ELLINWOOD — Kyle Oglesbee’s athletic career nearly never was.
As an eighth grader, Oglesbee lost three fingers in an accident. His doctors told him he could not play basketball or football again.
Essentially, he has not.
What the Ellinwood High School senior has done instead is become one of the top runners in the state.
The accident involved a 4-wheeler in California. Oglesbee grabbed the outside of the roll cage and his three middle fingers were completely amputated.
“They flew me to San Diego,” he said. “It was about a 12-hour surgery to reattach them and I had a couple more surgeries after that. My knuckles were pretty much smashed so they couldn’t fix those. I don’t have much movement in my fingers, they’re pretty much just straight.”
He soon found out how much the injury would affect his life.
“In school and in sports, I had to learn and do things with my other hand,” he explained. “When they told me I wasn’t going to be able to do the sports I wanted to do, that upset me quite a bit.”
“Kyle was frustrated to say the least because he was no longer going to be able to play his favorite sports and he wondered where he was going to fit into high school athletics,” his mother, Stephanie, said. “I kept trying to encourage him and telling him that ‘God has a plan in all of this.’ But, to a 14-year-old boy, it is difficult to understand how God actively works in our lives.
“Looking back, Kyle understands that this whole experience couldn’t have been anything else but a ‘God thing.’ God gave Kyle the talents necessary to be a successful cross-country and track runner. His hand injury was necessary to change his athletic path from football and basketball to cross-country and track.”
Kyle’s numbers speak for themselves. He was a sprinter and jumper his freshman year. Everything began to change after his first season with the cross-country team.
That season, he placed 40th overall at state and ran fifth on the Eagle team that won its first state title.
In the past two seasons, Oglesbee has improved to 13th overall at state. Last year, he finished second on the team only to individual state champion Pedro Montoya as the team collected its third-straight state title.
That success has transitioned into track success.
Last May, Kyle ran with Montoya, Patrick Ringering and Derek Ward on the 4x800m relay team that won state. The 4x400 team with Oglesbee, Ringering, Kyle Blakeslee, and Cody Isern finished third.
Individually, Oglesbee finished second in the 800m, less than a second from the gold. Already, Oglesbee is the new leader in Class 2A with the fifth-best time in all of Kansas at 1:58.16. That time also broke a school record set in 1969.
“After his first season of cross-country, he was just buying into it a little bit and getting his feet wet,” said Ellinwood Coach Lyles Lashley. “In the winter we threw out the idea of running the 800. I was surprised he was excited about it. From there he’s just blossomed.”
Both Oglesbees give Lashley credit for the push into the new sports and events.
“He has really pushed me to get to the times that I have,” Kyle said. “He realizes the strengths in each athlete and really emphasizes them and that’s how I’ve become such a good runner. If he wouldn’t have noticed my strength in middle distance I would still be jumping and running the 100m dash.”
“God didn’t just give Kyle a coach, he gave him Coach Lashley,” Stephanie said. “And, really, look at it. What were the chances of Coach Lashley coaching at Ellinwood High School? This man has been successful at all levels. He has coached athletes that have gone on to compete in the Olympics. His name is known all across the U.S.
“He probably could have coached at the high school of his choice. And he chose Ellinwood. Again, God had a plan for Kyle’s life and he put all the ingredients in place that were necessary for Kyle to be successful.”
The 800 record is not all Oglesbee would like to accomplish in his final season as an Eagle. Last year, he ran the fourth-best 400m dash time in Class 2A. He has already bested that time, and his mark of 50.8 leads Class 2A. It’s also less than a second from the Ellinwood school record set in the 1960s.
“We’re training to see what we can do,” Kyle said. “I do think I can get down to that time. We just have to keep working hard this season.”
Regardless of this year’s success, Oglesbee will already go down as one of the most decorated runners in school history. It all goes back to a hand injury in the eighth grade.
“It’s been an awesome experience to be able to win three championships in cross-country and also be very successful in track,” he said.
Oglesbee has not yet made up his mind if he will run in college and is waiting on the outcome of this spring. He is the son of Gary and Stephanie Oglesbee.