hard work had paid off.”