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04/03/24 Nerdsletter

Contributor: The Nerd


You're improving. You have talent. You can be great.

I was walking across our yard on Labor Day 2020 when it felt like my left kneecap had been struck by a hammer, causing me to double over in pain. After a few choice cuss words, I stood up straight and confirmed that there were no actual hammers in our yard, flying or otherwise. A month later I learned that a quarter sized piece of cartilage had spontaneously detached from the back of my knee cap, which explained both the hammer sensation and the stabbing pain that I felt when I tried to run after that day.


Six months later I had arthroscopic surgery to remove floating cartilage fragments and to smooth out the rough edges of the cartilage that remained. At my first post-op appointment, the surgeon gave me bad news when I asked when I could try to run again: he informed me that my long and undistinguished running career was most likely over.


I still needed an exercise fix so I threw myself into walking, the only aerobic pursuit that wasn't painful. When I saw the surgeon three months later, I told him I was walking up to 40 miles a week and thinking about buying a weighted vest to get a better workout. I asked him again if I could run. Having treated hundreds of runners, he knew I wasn't going to go down without a fight, so he conceded that running wasn't going to exacerbate the injury. "Start slow, don't run more than a mile, and just see how it goes. You can run but it's going to hurt quite a bit."


I'm old and stubborn. If you tell me I can't do something, there's a good chance I'll try to do it. In the middle of long walks, I began running one mile, and then eventually two miles, and six months later I ditched the walking segments. I now run 20-30 miles per week. The knee still hurts and my pace is two minutes slower than it was four years ago, but I'm still a runner.


Teenagers are different. If you tell them they can't do something, most will take your word for it. Teenagers are looking for wins, no matter how small, and few will pursue an activity that is likely to end in failure.


Nerd Junior played multiple ball sports but had never run more than a half mile before he signed up for the track team in 7th grade. His two volunteer coaches were the ying and yang of the St. Margaret Mary's track team. Coach Lisa's goal was to teach her distance proteges to 'run happy' and build the foundation for a lifelong hobby. Coach Paul, on the other hand, worked out with the team and found time to whisper in Junior's ear. "You're improving. You have talent. You can be great. You can break the school record if you commit to running." When Junior graduated from 8th grade, Coach Paul gave him a handwritten note that encouraged him to step up his efforts in high school.


Coaches have a difficult job. In addition to designing workouts, coordinating meets and keeping track of dozens of kids, they also need to find one-on-one time to connect with their athletes. At practices and meets, often on a moment's notice, they have to figure out what to say to athletes after good or bad performances. The best coaches occasionally hand out tough love, but they consistently communicate more positive messages. "You're improving," "you have talent," and even "you can be great." All teenagers, but particularly struggling teenagers, need this type of encouragement.


And that's why junior high and high school sports - and coaches - matter so much.


You get a record! And you get a record!

We knew this was going to be a great season but five State records in three weeks is a bit bonkers. If you've been offline for the past week, here's what happened last week:



At the Columbus meet on Thursday, Juan Gonzalez of Fremont ran a 8:51.46 3200 to break the All-Class record of 8:54.12 set by Millard West's Seth Hirsch at the Metro Conference meet (Burke) in 2017. The fact that Juan broke the record wasn't a surprise - he had run a 9:00.07 indoor 3200 at an open NWMSU meet on February 18. We just didn't expect it to happen so early in the season.


Just a junior, Juan is also a threat to break the All-Class 1600 record of 4:09.6 set by Milo Greder of Westside in 2017. Juan ran a 4:14 indoor 1600 during the first week of the season - a difficult task given the sharp corners of indoor tracks. Jack Witte of Millard West should also threaten Greder's mark; he ran a 4:15 indoor 1600 on March 15 and ran 4:14.38 at Columbus on Thursday. Juan competes next on Friday at Millard South while Jack is tentatively scheduled to run the 1600 and 800 at Friday's Grand Island meet.


Randy Speer of the Fremont Tribute wrote a great article about Juan's run. It may be behind a paywall or you may get one free visit; here's the link.



At the Bellevue East meet on Thursday, Braden Lofquest of Gretna East ran a 4:15.16 1600 to break the Class B record of 4:16.82 set by Steve Doran of GICC at the 1981 State meet. Braden's winter results also suggested this record was a distinct possibility; he ran a 4:19.39 mile at a UNL meet on February 16.


Now a junior, Braden won the Class A 800 title last May while competing for Gretna. When Gretna East opened its doors last fall, underclassmen were assigned (with very few exceptions) to each Gretna high school based on where they lived, and Braden is now a formidable threat to win any or all of the three Class B distance events. Of course, Riley Boonstra of Norris is also a top contender; he has a 4:18 PR and ran a 9:24 3200 last Thursday.


I reached out to Steve Doran after Braden broke the record. In addition to his record breaking 1600, Steve ran the 4x800 (8:14, 3rd), 3200 (9:30, 1st) and 800 (1:57, 2nd) at the 1981 State meet. Steve went on to run at Loyola Chicago before attending medical school. He's a long-time Omaha neurosurgeon and is the father of Thomas Doran, who nabbed the family bragging rights after running a 4:15.91 1600 for Creighton Prep at the 2014 State meet. Running has been a big part of Dr. Doran's life since 8th grade, although as a concession to age he now alternates between running and biking. He was surprised to hold onto the record this long, and now he's excited to see what Braden can do over the next fourteen months. No pressure, Braden, but Dr. Doran thinks you've got at least one sub-4:10 in you.



At Saturday's Westside meet, Stella Miner ran a 4:47.49 1600 to break the All-Class record of 4:49.3 set by Elizabeth Lange of Lincoln Pius in 2003. Her coaches had hoped for 71-72 second laps, but her splits were 71.5, 76.0, 73.9 and 66.0. We were tipped off early in the week, as was most if not all of the Westside team, that Stella would be aiming for the record. The burden of expectations can be a heavy yoke so it was impressive that Stella broke the record, particularly when she was so far off her expected pace. Stella also set the Class A 800 record of 2:10.16 in 2022; Alice Schmidt of Elkhorn set the All-Class record of 2:08.6 in 1999.


Stella is unlikely to compete in the 3200 this spring but her teammate Claire White frequently races that event. On Saturday Claire ran a 10:49, slower than her 10:30 target due to 'heavy legs' and surprisingly high temps at race time. The Class A record of 10:21 was set in 2008 by current pro runner and American marathon record holder Emily Sisson, while Karlene Erickson of Wheeler Central holds the All-Class record with her 10:19 from 1982. Claire could also take a shot at the new 1600 record; she ran an indoor 4:55 on March 22nd.


Westside competes at Benson on Friday. We've been informed that, if the weather forecast holds, Stella will take a shot at the 800 record on Friday while Claire will be aim to go sub 4:50 in the 1600.

The best thing I saw all week


I enjoy the Westside meet for a number of reasons: (a) the weather is usually good, (b) the field includes strong teams from Omaha and Lincoln, and (c) a large contingent of Westside and Millard West Unified athletes compete there. The Unified sports programs are excellent, pairing special needs athletes with student partners who become their friends and teammates. There are a lot of lessons to be learned as a student partner but it was hard to tell who was having more fun on Saturday: the athletes, the partners or the athletes' parents and siblings. Speaking of Unified track and field:


Kern Track at Wayne will be the site of an event called Spring Sprints on May 3rd. Spring Sprints is an inclusive event for students with special needs to enjoy the amazing sport of track and field. Spring Sprints started in 2012 with 5 teams and about 25 athletes. Since then, the meet has grown to over 20 teams and 200+ athletes. The meet is May 3rd at Kern Track in Wayne, Nebraska. You can find an article and video about the event at https://iloveps.org/films/spring-sprints. If you want more information on this event, please contact Wayne's Activity Director, David Wragge, at dawragg1@waynebluedevils.org.


LPS Unified athletes aren't allowed to compete at non-LPS schools or against non-LPS athletes so their opportunities aren't always as numerous as those offered to Unified athletes at other schools. On April 17 Lincoln Southwest is hosting a Unified-only event for LPS athletes. The meet begins at 3:00 p.m.


Finally, when the Nerds are at an event that features Unified athletes, we do our best to photograph them. For those meets, we will post albums for Boys, Girls and Unified. Last week we posted albums at https://www.facebook.com/PrepRunningNerd/photos_albums for Unified events at North Platte, Columbus, Norris and Westside.


It takes a village

The past two years we've maintained a Google worksheet on our website that lists the top 15 performances, All-Class and by Class, for each of the 17 events contested at the State meet. If you follow us on Twitter or Facebook, you might have seen a post last week where we asked for a Java Script programmer to help solve a problem that was going to prevent us from publishing that worksheet this year.


We had a volunteer within two hours. Not a 'I'll see what I can do" volunteer but an "I will fix it" volunteer. Emma Smith, a Northwestern (IL) data science major, is the older sister of GINW freshman distance runner Ethan Smith, and she had most of our spreadsheet issues figured out by the end of the weekend. We're still tweaking a few things on our end but we're publishing our first attempt at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/rankings. There is an All-Class tab and individual tabs for each Class.


However, here are the caveats:

a) We have to manually input indoor marks as well as online results that aren't categorized as 'Official.' For example, there are about five meets from last week including Osceola and Platteview that have results listed as 'In Progress,' so those have to be manually entered; the same goes for the Omaha North 9/10 meet, which is listed as 'Partial Results.' If a coach or timer knows the trick to move from 'In Progress' to 'Official', please let us know so we can share that information with meet hosts.


Nerd the Third will start the manual entry process this weekend so, for example, Reece Grosserode's 49-08 indoor triple jump is included on the list. With about 60 meets to review in the first three weeks, it may take a while. Once we're caught up, manual results should be entered within seven days.


b) Nerd Junior will have to run a quick program each day or two to upload new online results. The results will no longer be updated as soon as meet results are posted online. However, this should be no more than a 24-48 hour lag.


Starting on April 15, if you think we're missing a top-15 performance, please e-mail jayslagle@hotmail.com with the athlete name, school, event, mark, meet name and meet date. We'll investigate the discrepancy.


The Best 50

The rankings spreadsheet also includes a tab entitled "The Best 50." This is Nerd Junior's invention to rate the relative greatness of performances between the 17 events. He averages the top 15 marks for each event for this year, standardizes that mark for all 17 events, and then compares individual efforts to the benchmark. Here are the top five marks, based on Junior's calculation, for the outdoor results in the database:


1) Karsyn Leeling's 6-00 high jump.

2) Stella Miner's 4:47 1600.

3) Juan Gonzalez's 8:51 3200.

4) The Westside boys 42.05 4x100.

5) Jack Witte's 4:14 1600.


The Best 50 will update each time we refresh the spreadsheet with new data.


Results

We tracked down results for 27 high school and collegiate meets held last week, and the results are linked at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/trackresults. We've identified 38 high school and college meets this week before Mother Nature takes a whack at the schedule, and we'll do our best to get those results.


Because we just launched the rankings spreadsheet, we are publishing an expanded 'Impressive Performances' at the end of this Nerdsletter.


Photos

The Nerd team stepped it up a notch with appearances at Bayard, Columbus, Norris, Ogallala, Kearney collegiate, and Omaha Westside. In addition, photos from the 3/23/24 Morrill meet are now on our FB page. It generally takes us 2-5 days to edit and post photos, but below are examples of the Nerds' work in the past week.


Think that's awesome? If the weather cooperates and our plans aren't thwarted by work and family obligations, we'll attend at least 15 meets this week.


Norris (Nerdka)


Ogallala (Nerd Stammpede)


North Platte (High Mileage Nerd)


Westside (Nerd Senior)

Sutherland (Speedwalker)

Columbus (Joyful Nerd)

Columbus (Nerd Dawg)

Sprints

  • Aria Pearce, the Kansas 9th grader who has competed at UNL and other collegiate meets the past two seasons, has decided to not compete for her high school this season. She has the 2nd-fastest US high school 100 (11.38) and the fastest 200 (23.14) so far this year.

  • John Anderson has announced he's retiring from ESPN after 25 years. He's been the face of the network at NCAA D1 national cross country and track meets. He indicated that he will continue to cover some of these events in the future.

  • The University of Nebraska is offering track and field camps on June 12-14. Click on this link for more information.

  • Hats off to sports journalists like Randy Speer (Fremont), Marc Zavala (Grand Island) and Dale Miller (Norfolk) for taking the time to attend track meets on the same day they cover soccer, baseball and anything else sports-related in their coverage areas. They may be bored on rainy spring days but they more than make up for it on the sunny ones.


Night of Stars meet

Registration is now open for the June 1st Night of Stars track meet hosted by Nebraska Wesleyan. This event is designed to draw top competitors from Nebraska and surrounding states for an evening meet. You can find more information on the event at https://nwusports.com/documents/2024/3/9/Midwest_Night_of_Stars_-_Meet_Info.docx and you can register at https://www.directathletics.com/meets/track/81315.html.


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 preister.jonathan@westside66.net for more information.


Impressive performances

In addition to the marks noted above, here are a few performances from the last week that caught our eye:


Boys

100 - Will Kulhanek, Overton, 10.69 (Pleasanton), Preston Okafor, Westside, 10.75 (Westside), Jackson Carpenter, LSW, 10.85 (LPS), Luke Findley, Norris 10.85 (Norris), Asher Jenkins, Bellevue West, 10.86 (BellEast), Anthony Jones, Papio South, 10.87 (Columbus), Zaire Lagrone-Miller, Kearney, 10.90 (Columbus)

200 - Asher Jenkins, Bellevue West, 21.70 (BellEast), Jett Tingelhoff, Elkhorn North, 21.81 (Norris), Luke Findley, Norris, 22.00 (Norris), Zaire Lagrone-Miller, Kearney, 22.02 (Columbus), Keynan Cotton, Westside, 22.24 (Westside)

400 - Logan Lebo, Lincoln Lutheran, 50.03 400 (Norris), Will Kulhanek, Overton, 50.07 (Pleasanton), Asher Jenkins, Bellevue West, 50.10 (BellEast), Landon Fye, Crete, 50.31 (Platteview), Bobby Joseph, Millard West, 50.32 (Columbus), Josiah Wilkinson, McCook, 50.34 (McCook)

800 - Jackson Feauto, Lincoln Christian, 1:56.8 (Plattview), Tommy Rice, Skutt, 1:58.51 (Skutt), Max Myers, LSW, 1:58.96 (LPS)

1600 - Jack Witte, Millard West, 4:14.38 (Columbus), Max Myers, LSW, 4:21.49 (LPS)

3200 - Denny Chapman, Prep, 9:18.95 (BellEast), Riley Boonstra, Norris, 9:24.79 (Norris)

110HH - Easton Fries, Chase County, 14.59 (Ogallala), Andrew Brown, OCentral, 14.71 (Westside), Dash Bauman, Lincoln East, 14.86 (LPS), Jacob Young, Papio South, 14.90 (Columbus)

300H - Andrew Brown, OCentral, 38.40 (Westside), Easton Fries, Chase County, 39.25 (Ogallala)

HJ - Jaxon Lipker, Boone Central, 6-06 (Boone Central), Kaiden Porter, McCook, 6-05 (McCook), Jaxon Adams, Platteview, 6-04 (Platteview), Isaac Ackerman, OCentral, 6-04 (Westside)

LJ - Finn McGovern, LSW, 22-08.50 (LPS), Reece Grosserode, Pius, 22-08.75 (Norris), Rowdy Bauer, Norfolk, 22-06 (Ralston), Dylan Crumley, Columbus, 22-03.50 (Columbus), Brett Fraker, McCook, 22-02.75 (McCook)

TJ - Reece Grosserode, Pius, 47-11.50 (Norris), Josh Lima, Millard West, 46-02 (Columbus), Davieian Williams, LSE, 45-00 (Westside), Connor Schutt, Bishop Neuman, 44-08 (Tekamah-Herman), Bryce Larsen, DC West, 44-07.5 (Platteview)

PV - Mason Wallin, Chase County, 14-06 (Ogallala), Boston Irish, Cozad, 14-06 (Ogallala), Liam McGlynn, Elkhorn South, 14-03 (Columbus), Jaren Moore, Holdrege, 14-00 (McCook)

SP - Sam Thomas, Elkhorn North, 58-08.5 (Norris), Isaac Ackerman, OCentral, 57-00 (Westside)

DT - Sam Thomas, Elkhorn North, 169-04 (Norris), Andrew Englund, Holdrege, 168-11 (McCook), Isaac Ackerman, OCentral, 168-05 (Westside), Tyler Thaden, Millard West, 166-04 (Columbus), Cole Brandt, Kearney, 166-00 (Columbus), Theron Miller, Hemingford, 160-07 (Bayard)

4x400 - Waverly 3:26.91


Girls

100 - Hazel Haarberg, Kearney Catholic, 12.03 (North Platte), Elizabeth Wemhoff, Columbus, 12.33 (Columbus), Regan Barnard, Lincoln East, 12.33 (LPS), Jacie Rexillius, Lincoln Christian, 12.37 (Platteview), Alonna Depalma, Waverly, 12.39 (Norris), Zakeirah Johnson, Omaha North, 12.43 (BellEast)

200 - Elizabeth Wemhoff, Columbus, 24.82 (Columbus), Regan Barnard, Lincoln East, 24.92 (LPS), Zakeirah Johnson, Omaha North, 25.10 (BellEast), Hazel Haarberg, Kearney Catholic, 25.17 (North Platte), Jacie Rexillius, Lincoln Christian, 25.27 (Platteview)

400 -Ellie Thomas, Norris, 58.01 (Norris), Alonna Depalma, Waverly, 58.13 (Norris), Sidney Stodden, Elkhorn North, 58.19 (Norris), Katie Shafer, Papio South, 58.57 (Columbus), Nonic Oelling, LSW, 59.29 (LPS), Sophia Reynolds, Hastings freshman, 59.64 (North Platte)

800 - Oliva Elbert, Westside, 2:17.86 (Westside), Ellie Thomas, Norris, 2:21.41 (Norris), Gracie Suppes, Papio, 2:22.24 (Bryan), Sophia Reynolds, Hastings freshman, 2:22.64 (North Platte), Sidney Stodden, Elkhorn North, 2:23.36 (Norris)

1600 - Mia Murray, Lincoln East, 5:09.02 (LPS), Ella Ford, Elkhorn North, 5:12.29 (Norris), Kaitlyn Swartz, Papio South, 5:13.69 (Columbus)

3200 - Claire White, Westside, 10:49.38 (Westside), Kaitlyn Swartz, Papio South, 10:57.23 (Columbus)

100H - Laney Songster, Lincoln Northeast, 14.54 (Westside), Aizlynn Krafka, GINW, 14.77 (Norris), Chloe Arens, Sidney, 14.91 (Ogallala)

300H - Celia McCoy, GI, 45.93 (Columbus), Kelsey Miller, Seward, 46.36 (Norris), Addison Darnell, Auburn, 46.39 (Platteview), Chloe Arens, Sidney, 47.19 (Ogallala), Lucy Carey, LSW, 47.26 (LPS)

HJ - Karsyn Leeling, Sidney, 5-11 (Ogallala), Margaret Haarberg, Kearney Catholic, 5-06.25 (North Platte), EJ Brown, Elkhorn South, 5-06 (Columbus)

LJ - Imani Skanes, ONW, 18-09 (Bryan), Lightener, Papio South, 18-00.75 (Columbus), Landri Gates, Norris freshman, 17-11 LJ (Norris), Taylor Schuster, LSW, 17-09 LJ (LPS), Karsyn Leeling, Sidney, 17-03.5 (Ogallala),

TJ - Gracy Mayom, Lincoln, 36-09.50 (Westside), Nevaeh Coleman, Lincoln East, 36-07.50 (LPS), Adysen McCarter, Overton, 36-06.75 (Pleasonton), Zaidah Lightener, Papio South, 36-06 (Columbus), Maizie Stoklasa, Clarkson-Leigh, 36-01.50 (Osceola), Jayden Meyer, Syracuse, 36-01.50 (Platteview)

PV - Alyssa Onnen, Kearney Catholic, 12-01 (North Platte), Greta Galbraith, Blair, 11-00 (Ralston), Maiya Speer, Gretna, 11-00 (Ralston), Kaitlyn Jewett, Holdrege, 11-00 (McCook), Morgan Maschmann, Beatrice, 11-00 (Norris), Avery Scott, Waverly, 11-00 (Norris), Mya Hibbard, Elkhorn North, 11-00 (Norris), Angelina Schademann, Fillmore Central, 11-00 (Thayer Central)

SP - Katharine Beacher, Millard North, 45-06.5 (Westside), Elle Heckenlively, Gretna, 42-04 (Ralston), Madison Rink, LSW, 41-11 SP (LPS)

DT - Madison Smith, Gothenburg, 150-07 (Ogallala), McKinley Grover, Gordon-Rushville, 137-11.5 (Bayard), Kennedy Bailey, Dundy County Stratton, 128-01 (Perkins County), Katharine Beacher, Millard North, 126-09 (Westside), Caroline Carrico, Papio, 124-09 (Bryan)

4x400 - Westside 4:06.14, (Westside), Papio 4:07.77 (Bryan), Skutt 4:10.68 (Skutt)


******


First published at www.preprunningnerd.com by Jay Slagle on April 3, 2024. If you find an error, shoot us an e-mail at jayslagle@hotmail.com and we'll get it fixed.


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.

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