The playful laughter and leisurely side changes suggested that Lansing’s Katie Rathjen and Colby Mortensen were using their chemistry to earn a doubles spot for the Lions in the Kansas Class 5A state tennis tournament.
The two were actually playing each other for a regional singles title at Mill Valley on Saturday, but Rathjen said the low-key championship match was exactly how she wanted to end her day and keep their narative going in her last season with the Lions.
Rathjen won 6-2, 6-0, but the top six finishers from singles and doubles each get to advance to the state tournament. It will be played next Friday and Saturday at Valley Center High School.
“It was really fun,” Rathjen said. “We encourage each other, and she kind of lifts me up.”
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Rathjen said she considers Mortensen her best friend and that the two even ride to training together for their USTA team in Lawrence. They frequently compete at practice, but this was the first time they have faced each other in high school competition this year.
It was the first regional title for Rathjen, who was the top seed. She will carry just three losses into the state tournament as a senior.
“It’s been my best season so far, so I’m glad to end it like this,” Rathjen said.
Lansing teammates Mandi Petros and Rachel Long made the championship match in doubles and topped St. Thomas Aquinas’ Sarah Petty and Megan Root 6-2, 6-1. The top-seeded pair of Petros and Long has lost just twice this season.
Sierra Brown and Marissa Petros played for fifth place, which meant that the entire Lansing team qualified for state and the Lions won the regional team title.
“It means a lot to me because I have lived in Lansing my whole life and we have never ever qualified all six players,” Long said. “It’s super beneficial too because we know how to encourage each other, how to have fun with each other and not be super stressed.”
St. Thomas Aquinas and St. James will each send four players to state. Both teams qualified two in singles and one doubles team. The Saints will send Ryan Grawe, who took fourth, and Taylor Smart, who placed fifth. They each faced a St. James player in their final matches, meaning Catherine Rieke finished third and Kaitlyn Kuhl took sixth. Caroline Geither and Meredith Bierbaum will represent the Thunder in doubles.
Pittsburg’s second-seeded doubles team of Sam Bollinger and Abi Felter topped teammates Madison Vogel and Alexa Yanis to take third place. They were the only non-metro area qualifiers from the regional.