The Kansas City Star’s Fab Five from the fall 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.
The Star’s annual All-Metro Football Team will be published on Sunday.
Click here for Kansas City-area players on Missouri and Kansas all-state teams for fall sports.
Molly Born, Shawnee Mission Northwest
Repetition doesn’t bother Shawnee Mission Northwest cross country runner Molly Born. Not in the least.
Running itself is a repetitive activity, mile after mile passing by. But the trophies that have come with Born’s running? That kind of repetition is the best part.
She repeated this year as Kansas Class 6A girls cross country state champion, setting a course record at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence with a 17:32.7 finish in the 5K race.
“It never gets old,” Born said after that win. “I just love running and every race is huge for me, so I never get bored with it.”
Maintaining that passion has been critical for Born: In addition to her state championship, she also won the Greg Wilson Classic, Heartland Classic, Sunflower League Meet, Kansas 6A Regional championships and the Nike Cross National Heartland Regional Meet (in South Dakota).
As defending champion in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races for her track and field team in the spring, Born has enough trophies to fill a truck. But complacency still is not a part of her vocabulary, and she used that to fuel her cross country season.
It paid off. Born’s state championship race wasn’t particularly close: She won by a full 37 seconds.
Gianni Catenacci, Rockhurst
When Rockhurst senior Gianni Catenacci made the decision to return to high school soccer, his primary uncertainty was the manner in which his homecoming would be received. His teammates squashed the worry before the season even started, voting Catenacci a team captain.
His reintegration on the field went just as smoothly.
After two years with the Sporting Academy, Catenacci rejoined Rockhurst for his senior season, and he delivered 17 goals and 12 assists while helping the Hawklets reach the Missouri Class 4 championship game.
Catenacci, a central midfielder who received All-America status, recorded a goal or assist in all six postseason matches. While serving as the creative force behind the Hawklets’ attack, he scored game-winning goals or assists in the district championship, sectional and state semifinal victories.
After the playoff run, he was awarded the Missouri Class 4 offensive player of the year by the state’s coaches association.
“I definitely felt like when it got to the postseason, that’s when you really have to try to bring it out and do the most for your team,” Catenacci said. “I tried to create more in the postseason. That was my job as a senior and a captain.”
Madison Lilley, Blue Valley West
Madison Lilley was one match away from a fairytale senior season. Her Blue Valley West volleyball team was undefeated all year until losing in the Kansas Class 6A state championship to Olathe Northwest.
Still, Lilley is one of The Star’s fall season athletes of the year after a standout senior season. She’ll head to Kentucky on a volleyball scholarship next year.
Lilley, a setter, finished with 158 digs, 80 blocks and 159 kills (1.9 per set). She was named to the Under Armour All-American team, won the Evelyn Gates Award (given to the best volleyball player in the Kansas City metro area) and is a Gatorade Player of the Year candidate.
Lilley also finished the season with 814 assists (9.6 per set).
“Seeing my senior season kind of come to an end has been tough, especially with the loss at state,” Lilley said after winning the Gates Award. “But we had a great year. … I feel like the biggest thing I contributed this season was I tried to be a very trustworthy teammate, just trying to be mindful and selfless on the court.”
Chloe Kuckelman, Blue Valley North
Since she was 4, Chloe Kuckelman has had a tennis racket in her hand. And as a sophomore at Blue Valley North, she put together one of the most dominating performances in the area this season.
After finishing third in the state last year as a freshman, Kuckelman came back this year with a vengeance. She rolled through her season undefeated, dropped one match in regional play and finished the year 30-1 as the state champion in Kansas’ Class 6A.
“I try to go out there and not think about whether I’m supposed to win,” Kuckelman said. “I try to just play the same style that I always do so I don’t get nervous. … I attack a lot and I’m aggressive. I don’t like to wait for them to make a mistake; I want to force them to.”
Until her regionals loss, Kuckelman had dropped only one game in her undefeated regular season. She was the winner in the Plaza Invitational, Pembroke Hill Tournament, Eastern Kansas League Conference Tournament, Wichita Collegiate Tournament of Champions and the Kansas Class 6A state tournament.
With 30 wins, Kuckelman holds the BV North record for most singles wins and best winning percentage in a season (97 percent).
Callie Martin, Raymore-Peculiar
Raymore-Peculiar senior Callie Martin defines her approach at the plate rather simply — hit the ball as hard as you can.
Over the past four years, Martin has cycled through a variety of roles between her tournament and high school softball teams, whether it be at the plate or in the field. But that approach has never wavered. And neither has her production.
While batting leadoff for the Panthers this fall, Martin still found her power stroke, batting .577 with 30 extra-base hits. She drove 13 balls over the fence and added 12 doubles and five triples, totaling a 1.206 slugging percentage.
“I focused a lot this year on my mental game plan and not trying to over-think things,” she said. “If I see a ball to hit, I just try to hit it hard somewhere.”
The most impressive part? Those numbers came against some of the state’s top competition. Four Kansas City area pitchers were named to the Missouri Class 4 all-state first or second team. Martin homered off three of them.
While she will likely play first base or outfield when she attends Missouri next season, Martin was asked to catch for the Panthers. She threw out 10 of the 14 would-be base stealers.