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02/07/24 Nerdsletter

Updated: Feb 7

Contributor: The Nerd

US Olympic trials marathon

The US Olympic trials marathon were held this past Saturday in Orlando. A simple Google search will bring up dozens of recaps but here are a few items we found compelling.

Jesse Coy, who posts on Twitter as @coachingdistance, had a great recap on that focused on the 3rd-place women's finisher Dakotah Lindwurm and the men's leader for much of the race, 6th-place Zach Panning. Lindwurm is particularly interesting because her high school and collegiate experience didn't foretell her future as an Olympian. Her high school PRs were 2:44 (800), 5:35 (1600), 11:56 (3200) and 22:08 (5k), and according to some sources she never qualified for a State meet. She eventually walked on at Division II Northern State in South Dakota but she has recorded her best performances since graduation.

Panning wasn't a pre-race favorite but kept the pace honest before fading in the final few miles. He also wasn't a youth phenom, and he's tweeted a picture of himself as a pudgy middle schooler (see photo in the article above). Both athletes demonstrate that your situation can change if you're persistent.

Citius Magazine also has a great recap at Citius is also a great follow on Twitter for NCAA and professional running news.

As for the athletes with local connections, pre-race favorite Emily Sisson finished 2nd to qualify for the Olympics. She competed at Omaha Marian as a freshman and at Millard North as a sophomore, winning five All-Class golds, before finishing her high school career in Chesterfield, Missouri. She also competed for the Cornhusker Flyers on the USATF circuit. Emily was already an Olympian, having finished 10th in the 10,000 at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. She's the current American record holder in the marathon.

Lincoln Southeast and Wesleyan alum Johnny Rutford finished in hot conditions in 2:23:37; he qualified for the Trials with a 2:17:54 at the 2023 Grandma's Marathon in Minnesota. Lincoln North Star grad Jeralyn Poe, who competed collegiately at Michigan State and Northern Arizona, finished 76th in 2:41:15 in her marathon debut. LNS coach Brian Wandzilak flew to Orlando to cheer her on, reinforcing our view that a high school coach is one of a post-grad runner's biggest fans. Finally, Gering and Colorado alum Sara Vaughn fell off the pace and dropped out at mile 18, a common move for high-level marathoners who opt to save their legs for a spring marathon once a team berth is off the table.

Potential unlocked

The huge performance by Dakotah Lindwurm, in combination with a slow news week for high school running, led me to interview another late bloomer earlier this week. Derek Loseke (pronounced 'low-suh-key') has been a fixture on the Omaha running scene the past five years. He'll run his third Boston Marathon in April but his path to running success has been unusual.

Derek had an early growth spurt, reaching 6'0" by the 5th grade, but somehow ended up as a 165-pound offensive lineman during his three years at Mount Michael. He didn't run in high school except for the mandatory mile run in PE class; he's guessing his best time was around 7:30.

He headed off to college and took in more than his fill of dorm food and adult activities. Exercise was not part of his life and he weighed 240 pounds by age 20. He stayed at that weight for four years, not really absorbing how heavy he'd become. In February 2018 his job required him to relocate to Clinton, Missouri, a town of 7,000 located an hour southeast of Kansas City. For the first time in his adult life, he was living in a city where he knew no one except his co-workers. In Omaha he had enough friends that he always had something to do - a ready-made excuse not to exercise - but that was not the case in Clinton.

Out of boredom, he joined the local YMCA and starting playing pick-up basketball games with high school kids. On one of his first visits he realized that he could no longer touch a 10-foot rim, something he'd been able to do since the 5th grade. He played basketball nearly every day, primarily because he loved playing basketball, and he eventually realized that he was losing weight - a whopping 40 pounds in less than three months. A few months later, he went to the YMCA and there weren't enough players for a pick-up game. He jumped on a treadmill and ran six miles, his first run since high school PE class and the first time he'd run more than one mile. By October 2018, just nine months after he joined the YMCA, he had lost 80 pounds.

Basketball remained his primary form of exercise but he began more frequent treadmill runs, and he eventually registered for the May 2019 Lincoln half marathon because his then-girlfriend planned to run it. They were no longer together by race day but his competitive fire - which had been under wraps since high school - got him to the start line. He finished in 1:54 even though he had only run outside once during his limited training.

That race gave him the running bug. He ran the Nebraska Marathon four months later, finishing in 4:04, and then he popped off a 1:33 at the Good Life Halfsy one month later. He returned to the Nebraska Marathon in September 2020, running 2:59 to dip below the Boston qualifying mark. Unfortunately, his age group spots were taken by faster runners, so he worked even harder to run 2:55 at the October 2021 Kansas City marathon. Due to a quirk in Boston qualifying rules during the COVID pandemic, that 2:55 qualified him for both the 2022 and 2023 Boston races.

At age 30, he's continuing to improve. He ran a 2:49 at the Berlin Marathon in September 2023, and he's hoping to break 2:45 at Boston this April. He runs 70-80 miles per week when training for a marathon, with most of his runs starting by 5:00 a.m., and he supplements that with lower-body strength sessions three times per week. Although he's mostly lived in Omaha since 2005, he now spends most of his free time with the running friends he's met in the last five years.

I asked him what were the secrets to his transformation to healthy living. His response:

  • Find a physical activity that you enjoy and then gradually increase the time/effort you exercise. He wouldn't be a runner if he didn't love basketball, and the key to his early persistence was that playing pick-up basketball was the highlight of his day.

  • Develop a healthy relationship with food. He didn't go on a fad diet or starve himself; he simply practiced better portion control. Even today, he knows he could eat more healthy but running allows him to eat the food he enjoys.

  • Make exercise a social outlet. He regularly works out with the Team Nebraska athletes, he and his friends have created the informal Aksarben Athletic Club, and he proactively looks for opportunities to run with friends.

Dakotah Lindwurm became an Olympian. In less than three years Derek Loseke lost 80 pounds and qualified for Boston. What possibilities can you unlock in your life?

Process goals trump performance and outcome goals

Steve Magness is a performance coach and prolific author who is also very active on Twitter. Last week he highlighted a recent research study about goal setting in sports. The researchers identified four different approaches: (a) process goals (e.g., "I will follow this workout plan"), (b) performance goals ("I want to run a 4:35 1600"), (c) outcome goals ("I want to win State"), or (d) no goals or unclear goals.

You can read the entire paper at, but here are Magness' conclusions: (1) process goals are the most effective, (2) performance goals are somewhat effective, and (3) outcome goals are not statistically better than having unclear goals or no goals at all.

As a slow adult runner, I've found that focusing on process has made my running more enjoyable. I don't stress about hitting a certain pace in a workout, and I'll cut short a run if my legs don't have any spark. My process goal is to run five days a week and I've been able to do that for the last fourteen months. However, I've now introduced an outcome goal into the mix: I want to finish a marathon in early June, less than four years after I suffered a serious knee injury. We'll see if that outcome goal takes the fun out of my running.

As you set goals for track season, keep these lessons in mind. Committing to the process, and particularly your coach's plan, may present you with the best opportunity to excel.

Nebraska Coaches Association nominees for national awards

The NCA has announced its State-level winners who will now compete for a national Coach of the Year award:

Boy's cross country - Shane Fruit, Ogallala

Girl's cross country - Brian Kabourek, Lincoln East

Boy's track and field - Dave Sellon, Fremont

Girl's track and field - Kevin Schrad, Lincoln Southwest

Congratulations on these well-deserved honors.

High school meet this weekend

Concordia hosts its fourth and final high school meet of the open season on Sunday, February 11. More information on the event can be found at When you're ready to register, go to The pole vault starts at 2:30, with other field events and races beginning at 3:00. The registration deadline is Thursday at 11:59 p.m. Concordia has had strong attendance all winter, and their final meet should be stacked with talent.

The final open high school meet in Nebraska will be at College of St. Mary on February 18. We'll talk more about that meet next week. Our entire list of winter meets can be found at

Top high school winter marks

To our knowledge there weren't any nearby high school meets last week. Consequently, the list of top marks hasn't changed but it's still really interesting. You can find it at

Class of 2024 XC/TF commitments

We continue to update the Class of 2024 commitment list at We added several dozen commitments today after they were announced on social media. If we've missed you or your athlete, shoot us a DM and we'll add them.

Collegiate meets this weekend

We're probably missing a meet or two, but here are where most Nebraska colleges are headed this week:

Fri, 2/9, 12:00 field/2:00 running - Concordia, Seward - Doane, Bellevue, CSM, Hastings, Wayne State

Fri, 2/9 - Mount Marty, Yankton - Midland

Fri, 2/9 - Tyson Invite, University of Arkansas - UNL

Fri/Sat, 2/9-2/10 - SDSU Classic, Brookings - Wesleyan, UNO, Chadron

Fri/Sat, 2/9-2/10 - Washburn, Topeka - UNK split squad

Fri/Sat, 2/9-2/10 - Pitt State, Pittsburg - UNK split squad

Top collegiate marks

If you're like us, Wes Ferguson's 1:47.32 800 on Saturday caught your eye. The 3x national champion from UNK is in the hunt for another title, and his mark at the UNL meet is the fastest in DII this winter. Of course, Nebraska colleges have dozens of great athletes vying for a spot at indoor nationals (see qualifying rules in the next section) and you can easily find out where they rank. I don't believe any of these marks have been converted for altitude, banked tracks or oversized tracks, so keep that in mind.

A few Nebraska highlights from each list:


Zach Turner, Doane, 2nd in 60H

Shandon Reitzell, Robert Atwater and Ross McMahon of Midland in top 5 of high jump

Robert Atwater, Midland, 1st in heptathlon

Rylee Haecker, Concordia, 2nd in 1000

Concordia women 4x800 relay, 1st

Hayley Miles, Concordia, 3rd in long jump

Kiara Anderson, Hastings, 2nd in weight throw


Kevin Shubert, UNL, 3rd in shot put

Henry Zimmerman, UNL, 4th in weight throw

Till Steinforth, UNL, 2nd in heptathlon

Mine de Klerk, UNL, 6th in shot put


Wes Ferguson, UNK, 1st in 800

Brayden Sorensen, UNK, 4th in high jump

Alex Goracke, UNK, 6th in weight throw

Sydney Davis, UNK, 10th in high jump


Wesleyan men 4x400 relay, 8th

Eli Mackowski, Wesleyan, 3rd in high jump

Isabella Hogue, Wesleyan, 6th in 200 and 5th in 400

Wesleyan women 4x400 relay, 3rd

National qualifying rules

If you're following local colleges on Twitter, you've no doubt seen references about how athletes have hit qualifying marks for indoor national meets. Those references mean different things at each level, so in January 2023 I leaned on my very helpful contacts at Concordia, Doane, Wesleyan, UNK and UNL to help me 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.

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.

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. We're told that Division II will eventually move to the cut-and-dry approach that is used in Divisions I and III.

They're all good...

Keep in mind that the top 16 or 24 at any level are crazy good. The NAIA 'A' mile standard for the 2023 National meet was 4:15. According to the 2021-2022 performance lists at, 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.


First published at by Jay Slagle on February 7, 2024. If you find an error, shoot us an e-mail at and we'll get it fixed.

Like this coverage of the Nebraska track and field scene? There's more of this at 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

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.

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