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04/13/22 Nerdsletter

Contributor: The Nerd


We're here for another week of the Nerdsletter. You can count on the Nerd team - for factual content, informed opinions and, you know, occasional screw ups.


The fall and rise of Emmett Hassenstab

I sat down for an interview with Emmett's family three weeks ago with two pieces of information: in May 2021 he was an elite triple jumper, and one week after State he was paralyzed below the neck. The full story is so much more than that, which is why I wrote a 4500-word article about Emmett. The article has already been read over 11,000 times on our website, and I hope you'll take the time to read it at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/post/emmett.


If you enjoyed Emmett's article, there is a very high likelihood that you'll love "The Runner with the Broken Heart" that we wrote back in October 2018. That article has been viewed over 200,000 times and is posted at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/post/the-broken-heart.


We've only written three long-form articles since we started this hobby in 2017, and the third story went viral back in October. With over 2 million impressions on Facebook and Twitter, the story "Five seconds, two strangers, one beautiful gesture" clearly touched people well outside the running world. It led to appearances on the NBC Nightly News and Good Morning America for Brandon Schutt (Bellevue East) and Blake Cerveny (Omaha Burke). If you haven't heard about it, we've got a story for you...


Results and top-15 rankings

We have a list of this week's meets and links to results for last week's meets at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/trackresults. If you know of a meet that isn't listed, please DM or e-mail us with the info.


We started working on a rankings database in the first week of the track season, but we didn't release it until last week because we wanted it to be accurate and complete. While athletic.net provides a leaderboard for each event, it has a number of flaws including:

  • 'Unofficial' results on athletic.net don't get listed on the leadership so, for example, Sam Cappos' discus throw of 177-08 from Friday at Kearney wasn't listed as a top mark as of yesterday.

  • Indoor results aren't listed on the outdoor leaderboard, so Stella Miner isn't listed on the 1600 leadership since she hasn't run an outdoor 1600. Likewise, Jaci Sievers' 4:56 at the New Balance Nationals indoor meet during Week 1 isn't listed. I may be crazy, but I think that at least the in-state indoor marks should count.

  • An alarmingly high number of Class B, C and D meets aren't reported to athletic.net, so Nerd the Third is responsible for manually inputting those results into our database. This is one of the reasons why we pose the seemingly boring question on Twitter and Facebook every week: "which team do you support, and when and where are they competing?" Based on your feedback, we're able to compile a listing of meets at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/trackresults. Using that list, we're able to badger coaches and fans until we get a link or e-mail with missing meet results.

We know our database isn't perfect, but it's more accurate than the others we've seen out there - including the World Herald list, which we've regarded as the authoritative source since I was in high school four decades ago. From our brief review, it appears that the OWH list is about 70-80% right, and we think ours is about 90-95% correct. Of course, it's not perfect, so we appreciate DMs and e-mails letting us know when we're missing a performance or we've got someone listed twice. Keep in mind that results from, say earlier this week, may not be included in the database today. Nerd the Third and Nerd Junior are supposed to graduate from college at some point, so we try to balance their priorities. With all of that in mind, you can find our ranking at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/rankings.


Now that we have a solid database, we've started updating team projections by class for the State meet. Of course, the projections are just guess work. Some athletes don't always perform their best at State while others go nuts. The sprint marks in the database are likely skewed towards wind-aided performances, so you have to take those with a grain of salt. Some results may be hand timed and we can't always catch those. Also, in the interest of automation, our database randomly ranks athletes who are tied on the performance list rather than evenly dividing the available points. Despite those limitations, it's a great database, and Nerd Junior even lists the projected top-three point scorers for each of the top-5 teams. You can find the team rankings in the same file - but a different tab - at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/rankings.


We'd like to give a special thank you to Tony Jacobsen, a coach at Wahoo, who reached out to us during Week 1 to help us figure out how to import athletic.net results into our spreadsheet to avoid even more manual input. Nerd the Third owes Tony a great debt.


Photos, photos, more photos

The Nerd team was able to shoot and post photos for the Omaha Benson, Millard South and Gretna meets last week. Our photos are posted on our Facebook account at www.facebook.com/preprunningnerd or you can just go to our website at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/pictures and find links to the all of the meets we've attended in the last two years. We've hit 19 high school and collegiate meets since January and we've still got six weeks to go.


Athletes of the Week

We posted our Nerd Athletes of the Week on Tuesday of this week and Junior has some great graphics on our Instagram account. The NATW are:


Class A Boys - Sam Cappos, Lincoln East - 58-07 SP and a state-leading 177-08.5 (DT)

Class B Boys - Branson McDonald, McCook - all-class state-leading PV of 14-08

Class C Boys - Caden Denker, David City - 22.09 (200) and 51.64 (400)

Class D Boys - Isaiah Zelasney, Osceola - 11.45 (100), 22.90 (200), 51.63 (400) - Class D leader in all three events


Class A Girls - Elli Dahl, Fremont - 2:20 (800), 5:17 (1600) and blistering legs on the 4x400 and 4x800 relays.

Class B Girls - Kailynn Gubbels, Arlington - 15.02 (100H) and 5-04 (HJ) - Class C leader in both events

Class C Girls - Brynn McNair, Chase County - 59.05 (400), 2:26 (800), 5-06 (HJ) - current Class C leader in all three events.

Class D Girls - Reagan Nordhausen, Axtell - 4-8 (HJ), Class D best of 15.40 (100H)


I would note that the Nerd team had a healthy argument about whether Elli Dahl or Bri Rinn should be our distance nominee for the week, but Elli was given the nod for her four victories at Millard South. Bri ran 1:00.59 (400), 2:17.75 (800) and 5:14.26 (1600) on a windy day in Kearney.


Supply chain issues

I spend a fair amount of time around race officials and timers, and I can confirm that there's a supply chain issue for the types of folks who make T&F meets work well. There seems to be an acute shortage of race starters, who spend a good chunk of their modest fee on gun blanks and equipment. Similarly, Black Squirrel and Finish Lynx are hustling to as many meets as they can, but they're limited by how much equipment they have and the staff who can step away from their real jobs on any given weekday afternoon. On the plus side, starters and timers don't get near as much grief as referees and umpires, whose numbers are also shrinking quickly. Nerd the Third gave it a go as an umpire in high school, but the parents of 8-year-old USSSA teams were not worth the pay. Keep that in mind the next time you feel the urge to yell at a high school official.


State meet 4-day schedule

It's official. Last week the NSAA approved what appears to be a 4-day State track meet until a better option comes along. In 2022, Class A and B will compete on May 18-19 (Wednesday-Thursday), while Class C and D will compete on May 20-21 (Friday-Saturday). We performed a quick Twitter poll after the announcement, and only 29% of respondents were in favor of the 4-day meet. Seventy-one percent preferred a two-day meet (the pre-COVID format) or a three-day meet (similar to what's done in Iowa and other states).


Based on our reporting of the much-maligned single-site Class A XC district proposal, these NSAA decisions don't happen in a vacuum. The NSAA asks for feedback, perhaps appoints a committee, takes recommendations, and then votes on them. I know from my interactions with Nate Neuhaus (T&F) and Jon Dolliver (XC) at the NSAA that they do their best to plan state meets, but they don't have answers for everything. If the T&F community collectively thinks the 4-day meet is a bad idea for athletes, fans and volunteers, then the T&F community needs to come up with a better proposal that can make its way through the NSAA decision-making process. Westside coach Jon Preister and former LSW Parker Schoen plan to work together to develop a proposal, and we'll post an article when they have a finished product. Until then... start hydrating. Four days is a long time.


Speaking of Burke

In response to our posts about the four-day meet, a number of followers noted that nothing tops a packed house at Burke (the Saturday session in 2019 is pictured above). A few commented on the lack of parking and the traffic around the stadium, but the Westroads busing option has been effective at addressing that issue in prior years. Just prior to COVID, a committee/fund was being developed to investigate a renovation to make Burke even better. I'd love to connect with someone who could give me more info on the progress of that committee.


Arcadia

I wrote a few weeks ago that Gabe Hinrichs of Elkhorn South was denied the opportunity to compete at the Arcadia meet this past weekend. In my opinion, the NSAA and NFHS has an outdated in-season competition rule that required Elkhorn South to send a coach to Arcadia with Gabe, and neither the NSAA or the school district would budge. Colin Sahlman (Newbury Park HS, NAU commit) won the 3200 in 8:34; a whopping 32 boys ran sub-9:00 times at the meet held in perfect weather. Instead of competing in California, Gabe ran 1:56 and 4:20 in not-great conditions at Omaha Benson.


Speaking of great athletes

Dajaz Defrand of Lincoln High is the defending State champ in the 100, 200 and 4x100, and she's also a Florida State commit. She was active during the winter indoor season, competing at meets at Air Force, Concordia and Chicago. She also competed at Nike Indoor Nationals on the second weekend in March and, according to multiple sources, that's one of the reasons she's hasn't competed in Nebraska's official season. The NSAA and NFHS have a rule (I'm simplifying it) that an athlete has to sit out a meet for every day they compete elsewhere. Since Dajaz competed on two different days in prelims and finals at Nike (she finished 4th in the 60 finals), she has to skip two NSAA meets. She missed a third meet last week when the GI meet was cancelled due to the weather. Is Dajaz irreparably harmed by missing two early-season meets? Probably not, but every situation is unique. She's clearly a top-level talent, has already committed to a college, and doesn't have much to prove. Still, why are we making it so hard for Nebraska T&F athletes to compete on the national stage?


In contrast, Omaha hosted a huge three-day club volleyball competition over President's Day weekend. Some of Nebraska's best high school volleyball players are also some of our state's best basketball players, so these girls were grinding on the volleyball court just days before basketball Districts. Should those girls have that opportunity? Absolutely. But why does Dajaz DeFrand get penalized two weeks for racing a whopping 320 meters when that is significantly less draining than a three-day volleyball tourney? Why was Gabe Hinrichs prevented from competing in an elite meet that would have required only a slightly more effort than the two races he ran Friday at Benson? The distinctions make no sense.


Great athletes, part III

The Superior coach gave us this story. Glenn 'Dane' Edwards was a 11-9.25 pole vaulter back at Hardy High School in 1949 when, if I'm not mistaken, the vaulters and high jumpers landed in sand pits instead of on a mat. He went onto Doane where he was an All-American in 1952. He's 90 now, and he'll be competing in the 100, high jump and long jump at the Senior Games in Fort Lauderdale that are being held May 10-23. We tip our Nerd hat to Dane from Doane for continuing to be an absolute beast.


Our most famous follower

We don't meticulously track all of our Twitter followers - that would be weird - but we were a bit surprised to see San Jose State basketball coach Tim Miles (he of 163,000 followers). After a DM exchange, we put together that he is the former UNL basketball coach, and his wife Kari and son Gabe (Lincoln East junior) are living in Lincoln until Gabe graduates. Gabe is having a great season; as of Sunday he had top-15 rankings in both the 200 and 400. Kari (Johnson) Miles also has some running chops; she was an indoor All-American in the 500 at Northern State (Aberdeen, SD), and she competed in the 100, 200, 400 and long jump outdoors. Welcome to the Nerd life, Coach Miles!


A good week for sprinters, but not so much for distance and high jump

With high winds for most of the week, industrious meet directors were setting up wind-advantaged sprints whenever they could. Kearney is the site of the windiest meet I've ever attended, and AJ Jones of Creighton Prep took over the state lead in the 100 with a 10.66 followed by Malachi Coleman of Lincoln East in 10.68. (Koa McIntrye of Fremont Bergan may have topped both marks with a 10.60 on Tuesday, although the time has yet to be confirmed due to wind-related timing issues.) As of Sunday, 13 of the top 15 100 times were under 11.00.


Conversely, the high jump marks this week were unremarkable until yesterday when, despite windy conditions, Carter Nelson of Ainsworth cleared 7-00 and Landon Olson of Battle Creek cleared 6-08. It's also taken some Herculean efforts for the distance crews to post good times. Aside from the Waverly meet this past Monday, I'm not sure weather conditions will be much better this week. We expect nothing else in Nebraska.


Commitment list

We continue to add to our commitment list https://www.preprunningnerd.com/post/class-of-2022-commitment-list. If you or your favorite athlete isn't on the list, shoot us a DM or e-mail jayslagle@hotmail.com with the info.


Other odds and ends

A few notable items:

  • I saw on Skutt's social media account that senior Thomas Lasala, a 4-year XC guy, plans to join the seminary this fall.

  • We don't track junior high results but we'll occasionally scan the online ones. Of note, there are some junior high girls who are tearing up the track. They include Leah Robinson of Elkhorn St. Pats (2:26 800 and 5:26 1600 on Saturday), Katie Shafer of Concordia (1:00.93 400), Peyton Erb of Columbus (5-01 HJ), and Kerstyn Chapek of Bishop Neumann (27.33 200). The outstanding performances aren't just limited to the girls. Garrett Barreras of Concordia ran a 56.91 400.

  • I know the Junior High State meet in Gothenburg isn't that popular for metro kids, but it's a great chance for the best 7th and 8th graders from all over the state to compete. The meet has a limited number of slots and the competition is crazy good. Nerd Junior competed there in 8th grade and a great experience. I'll try to track down more info in the coming weeks.


Coming up

While the weather doesn't look great, we should have a few more meets this week than last week. We have a tentative plan to attend the Omaha Central and Elkhorn meets on Thursday, and Nerd Junior may hit the Fremont meet on Friday. In addition, Nerd the Third will be shooting a college meet at Drake on Friday.


The Elkhorn-Kruger May meet features teams that are Class B or were recently Class B, and that includes Elkhorn South and Gretna. Depending on the weather, Gabe Hinrichs may take a stab at Milo Greder's 1600 state record of 4:09.84. He hopes to be fresh but Mother Nature will have to play her part. It will be interesting to see if Colby Erdkamp and Evan Liewer are able to support Gabe through at least 800 meters. Back in 2017, Creighton Prep and Omaha Central coaches and competitors were told days in advance that Milo Greder wanted to break Westside's facility record for the 1600, so Alex Tollinger and Jack Slagle did their best to push Milo through 1200 meters. Milo ran a 4:17 that day and got his record.


Due to some travel commitments, the Nerdsletter may or may not be dropping on Wednesday the next two weeks. I'm going to hand off the keys to Nerd Junior and Nerd the Third, and I have no doubt they'll do well. I'm also going to start asking for next week's meets later this week so I can build that list before I head out.


Don't be a stranger

What's the best way for us to learn about great stories? It's when fans and coaches find us at a track meet or send us a DM/e-mail. Emmett Hassenstab is a great story; I never would known about him if Patrick Grosserode hadn't reached out. Even if you don't have a story, come find us at a track meet; we'll be wearing Nerd gear and carrying very large cameras.


Yes, we make mistakes

Did you find any errors in this article? We know there are likely a few, so shoot us a DM on Twitter or Facebook, or e-mail us at jayslagle@hotmail.com.


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Originally written for and posted at www.preprunningnerd.com by Jay Slagle. Did you love reading about Nebraska high school running? Visit www.preprunningnerd.com for rankings, results, photos, long-form articles, frequent updates our blog page, and a bunch of other cool stuff that only running nerds would think to do. If you want to see meet photos or just need to kill a few hours on social media, follow @PrepRunningNerd on Twitter and Instagram, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/preprunningnerd.

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