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01/26/23 Nerdsletter

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

Contributor: The Nerd


Burying your treasures

I've been a runner for over 40 years but have had two periods of intense devotion to the sport - the four years of high school and then the last twenty years since Nerd the Third (our youngest child) was born. Sports participation rates in the US peak during the high school years, but I've found adult running to be far more satisfying than my high school career. Most importantly, I've found that distance running is a great way to navigate through the inevitable ups and downs of life, such as building a marriage while raising three kids, leading a complex company, and watching my father suffer from and die with dementia.


Once Third began competing in high school, he goaded me into time trialing a 1600 at least once per year so that he could destroy those times when he gets to be "that freakin' old." A few times he even paced me in a time trial - he ran at a conversational pace while I shadowed him at an "I'm-going-to-die" pace. After thousands of slow miles over the previous decade during marathon training, these time trials and the interval workouts leading up to them were a welcome change of pace. It also gave me a new perspective as a parent of runners. I quickly realized that while high school athletes running a 1600 may look more graceful than me, the last 400 meters of their races include the same soul-crushing, hopeless desperation that I felt in my full-effort time trials. (I have a premise that if parents routinely ran an all-out 1600, they would never yell "run faster" to their kid on the final lap of a race.)


We wrote about 'doing tough things' in a previous article but it's something I often think about at 5:00 a.m. when my alarm tells me to go work out. What's the point of it, after all? I'm not going to be an Olympian or even an age-group medalist. I've always been slow but even more so since 2020 when I suffered an irreparable knee injury, so these days I knock out 12-24 miles a week at 10:00-11:00 pace. There's no glory for plodding along at that speed but, surprisingly, a six-mile pre-dawn run often feels like the most impressive thing I do all day.


Why do some of us gravitate towards habitual running, weightlifting, jazzercize or some other physical activity as adults? In my case, I suppose I'm hopeful that exercise will allow me to manage my weight, ensure an active retirement and extend my life. However, on another level I almost feel an obligation to do something physical. Most animals possess a set of gifts - for instance, athleticism, flight, communication, compassion, intelligence, intuition, nurturing, etc. - but we humans have hit the jackpot. We have a nearly endless amount of spiritual, emotional, intellectual, creative and physical talents - and in my opinion, they are all gifts from God.


In the parable of talents in Matthew 25:18, a servant is admonished for burying his master's treasure to preserve it rather than using it to create something more. Similarly, I see work, exercise, prayer, volunteering and parenting as a way to glorify the gifts that God has given us. Granted, I still 'bury my treasures' by wasting time on social media, mindlessly watching TV, ignoring my wife or giving less than my best effort... but I will always aspire to be better.


Photos

Concordia HS meet (Nerd Ricky Bobby)

Polar Dog Classic (Nerd Dawg)

This week the Nerd team uploaded photos from the following meets:


Doane Invite - 1/14/23 (Nerd Dawg)

Concordia Polar Dog Invite - 1/21/23 (Hurdle Nerd & Nerd Dawg)

SDSU Jim Emmerich Invite - 1/21/23 (Nerd Sr)

Concordia HS Open meet - 1/22/23 (Nerd Ricky Bobby)


Nerd HD also hit the NWMSU meet on 1/21/23 but spent most of his time at the pole vault pit where KC Lightfoot established a world-leading mark of 19-01.25. HD may upload pictures of the PV and the HJ later this week.


Links to all of our photo albums can be found at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/2022.


This may be a slow weekend for us. As of now, Nerd Dawg will likely be at the Doane collegiate meet on Saturday, 1/28, while several of us plan to be at the College of St. Mary high school meet on Sunday, 1/29 to orient a few new volunteer Nerds. We'll be posting live updates on our Twitter account throughout the CSM meet.


Results and top HS marks

We're doing our best to track down high school and collegiate meet results, and those 2023 marks are linked at our website at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/trackresults.


In addition, we've scoured the results of winter indoor meets in order to compile the best marks for Nebraska high school athletes (and a few junior high kids). It takes us until each Tuesday or Wednesday to update the list, but we believe the compilation at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/post/winter2023marks is comprehensive. If we've omitted a top mark or made an error, shoot us an e-mail or DM and we'll fix it.


Upcoming schedule

The upcoming collegiate meets may be of interest to you:


1/27 UNK

1/28 Doane

2/3 Concordia

2/3 UNL

2/10 Concordia

2/17 UNK

2/17 UNL

2/17-18 GPAC @ Concordia

3/2-3/4 NAIA Nationals, Brookings, SD


If you Google something like "Doane track and field", you'll be directed to the college's T&F website. Most colleges have a tab for "Home Meets" that gives details like schedules, heat sheets and admission prices.


Commitments

We continue to compile Class of 2023 XC/TF commitments from Nebraska high schools at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/post/2023commits. If we overlooked a commitment from you or your athlete, just let us know and we'll add them. Just to be clear: through our contacts with coaches and athletes, we occasionally find out about commitments that have yet to be announced. Our policy is to keep those under wraps until they are meant to be public.


Monster workouts

This past week the On Athletics Club posted two massive workouts at altitude that are pretty interesting to watch. The men's workout featured six men running a sub-4:00 1600 in the middle of their workout; that video is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyAEeu7y-dg. Alicia Monson (UW grad) ran a 4:26 1600 in her workout; that video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oDmx2R7Ld8.


Gatorade award


The Gatorade Player of the Year award is given each year in seven sports including cross country and track and field. A winner is announced at the State level and one of those 50 honorees is selected as the National Player of the Year. In Nebraska, the cross country award is typically easy to predict; while academics and character are also considered, the winner is usually the State champion who has the fastest time at Kearney. Lincoln East's Mia Murray was just announced as the 2022 winner, following Class A champs Elli Dahl (Fremont, 2021) and Stella Miner (Marian, 2020). The 2019 winner, Lincoln East's Berlyn Schutz, did not win the 2019 State title, but her 0.4 second loss to Dahl was her only blemish in a dominating freshman season. As we've noted before, this is a golden era of Nebraska girls' distance running, with three Gatorade XC winners and Elkhorn South's Jaci Sievers (a 2x State T&F champ and 4:51 miler) and a bunch of other studs competing this spring. Murray and Miner are only juniors, so we've got another year to enjoy watching them.


NXN champ Irene Riggs of Morgantown (WV) was named the national POY. Interestingly, our own Mia Murray attended a different high school in Morgantown as a freshman and finished 5th at the 2020 West Virginia State meet behind Riggs.


The boys' POY announcements won't come for another three weeks. Carson Noecker is presumably a lock for that State award, while one of the athletes from Newbury Park, California will probably be the national winner.


National qualifiers

Thanks to some very helpful contacts at Concordia, Doane, Wesleyan, UNK and UNL, I have collected enough information to semi-intelligently describe how collegiate athletes qualify for indoor Nationals in their respective divisions:


NAIA (Bellevue, Concordia, Doane, Hastings, Midland, St. Mary, York)

Each November the Standards Committee releases automatic (A-standard) and provisional (B-standard) marks, based off of Nationals results in recent years. If an athlete achieves the A-standard (see attached standards), they have punched their ticket to nationals even if it’s the first meet of the year in December.

In addition to the A-standards, a team can take up to 3 “B” marks per gender. One of those B marks can be a relay rather than an individual event. If the Standards Committee sets too high of A standards for a specific event, then the top 16 in that event are considered auto-qualifiers and don't count against a team's B-standard limit. If a NAIA team doesn't have any A-standard qualifiers, they are still allowed to bring up to 3 B-standard athletes per gender to Nationals.


This is the same approach for both indoor and outdoor track, although there are conversion factors for events longer than 60 meters to account for whether an indoor track is flat, banked, oversized (more than 200 meters) or at altitude. The altitude conversion also applies for outdoor marks. Interestingly, all indoor tracks are not the same - some are 'skinny' and some are 'fat', with the fat tracks having shorter straightaways and longer curves that create less of the centripetal force that pulls athletes outwards (and thus wastes energy) on the curves. The Nationals conversion factor doesn't differentiate between skinny and fat tracks, so many coaches believe there's a competitive advantage to racing on fat indoor tracks.


Here is the list of Nebraska NAIA auto and provisional qualifiers as of 1/25/23; the red asterisk indicates the athlete has an A standard and has qualified for Nationals, while the blue asterisk indicates that they have met the B standard.


Division III (Nebraska Wesleyan) and Division I (UNL, Creighton, UNO)

The qualification process in DIII and D1 is more clear cut. Using the same conversion factors I described above, the DIII meet takes the top 20 declared marks for each individual event and the top 12 relay event. In DI the cut-off is the top 16 in individual events and the top 12 in relays. Some athletes may qualify in multiple events but decide to not compete in an event; if so, the next person on the list is offered a Nationals spot. Here are the Nebraska rankings for Division III and Division I as of 1/25/23.


Division II (Chadron State, UNK and Wayne State)

Like Division I, Division II also takes the top 16 competitors in individual events and the top 12 in relays. However, the NCAA has a budgeted amount of travel expenses for DII athletes for each gender; if there are numerous athletes competing in multiple events, the NCAA may select athletes beyond the top 16 to compete until it spends its travel budget.


Division II has no auto-qualifiers since qualifiers are limited to the top marks, but it does designate athletes as 'provisional' qualifiers if they have met a pre-set standard. A provisional mark is considered for such things as post-season All-Academic awards, but it is not a guarantee of national qualification. It appears that Division II will soon be moving to the cut-and-dried approach that is used in Divisions I and III. Here is a list of Chadron State, UNK and WSU athletes who have met provisional standards. In addition to this list, Norfolk native Megan Means of Augustana has the 10th best mark in the 5,000 meters at 17:00.92.


They're all good...

Keep in mind that the top 16 or 24 at any level are crazy good. The NAIA A standard for the 2023 National meet is 4:15. According to the 2021-2022 performance lists at https://tf.tfrrs.org/indoor_lists.html, the 16th best mark for the mile was 3:55 and 4:04, respectively, for DI and DII, while the 20th best in DIII was 4:10. Case in point: Papio grad Jake Norris ran a brilliant 4:07.58 mile for NWMSU in 2021 but missed the Nationals qualifying list by an excruciating three spots.


National rankings

The first set of USTFCCCA indoor team rankings came out this week. The following Nebraska schools (plus our friends in Council Bluffs) are ranked in the top 25 of their respective divisions:


JUCO women: Iowa Western (2nd)

JUCO men: Iowa Western (6th)

NAIA women: Concordia (2nd), Hastings (6th), Doane (13th)

NAIA men: Concordia (5th), Doane (7th), Midland (10th)

DIII women: Nebraska Wesleyan (21st)

DIII men: Nebraska Wesleyan (7th)

DII women: NWMSU (3rd)

DII men: UNK (17th)

DI men: UNL (10th)


Ending on a good note

My brother (let's call him Uncle Nerd) began refereeing after age 50 because his part of Kansas had an extreme shortage of basketball officials. He sent this story from the weekend that is worth sharing:


With the game out of hand, the Flint Hills coach put in a young man who was developmentally delayed. The Flint Hills team brought the ball down court and the Solomon kids backed off their defense and let Flint Hills pass the ball to the young man for a shot. He caught the pass, turned and shuffled several steps (all 3 of our whistles were malfunctioning; they simply wouldn't work) and shot the ball. It hit the rim and missed, and he turned to go up court. A Solomon kid got the defensive rebound and yelled "Wait!", and they got the Flint Hills boy to return to the offensive end of the court.

The Solomon kid took several steps and handed him the ball, and he then took several shuffling steps (those darn whistles still wouldn't work). He shot, it landed on the front of the rim, hit the back of the rim, the backboard, back of the rim, and then the side, and then fell through the net. The horn sounded before it hit the floor and the gym erupted in cheers. The kid was beaming, his teammates mobbed him, and it was just a great moment. A feel good moment in a blow-out game and the kids from Solomon were beyond gracious and kind. These are the moments we are privileged to witness, and they are the moments that make me want to officiate.


***************


Originally written for and posted in January 2023 at www.preprunningnerd.com by Jay Slagle. Do you see any errors, typos or key omissions? It's even more likely this week since we're still typing at midnight. Send an e-mail to jayslagle@hotmail.com and we'll do our best to correct the article.


Like this coverage of Nebraska high school distance running? There's more of this at www.preprunningnerd.com. Check out the Blog tab for our frequent stories, the Articles tab for long-form articles, the Results tab for every Nebraska high school race we could find this year, and the Rankings tab for team and individual rankings. If you want to see meet photos or just need to kill a few hours on social media, follow us on Twitter @PrepRunningNerd or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/preprunningnerd.


Finally, if you think runners and jumpers are the best thing on earth, you'll enjoy our two most popular articles. In 2018 we published "The Runner with the Broken Heart" about a high school boy who finished last in nearly every race he ran. In 2022 we published, "The Fall and Rise of Emmett Hassenstab," a story about a high school triple who became a quadrapalegic after a swimming accident.



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