She’ll be remembered as Bellevue West’s golden girl.
And a very speedy golden girl, at that.
Chloe Akin-Otiko racked up 12 all-class gold medals at the state track meet during her four-year varsity career, including a four-year sweep of the 100 and 200 meters.
Akin-Otiko also was an outstanding basketball player, making a major contribution since her freshman year and averaging 18 points as a senior while making the All-Nebraska first team.
For her performance, Akin-Otiko is honored as The World-Herald Nebraska high school girls athlete of the year. The Kansas track recruit was a finalist for the award last year before becoming the second girls athlete from Bellevue West to earn the honor, following Kristi Woodard in 2002.
Other finalists were Monica Arens of Crofton, Shandra Farmer of Hastings St. Cecilia, Kylie Thiele of Kearney Catholic, Brooke Carlson of Elkhorn and Jadyn McCartney of Chadron.
Akin-Otiko was a standout athlete and a standout in the classroom. She was ranked No. 1 in her senior class and hopes to be a doctor.
She’s well respected as a person, by her coaches and peers alike.
“I just love her,” Thunderbirds girls track coach Leigh Officer said. “Her influence goes beyond our high school into the community and the whole metro area.”
Officer added that so much success might go to someone else’s head, but that’s not the case with Akin-Otiko.
“Chloe has handled herself with such grace over the years,” the coach said. “It might be easy for a competitor to have a hatred because of all that success, but I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about her.”
Case in point: Sarah Fricke of Millard West. She has been chasing Akin-Otiko at the state track meet since they were both freshmen — and she has nothing but nice things to say about her chief rival.
“She’s a sweet girl,” Fricke said. “After a race, we’d get together and share a hug. And I thanked her for making me a better runner.”
Fricke finished fifth or better at state in the 100 and 200 six times since her freshman year — she ran second in both events this year — only to see Akin-Otiko capture the gold each time.
“I know that Chloe always has pushed me to be my best, so I can’t be mad at her,” Fricke said. “And she’s so gracious after winning that you can tell she was raised the right way.”
Akin-Otiko and her three siblings have been raised primarily by their father, James. Chloe’s mother, Kimberly, died from cancer when Chloe was 7.
“I was so young that I didn’t really know what was going on,” Akin-Otiko said. “She was there one day and gone the next.”
In addition to James and Chloe, the Akin-Otiko family consists of brothers Jordan and Joel and sister Alexis.
“We’re a really close family,” Chloe said. “My dad has done an amazing job, and we’re all very thankful for his support.”
Officer said Chloe’s childhood perhaps has played a role in her athletic performance.
“Losing her mom so young like that,” she said. “I’ve always thought there’s something divine and special that follows her.”
Akin-Otiko’s final varsity season began with basketball, and once again she didn’t disappoint. She led the team in scoring and rebounding. She also set the school record for career points, moving past Kelsey Woodard, and helped the Thunderbirds earn their 11th trip to the state tournament.
Though Bellevue West came up short at state — losing to Millard West in the semifinals — Thunderbirds girls basketball coach Rick Mintken said he couldn’t have asked for more from his star player.
“You’ve heard of the All-American boy?” the coach said. “Chloe is the All-American girl. Believe me, you’d want your daughter to be just like her.”
Mintken added that Akin-Otiko’s contribution went past the scorebook.
“She was always willing to help our young players,” he said. “She’s so humble about everything that you’d never know she’s one of the top high school athletes in the Midwest.”
Akin-Otiko said she was disappointed she couldn’t help her school capture the basketball title, but that focused her even more for track season.
“It was sad because I knew that was it for me in basketball,” she said. “I wanted to make sure I made a statement in track.”
She did that with an exclamation point, sweeping the 100 (11.76) and 200 (24.11) and winning the 400 (56.09) for a second consecutive year.
“The thing about Chloe is that she always exuded a quiet confidence,” Officer said. “You just knew she was going to get the job done.”
Akin-Otiko said she didn’t feel nervous in her final state meet appearance.
“I knew it was my last time there and I wanted to do something special,” she said. “I’m just very thankful to my teammates and my coaches for helping me accomplish the things I did.”
Akin-Otiko said she is now looking forward to the future and her time at Kansas, where she wants to make strides on the track and off.
“I’ve always had an interest in the medical field,” she said. “I love the science and I want to help people as much as I can as a doctor.”
Officer said she looks forward to watching what Akin-Otiko can accomplish after making such a splash at Bellevue West.
“Chloe created a legacy here,” the coach said. “I’ll never get a chance to coach someone like her again, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
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