OLATHE, Kan. — Think of Olathe South’s boys cross country team as being comprised of humble heroes.
The Falcons won the 2021 KSHSAA Class 6A State Cross Country Championship, but they’re not wasting time congratulating themselves. They’re quietly exercising a plan that could lead them back to the crown.
Last year’s state title is the first cross country championship in school history, and the first Olathe South has won in any sport since 2016. Five Falcon runners placed in the top 30 at the 2021 state meet outside Wichita.
“We really only focus big picture on team goals — not individual goals,” Zach Pope, Olathe South’s seventh-year head coach, said.
That means an emphasis on mental toughness rather than setting personal best times. That approach has boosted Olathe South to the no. 2 ranking in the latest Kansas cross country polls.
“Our sole focus is just doing the little things every single day to put ourselves in position to do well at the end of the year,” Pope said.
Many of the team’s athletes are posting times below 16:30 for the 3-mile course, breaking through challenges while they’re on their feet.
“Other teams might go through problems, and they might shut down. With us — it’s hard and difficult to do, but we stay mentally tough through those problems and we’re able to come back the next week better than we were before,” Bennett Meoli, Olathe South senior runner, said.
“When a workout gets hard, we don’t psyche ourselves out. We don’t give up. We just keep pushing no matter how hard it gets even if our legs are feeling like jelly or our ankle starts hurting. We push through it,” another Olathe South senior, said.
Olathe South stumbled a little on Saturday. Injuries limited their stride, leaving the Falcons with a fifth-place finish at the Sunflower League Finals. They’ll run again next Saturday at the regional championships at Johnson County Community College.
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