In an "It's a small world" story, two former high school running mates found themselves on the same track once again. Hotchkiss High School alumnae and former running teammates Katy Parsons and Jenny Celis competed against one another at the Division I Big 12 Outdoor Championships held May 12-14 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
Parsons, a sophomore at Baylor University, and Celis, a senior at Oklahoma State University, were in lanes 4 and 5, respectively, in the fourth and final preliminary heat of the 800-meter run.
Celis graduated from HHS in 2014, and Parsons in 2016. Both ran track and cross country for Hotchkiss, and were both members of the 2013 state championship cross country team.
"What are the odds?" said Hotchkiss running coach Kelly Cowan. He was pretty happy when he saw that two runners from a tiny school like Hotchkiss were running side by side at a competitive meet like the Big 12. Cowan said he follows his former athletes after high school, but nothing like this has ever happened.
Thirty-five runners from nine schools competed in the 800m run. Celis placed 11th overall and Parsons 23rd. Also running in the 800 was Junior Olympic gold medalist, Aaliyah Miller, an Olympic contender and Parsons' teammate. "That shows the caliber of competition they're up against," said Cowan.
Parsons' brother, Josh Parsons, traveled to Lawrence for the meet and spoke with both athletes after their race.
The meet marked the second Big 12 outdoor championship appearance for Celis. She has competed for OSU at four Big 12 Indoor championships. The state records she set in the 400m and 800m at the Colorado Class 2A high school meets still stand.
For Parsons, this was her first Big 12 meet. The heat was getting to her, and an old hip injury sustained as a member of the Hotchkiss dance team had been bothering her, although on race day it wasn't flaring up.
It was also her third 800-meter race of the season.
"Being with her at the start line was relaxing," said Parsons. They had a chance to talk before the race, wish each other luck, and talk after the race about how much they hurt. Heading into the race, "Jenny said to me, 'Good luck. Be brave. We've done this a hundred times.'"
Seeing Parsons was amazing, said Celis, who has one more season of outdoor track at OSU ahead of her. "Katy's so sweet and she's so much fun to be around." Looking around, said Celis, with all the mean, competitive faces on the track, "It's just nice to know that I know Katy."