Contributor: The Nerd
We love winter!
That's a lie but we do love the high school and collegiate indoor track meets we've been attending. While the collegiate meets are 'official' as opposed to the open high school meets, I still get the sense that this first month of indoor meets has been more about the process than the result. For example, I spoke with LSE alum Carson Lauterbach after he won the USD mile in 4:20. I asked him if he was happy with the result and he responded, "It's my first mile of the season so that's about what I expected. My only goal this winter is to drop my mile and 3000 times to see if I can help the team at the conference meet." We don't have complete career marks for Carson, but that race looked like a 5-8 second PR.
Speaking of PRs, one of the reasons we love T&F is because most athletes measure themselves in terms of improvements rather than medals. Sure, earning a medal would be great, but most distance runners would take a 10-second PR in the 1600 over a two-dollar medal. The high school indoor season is held in this spirit. There are no uniforms, coaches or crazed fans. Each meet is simply a measuring stick to see if the athlete's hard work is paying dividends.
We saw some spectacular performances at the College of St. Mary meet on Sunday, but arguably the happiest person in the facility was a guy who finished 12th in the 1600. Grant Schaefer of Bellevue West celebrated after finishing 3rd in the first of three heats. His time of 4:46 was his first time under five minutes after running a 5:01 a few times before. Our Nerd family has a tradition where our boys get to pick where they want to eat out after a PR; if Grant doesn't have that arrangement yet, he needs to get on it. A 15-second PR in late January sounds like a promising spring.
Nebraska Track and Field Festival
After a year hiatus, the Nebraska Track and Field Festival is scheduled for Friday, April 26th at Omaha Westside. The event was previously held at Papio South and the goal was to bring together the top competitors in the State regardless of Class to face off. This will be an evening event running from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Jon Preister of Westside is the new meet director; coaches should reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Old guy intervals
From November through January, CSM has been offering community track sessions on Tuesday nights and Saturdays where pretty much anyone could pay $5 per visit to use their sweet indoor facility. Last night was their last community session of the winter so I hopped into a USATF Masters session of 400-meter repeats. I'm a solitary runner, putting in most of my miles before work, and Tuesday was the first time I've trained with another person in at least five years. After the Masters session, I watched as over 100 youth athletes streamed in to begin working on nearly every discipline that T&F offers. Kids ranging from five to eighteen were 'playing track,' and it was awesome to see.
During the Masters session, Ethan Mann, Jared Schroeder and Emma Steffensen hammered through their reps with runners 20-50 years older than them. I watched 10-time NCAA All American Angee Henry lead out Ethan and Jared for the first 200 meters of their 400s as she prepared for a national meet. I enjoyed being in the same group with Millard West/WSU alum Josh Klein and Boston-qualifier Derek Loseke even if their splits were 25 seconds faster than mine. These Tuesday night Masters sessions will eventually resume outdoors; search "USATF Nebraska Open & Masters Track and Field" on Facebook if you're interesting in joining them this spring or summer.
The CSM winter sessions will resume next November. Hats off to the CSM athletic staff for sharing their facility with the community. It truly is a gem.
High school meet results and top performances
We tracked down four high school meets from Sunday that included Nebraska athletes. You can find links to those meets at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/trackresults.
We've also updated our winter performance lists to reflect the meets held through Sunday. You can find that list at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/post/winter2024. Our cut-off for inclusion on the list is based on top marks from winter 2023. The lists are longer for distance events, in part because the kids have been killing it this winter. The field event and hurdles results are a bit sparse, in part because these kids are probably playing basketball or wrestling right now.
High school affiliations are not listed by the meet hosts so it's entirely possible that we've gotten a high school, grade or name wrong. In addition, we're not completely certain we're catching all of the Nebraska athletes competing at out-of-state meets since we're just looking for names we recognize. If we missed one of your top marks, shoot us a DM or e-mail.
This past Sunday was the one day this winter where both Concordia and College of St. Mary both held meets. If you were thinking the attendance would suffer... you would be wrong. Both meets each had well over 200 athletes competing. For example, CSM had 38 boys race the 1600 while Concordia had 37 boys. The state of T&F in Nebraska is strong.
Next high school meets
The official Nebraska high school season starts on February 26, so time is running out to compete in open meets. We can't find any nearby meets being held this weekend but the schedule ramps back up on February 9-11. You can find the full schedule at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/post/openmeets2024 but we strongly recommend these two:
We've been watching results from meets in nearby states and these two Nebraska meets are holding their own. While there may be other meets that have deeper fields in one or two disciplines, the quality of the Concordia fields from 60 to 1600 meters has been great. The meets are professionally organized, professionally timed and a great chance to interact with the Nebraska high school community. Let's make these last two meets the best of the winter.
Next college meets
There's definitely no football this weekend so it's a great opportunity to catch a collegiate meet.
Fri/Sat - UNL Frank Sevigne
Fri/Sat - NWMSU Bearcat
Fri/Sat - Doane
Sat - Iowa State
If you're seriously considering competing in college, you should be attending meets like this. The crowds are often sparse, so you'll realize that fame and fortune is not the reason these athletes compete. They work their butts off to be part of the track and field community, and they're better people because of it.
We're just volunteers but our primary task is taking photos of cool high school athletes. We had four Nerds at Concordia on January 21 and four Nerds at CSM on January 28. You can see all of our not-horrible pics on our Facebook page. Links to recent albums are below:
1/6 - Doane Ward Haylett collegiate (mixed men and women)
Facebook compresses our photos so they're not as crisp as the original. We're open to posting high-resolution photos for all of our meets but we need a cost-effective solution. During the height of the track season we may post as many as 10,000 free pictures each week, and that takes a large amount of cloud storage. If any of our followers are avid or professional photographers and have a suggestion for where to park these better photos, shoot us a DM or e-mail email@example.com.
We saw a number of big commitment announcements in the past week and the Class of 2024 commitment list has been updated here. If we've missed a college XC/TF decision by you or your athlete, shoot us the info and we'll add it to our list.
If you're a junior, now is a great time to start thinking about competing in college. We're strong believers in taking at least two visits to potential college destinations: the first visit as just a student and then a second visit as an athletic prospect. Every college, big and small, has so many factors to consider, and it's tough to evaluate a school based on one rushed visit.
Several years we wrote an article about how to select a college if you're an athlete. While the article was geared towards distance runners, it's applicable to other athletes.
Odds and ends
We saw and talked to a lot of great tracksters this weekend. Here are a few items you might find interesting:
Kate Langford, a senior at Bennington, wrote a thoughtful piece about parental involvement in our October 18th Nerdsletter. Since then, she's committed to USD for multi-events (heptathlon, pentathlon) and she was working on her craft on Sunday at College of St. Mary. She competed in the 60 hurdles, 800 meters, shot put and long jump. We haven't seen her pole vault yet but we're not worried; South Dakota's pole vault program is among the best in the nation.
Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles has had a solid distance-only track and field program for years. Jack Polerecky of Creighton Prep had great success at LMU and Lincoln High's Kennedy Bartee is a freshman on this year's team. Jacob Finney of Prep went to LMU this past weekend for a recruiting visit. After he arrived back in Omaha he received a call from the LMU coach: the LMU XC and T&F men's programs will be eliminated in May. The women's T&F team will also be eliminated but the women's cross country team will remain.
Claire White, an Iowa State commit, ran her first race of the winter on Sunday at CSM, clocking a 5:01 1600. She will run another race in mid-February and then plans to race at New Balance Nationals in Boston in early March. She qualified for NBN with the sub-5:00 1600 she ran last year.
Zack Schultz, a Millard North alum and freshman at USD, had a horrific bike crash over Thanksgiving break that resulted in a broken tibia (the x-ray on Strava is stomach churning). We saw him in Vermillion on Saturday and he's healing nicely from surgery. He hopes to get on an alter-gravity treadmill in the next few months and be back in form by cross country season.
Lilly Kenning of Milford dropped a 2:17 800 at Concordia on Sunday, taking the winter lead from Olivia Elbert of Westside. Also on Sunday, Olivia won the CSM 800 in 2:20, matching her time from the 2023 State meet. Olivia was a 200/400 competitor as a freshman and sophomore but last spring asked the Westside coaches if she could move up to the 800. After the success she had in 2023, she has shifted her college focus from swimming to running. She's still swimming for Westside this winter but she's also running, and the fruits of her labor are apparent. Her big-picture goal is to compete for the Air Force Academy, and she's close to hitting the benchmarks to make that goal a reality.
Mabel Henningsen, an 8th grader at St. Pius St. Leo in Omaha, finished 3rd at the Junior High State XC meet last October and keeps improving. She ran a 5:36 1600 at CSM on January 14 and dropped her time to 5:22 on January 28. Maya Wagner, a 7th grader at Fremont, ran a 5:46 on January 14 and 5:37 on January 28. Maya was 8th at the State XC meet.
Asher Jenkins of Bellevue West took over the winter lead with a 51.60 400 on Sunday at CSM. He also has the top winter mark in the 200 and the 2nd fastest mark in the 60. He recently switched his commitment from NDSU football to the Air Force Academy track program. He's the top returner from 2023 in the 400.
The 800 at CSM may have been one of the most interesting races of the winter. Fremont's Juan Gonzalez, the defending XC State champ, faced off against Gretna East's Braden Lofquest, the defending 800 Class A State champ. Juan was aggressive from the gun, leading for about 500 meters. Lofquest took the lead at the point, finishing in 1:56 to Gonzalez's 1:59. With Gretna East in Class B and the 800 at the shorter end of Gonzalez's distance prowess, this may be the only time we see these two juniors face off this season.
Like this coverage of the Nebraska track and field scene? There's more of this at www.preprunningnerd.com. Check out the Blog tab for our frequent stories and and the Results tab for every Nebraska high school race we can find. If you want to see meet photos or just need to kill a few hours on social media, follow us on Twitter and Instagram @PrepRunningNerd or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/preprunningnerd.
Finally, if you think runners, jumpers and throwers are the best things 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 jumper who became a quadrapalegic after a swimming accident.