From Late Bloomers to State Champs: How the Olmsteads’ Competitive Nature Pushed Them to New Heights


Down the street from where the pair would eventually make their varsity debuts, Carson and Conner Olmstead spent most of their childhood days locked in endless competitions. A one-on-one hoops competition to 11 would turn to best two-out-of-three, three-out-of-five, and so on.

Self-described “late bloomers,” the Olmsteads’ countless hours at the Toledo Middle School gym pushing one another led to a successful first full varsity campaign at the high school, college offers, and a 4x400-meter relay state championship last spring to cap it all off.

The success the brothers enjoyed ultimately boiled down to all those hours in the gym, all the times Carson and Conner never wanted to concede in unending stalemates.

Above all, they hate to lose.

“No one wanted to lose,” Conner said of the late-night battles. “It was a lot of fun, and it was good for us.”

Neither Carson or Conner had gone through a full varsity season at Toledo before this past year. The brothers made their varsity sport debuts during the shortened COVID spring season in 2021, with Carson opting to play football, basketball, and baseball and Conner focusing on hoops and baseball.

In 2022, though Carson enjoyed football and the pair both played basketball, they tried something new in the spring.

After running cross country in the fall to stay in shape for basketball, the senior-to-be decided to give track a try, and convinced his older brother to do it with him.

Neither believed they would have the type of track season that they enjoyed. While Conner showcased track speed he didn’t know he had in the 400 meters, 4x100, and 4x400, Carson surprised himself in throwing events.

Though, Carson was eventually persuaded again by coaches and his brother to run on the 4x400 team before the first meet in March.

“I did not join track to do any running, I came to throw stuff,” Carson said. “We ran our first race in Rainier, and it wasn’t super good, but we made a couple of adjustments. It was really cool being down there on the sideline with all the other racers and cheering my brother coming around that corner every time.”

Led off by Conner, and anchored by Carson, the Riverhawks’ first go at the 4x400 ended with a third place finish at a league meet and a time of 3:58.8. Roughly two months later, at Eastern Washington University running at the 2B State Championships, Conner and Carson — along with teammates Jordan Mckenzie and Wyatt Nef — ran a 3:30.56 and were dangling state championship medals from their necks.

Even as teammates, competing for the same goal and a state title, the brothers couldn’t help themselves from making it a competition.

Though Carson admitted that Conner was faster, the older Olmstead came dangerously close to Conner’s 400 relay split after watching him run the first leg of every 4x400 before anchoring Toledo to plenty of victories. By season’s end, Carson’s 400 split was mere seconds off Conner’s personal best.

Traditionally the last race of the track season and every meet, the 4x400 victory was a cherry on top of the Olmsteads’ last high school season as teammates, with Carson off to college.

“It was special, it was awesome,” Conner said. “That was Carson’s last day of high school sports. It’s cool that we got to stand up on the podium, both of us, to win that and get the gold medal.”

But along the way came plenty of smaller successes, as well.

Though his competitiveness drove him to heights he never thought he’d reach in both the 4x400 and the 300-meter hurdles, Carson’s initial plan to throw the javelin worked out too. He finished third in the state, and took home a district title thanks to a school record 173 foot, 7 inch throw in May.

He broke the record three times — once outright, a second time breaking his own record, and then immediately following a Nef throw that saw his teammate hold the record for mere moments after Carson broke it again on the very next throw.

“Nef came running up to me screaming, ‘I had the school record for 12 seconds,’” Carson remembers.

But it was Carson’s season on the gridiron that led to an eventual opportunity to attend college and play sports at the next level. Earning all-league honors, Carson helped the Riverhawks to a 10-3 record and a state quarterfinal appearance, which didn’t go unnoticed.

This fall, Carson will attend Pacific Lutheran where he’ll play football and run track, something he never thought possible growing up.

“I’m really excited to see where I go from now,” Carson said. “I know I only had one year to prove myself for football. I only had one year of film. It’s making me excited to stay in the gym and stay getting bigger, faster, stronger and see where it takes me.”

Conner, meanwhile, had a successful cross country season before playing hoops, and finally settling into the track season. By season’s end, Conner finished fifth in the 400 meters at state, fourth in the high jump, sixth as part of the 4x100 meter relay, and first in the 4x400.

After a strong season, he’s excited about where he’ll end up after more work this offseason, too. Competing at all-comer meets in Olympia last June, Olmstead gave longer races a try and will look to focus in the 800 meters this upcoming spring as a senior.

Seeing Carson perform and get college attention after a season and a half of football tape was just the motivation Conner needed.

“I never really thought about playing college sports but seeing him get all these offers and scholarships, it really motivated me,” Conner said. “I’ve worked really hard at track, basketball has been my main sport my whole life, but I’ve seen so much success in track. Some college coaches started calling my coach and calling me. I’m gonna try to run track at college.”

That same competitive nature and energy that pushed the pair to new heights in 2022 isn’t going away anytime soon.

Conner has already talked about running the 300-meter hurdles to beat Carson’s personal best time, and with Carson playing at the next level, Conner is looking to do the same. 

Both brothers lamented not being able to compete with one another as teammates for longer after a late start and the COVID-shortened 2021 season. Still, despite the late start, they’ll never really stop being teammates, or competitors. 

“Me and my brother’s competitive nature is special,” Carson said. “Everything had to be a competition. It has made sports go better than I expected. Even when we were down big in basketball or behind in a race, I always knew I had my brother wanting to come back. It was always nice having him on my team.”