Preps notebook: Area athletes who shined in September

Free State's Talia Gay competes on the beam at the FSHS Invitational on Saturday. Gay was the top scorer in all three events.

October is already here, which means postseason is right around the corner for most fall sports teams. A number of area squads have a shot to do some damage in the postseason, and have already proved it in the regular season.

Lawrence High’s volleyball team is on a mission after last year’s trip to the state tournament, while LHS gymnastics continues to rack up wins on a regular basis. Free State’s girls cross-country has flashed its potential, and Bishop Seabury boys soccer team has not lost a match since August.

Before the start of the playoffs, here are some area athletes who have stood out this previous month. This list does not include football players, because most of those athletes were highlighted in last week’s notebook.


Lindsey Hornberger, Bishop Seabury — Hornberger has been on another level during her senior season. Entering Tuesday, Hornberger had delivered 465 kills and registered an average of 5.7 kills per set. Hornberger has recorded over 1,000 kills in her career with the Seahawks, who are ranked No. 10 in Class 2A.

Kaitlyn Hamilton, FSHS — Free State’s junior standout has put on a clinic this fall. Hamilton recorded 239 kills in 54 sets before Tuesday’s city showdown with LHS. Hamilton, who is verbally committed to Indiana State, tallied 16 kills in a win against Olathe East in early September.

photo by: Andrew Rosenthal

Junior Kaitlyn Hamilton swings for a kill in a match against Olathe West on Sept. 25, 2018.

Laura Willoughby, LHS — Given how talented the LHS volleyball team is this year, it is hard to settle on just one player. The Lions, who are ranked No. 2 in Class 6A, have leaned on a number of talented seniors. Willoughby, though, fuels this offensive attack with her ability to get her teammates involved. Entering Tuesday, Willoughby had a team-high 401 assists.

Talisa Stone, Perry-Lecompton — Entering Tuesday’s action, the Kaws were boasting an impressive 19-7 record. Stone has been a big reason why, as she leads the team with 137 kills and 34 aces. The senior has recorded a 51.3 kill percentage, as well, for Perry-Lecompton.

Kayla Kurtz, Baldwin — In her senior season, Kurtz does it all for the Baldwin volleyball team. Kurtz paces the Bulldogs with 108 kills, and is tied for third in total blocks with 19. Kurtz has also registered 16 aces, which is tied for second on the team.


Rowan Laufer, FSHS — The senior is leading the Firebirds with five goals in his first season with the team since 2016. Laufer even netted an improbable goal from over 50 yards out during a 1-0 win over Shawnee Mission South.

Harrison Hartzler, Bishop Seabury — Opposing teams have not found a way to slow down Hartzler this fall. Hartzler has scored 18 goals in 10 matches, helping lift Bishop Seabury to an 8-2 record. Hartzler has notched a pair of hat tricks in his latest campaign.

Matthew Jackson, Baldwin — The Bulldogs have a chance to be a top team in their region, as they are 8-3 and currently ranked second out of 17 teams in their region. Jackson has scored eight goals this season, including a two-goal effort at Basehor-Linwood. As a team, Baldwin is ranked second in the Frontier League with 15 goals scored.


Henry Nelson, Bishop Seabury — Nelson’s best performances have come when he faces the toughest competition. In a loaded field at Rim Rock Farm, Nelson placed 30th with a personal-best time of 16:17.80. He also finished first at the Joe Schrag Invitational, which included athletes from seven 6A and 5A schools.

Julia Larkin, FSHS — Free State, which is ranked No. 6 in Class 6A, has plenty of depth on its quality team. Larkin has led the way, however, as she has posted the fastest time by a Firebird in 2018 with a mark of 19:43.10 at Rim Rock Farm on Sept. 22.

Free State junior Julia Larkin approaches the finish line in the varsity girls gold division race of the Rim Rock Classic on Saturday at Rim Rock Farm. Larkin led the Firebirds with a 5,000-meter time of 20:41.


Keegan VanPelt, FSHS — It wasn’t quite the ending VanPelt wanted, but the sophomore put together an impressive showing at the Sunflower League tournament. VanPelt claimed runner-up in the single bracket, dropping her lone match in the championship. For the second straight season, FSHS finished second at its league tournament.

Lilli Derby, LHS — Lawrence High’s No. 2 singles players displayed improvement throughout the season. Derby demonstrated that in the first meet of the postseason, as she claimed the highest finish for the Lions at the Sunflower League tournament. Derby won two matches to take 15th place.

photo by: Derek Skillett

Lawrence High’s Lilli Derby prepares to hit a ball during the Sunflower League tournament Thursday at the College Boulevard Activity Center.


Talia Gay, FSHS — After placing second at the state gymnastics meet last year, Gay is even better in her sophomore season. Gay is routinely finishing at the top of the all-around rankings at meets, and demonstrating the ability to score well in any event.

Josie Hickerson, LHS — The Lions have been flawless this season, notching five wins as a team thus far. Hickerson, who placed sixth at the state gymnastics meet last season, has led the way this year. Still, several athletes have played a part in Lawrence’s dominating performance.

Lawrence High senior Josie Hickerson competes during the LHS home meet on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018.


Beatrice Lopez, LHS — Four years ago, Lopez was one of two varsity golfers for LHS. Now, Lopez is leading the Lions with an average score of 96.5, which includes a personal-best round of 84 at the Lawrence High Invitational.

Lawrence High’s Beatrice Lopez follows through on a putt while Free State’s Kate Lawrence looks on during the Jaguar Invitational on Wednesday at Shawnee Golf & Country Club. Lopez carded a round of 95 to lead the Lions.

Tyler Bane, FSHS — The Firebirds have had different leaders throughout the season, but Bane has been the most consistent player this fall. Bane is leading the team with an average score of 97.3, including a 94 in both tournaments in Lawrence.


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