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05/14/24 Nerdsletter

Updated: 6 days ago

Contributor: The Nerd

31 State Records!

Jaci Rexilius at B-3 Districts (Nerdka)

With strong winds and spotty rain throughout District week - plus a 'survive and advance' mentality among top performers - we didn't have high expectations for more broken records last week. We were so wrong:

  • Reece Grosserode of Pius triple jumped 49-09 to break his previous Class A record 49-08 from March 16.

  • Jaiya Patillo of Bellevue West ran the 400 in 54.66 to set the Class A and All-Class record previously held by Millard South's Clara Nichols who ran 55.05 in 2011.

  • Sydney Stodden of Elkhorn North ran the 400 in 56.14 to set the Class B record that Alonna Depalma (56.24) of Waverly had set one week earlier.

  • Jacie Rexilius of Lincoln Christian ran 24.21 to set the Class B 200 record, breaking the mark of 24.54 set by Kennedy Wade of Bennington in 2023.

  • JoLie Farr of Cambridge ran 12.35 to break the Class D 100 record of 12.36 set by Regan Carlstrom of St. Edward in 2003.

  • Will Kulhanek of Overton ran a 48.11 400 to break the Class D record of 48.54 that he set one week earlier.

  • Alyssa Onnen of Kearney Catholic pole vaulted 12-09.25 to break the Class C record of 12-09 held by legend Josie Puelz of Lincoln Lutheran. Josie is wrapping up an incredible career at Concordia where she has won a total of five NAIA national championships in the pole vault.

  • The Kearney Catholic girls 4x100 relay team (Margaret Haarberg, Payton Dzingle, Alyssa Onnen, Hazel Haarberg) ran 48.22 to break the Class C record of 48.26 that they set on April 19th.

A full listing of this season's 31 State records is available at

State week

The Nerds have had a busy spring and it only gets busier this week. At last count our Nerds have taken their cameras to 115 track meets since March 15, and we'll be at all four days of the State meet taking pictures and talking to athletes. We won't be posting race-by-race highlights on social media, in part because other media outlets do a good job of that. Here's our plan for the week:

  • We'll do our best to capture photos of key moments in field events and races. We'll immediately post some of the more dramatic photos on our Twitter and FB accounts, but most of our photos won't be published until mid-June.

  • If I have time and enough interesting things to write about, I'll post an abbreviated Nerdsletter on Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings. Our followers seemed to enjoy that last year.

  • We'll have Nerds at most field events plus a few Nerds taking pictures during races. If you look underneath our snazzy neon media vests, you'll see us rocking Nerd gear. Don't be afraid to say 'howdy Nerd' or tell us a cool story about State. Most of the Nerds never competed at State so we love to hear what the experience means to you. By the end of the four days, over fifteen Nerds will spend at least a few hours at the meet, so don't be shy about talking to them.

  • We will not be good about responding in a timely manner to DMs and e-mails. When we're at a meet, we do our best to focus on what's happening at the meet.

  • Don't forget that we are the best resource for season-best rankings by Class. Go to the page and click on '2024 Track' to see the top 15 performances for All-Class and by Class.

No room for fear or doubt

This weekend I ran into a former high school athlete who confided to me that she had never enjoyed her State meet experiences because she was so anxious about performing well. While a few nerves are helpful, anything more than that can hurt performance and reduce enjoyment. Several years ago we wrote the article, "No Room for Fear or Doubt," and it may be a good article for athletes to read before the meet. The Platteview team liked the mantra so much that they included it on their State qualifier t-shirt.

The electronic timing cliff

We posted the State qualifying standards last week at this link. Surprisingly, that Facebook post generated a fair amount of debate about whether Nebraska's qualification process is fair. We think the current system is an improvement over previous methods but we're open to change if someone comes up with a better idea. Unfortunately, we haven't heard that better idea yet.

In NCAA Division 1, spots are awarded for the two regional meets based on in-season marks performed within the qualification period. The top X performances are offered post-season spots, although some athletes decline spots in favor of another event or because they're injured. In those instances, the NCAA keeps inviting the next-best performer until they have met their event entry limit.

The reason that this system works for the NCAA is because every collegiate meet has electronic timing, reliable wind readings and certified officials. A blazing 100-meter race or a huge long jump doesn't get counted towards regionals qualifying if it's not wind-legal (see our wind-legal discussion in the March 20th Nerdsletter).

While most Nebraska high school T&F meets aren't run the same way as collegiate meets, there were a number of Facebook followers who advocated for awarding in-season qualifying marks with perhaps a few final spots allocated at Districts. In order to achieve this fairly, we responded that electronic timing, wind measurements and certified officials would be a baseline requirement for such a qualifying process. One in-season advocate responded, "Then require it."

One of the roles we fill is to collect the results for every Nebraska HS T&F meet that we can find. While many are electronically timed, I would estimate that about 40% are not. In addition, I doubt a wind gauge (anemometer) is present at 10% of all meets. Why are these percentages so low? Because there aren't enough timers and timing companies to fill the need.

Late last week I spoke with Derek Fey and Brian Kujath, two Nebraskans who know the timing industry well. They both agreed that it is unlikely that the percentage of electronically-timed meets in Nebraska will grow and it's possible that it could become even less prevalent for the following reasons:

a) It's expensive to start a timing company. For example, the equipment and software that was used to time the Waverly District meet cost approximately $50,000.

b) It's difficult to learn how to set up and use the software, cameras and timing systems. Posting 'live' results adds another level of complexity. These aren't skills you pick up in a few weeks and it's not a full-time job given that there is only a wide-spread need for timers from mid-March to mid-May.

c) Ten years ago many timers were teachers. They worked a full day at school and still arrived on time for a late-afternoon track meet. Now that many track meets start mid-morning or around noon, teachers aren't available to time meets on weekdays.

d) Ten years ago most electronically-timed meets fell on Friday and Saturday; Wednesday is now about the only day where meets aren't routinely held. While the additional meet days means that one timer can now cover four to six meets per week, that also means that timers get burned out more quickly, especially if they have kids who are expecting them at home. Timing companies are losing experienced timers faster than they can train new ones.

e) Mark McGuire was the lead timer for OPS and other local meets for many years. He passed away unexpectedly in early February, leaving a huge gap in the timing community that hasn't been filled.

f) While the growth of Unified track and field is something that everyone wants to see, it adds to the complexity of timing a meet. For example, each Unified athlete has a partner, and every athlete/partner is manually entered into the timing software. Their times (100 meters) or distances (long jump, shot put) have to be added together to determine a result, and some timing companies have to make those calculations manually.

Interestingly, Nebraska meets are often more complex to time than meets in Iowa or Kansas. Iowa has a fair number of varsity/JV single-gender meets that last 4-5 hours and start later than Nebraska. Iowa also only offers four field events (no triple jump or pole vault) so that's fewer results to manually enter. While Kansas meets offer more events than Iowa, the number of teams in electronically-timed events tend to be less than what we see in Nebraska.

From a technical standpoint, Nebraska meets also often require more equipment. At Districts, State and other large meets in Nebraska, the 100/110/200 events are run 'with the wind' - so that requires three finish line cameras instead of just one. Three cameras require a bigger expense, a more experienced timer and longer set-up/tear-down times. Most Iowa and Kansas meets serviced by Nebraska timing companies are utilizing a one-camera solution.

Several dozen Nebraska school districts have invested in their own timing systems so they don't have to rely on external timing companies. While that has expanded the number of meets that are electronically timed, the schools are heavily dependent on the expertise of one or two individuals who could retire or move to another school district. There are several schools that own timing systems and still hire a timing company because the meet day process is so difficult.

Unless schools and meet directors are willing to invest more in electronic timing capabilities and consider changes that simplify the timing process, Derek Fey predicts a 'cliff' in the next decade where the supply of experienced timers will shrink significantly.

A perfect storm

I really don't live on social media but I also saw a number of comments related to the failure of the timing system during the girls' 800 at the D-5 meet in Fullerton. Here is what the results page for D-5 says on the NSAA page at

"Due to a Power Failure at the Finish of the Girls 800.  Places were marked down, 1st Place Isabelle Brumbaugh of Nebraska Christian and 2nd Place Emma Rathjen of Nebraska Christian, will automatically qualify for State.  A Re-Run was held for anyone that wanted a time for advancement or placement in a heat for State.  There were 3 Athletes that competed and those times are the ones listed."  

A few Internet observers decried the lack of a back-up timing system. I spoke with an individual familiar with the timing failure to get more information.

Like most track meets, the timing tent was set up on the infield near the finish line with electricity and data lines running through the spectator area to a power/data source. When the leaders were within a few seconds of the finish, a spectator tripped over the power cord and unplugged the camera system. What's the solution for this?

- If the power failure had happened more than 30 seconds before the finish of the race, most timers could get power back, reboot the camera and still capture the finishing time.

- If the power failure had happened just a few seconds earlier, the timer could have alerted the meet referee who was running the stopwatch as a back-up. The referee would have then hit the lap button on his/her stopwatch as each runner finished while the starter or another official placed the runners in their order of finish. The referee's stopwatch times would have been recorded and then converted to reflect an electronic-equivalent time. Unfortunately, the power failure happened so late in the race that the referee wasn't notified before the first six runners crossed the finish line.

- Some cameras have a battery backup that will allow the camera keep running for several minutes after a power loss. These cameras are not common in Nebraska and are more expensive than the cameras without a battery backup.

In a mid-season meet, the meet director simply would have identified the order of finish for the girls in the 800 so medals could have been awarded. The director might have relied on stopwatch times taken by each of the athlete's coaches. However, coaches' results are not acceptable as at-large State qualifying times.

The D-5 District's two automatic qualifying spots were awarded to the two first finishers in the race since the order of finish was not disputed. Three athletes - Piper Shephard (Central Valley), Addie Critel (Burwell) and Loreena Schauda (Twin Loop) - elected to participate in a re-race that started 30 minutes after the completion of the meet. Piper, with a PR of 2:30.81, ran a 2:31.72 to finish first in the re-race and she advanced to State as the third fastest of six additional qualifiers across all Districts. Addie (2:30.09 PR) ran 2:34.99 while Loreena (2:39.79 PR) finished in 2:42.93. They both ran slower than 2:34.27, the time recorded by the last of the six additional qualifiers in Class D.

Addie Critel (purple singlet) at CNTC meet, 4/22/24 (Broken Nerd)

Addie was the second fastest non-qualifier for all of Class D, 0.72 seconds from a State berth. While the coach's stopwatch doesn't matter, we have been told that the stopwatch reflected that Addie ran 3-4 seconds faster (roughly 2:31) in the first race - which would have easily put her in the State field. Loreena didn't have much better luck that day - she ran 5:59.42 in the 1600, missing out as an additional qualifier by one spot.

Sporting life seems to include as much bad luck as good luck. We see it all the time. An egregious hold at the line of scrimmage that wasn't called, a strikeout that should have been a walk, a critical foul that wasn't noticed because of a bad angle, or perhaps a tennis ball or golf ball that took a bad bounce. Officials make mistakes, bad bounces happen, batons get dropped. However...

...I know the NSAA has strict rules about having just 24 individuals qualify for each running event, but they do allow more than 24 field event competitors if there is a tie for the 24th qualifier. In an race like the 800 where each of the two heats features 12 athletes divided into two super alleys (compared to 16 runners in the 4x800) - and given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the power failure at D-5 - I'm surprised the NSAA rules don't allow discretion to add one or two more qualifiers upon appeal. Despite the best efforts of the timing company and meet officials, Addie Critel isn't going to State because a bystander tripped over a power cord.

After I initially published this Nerdsletter, an observer pointed out that Class A - but only Class A - has rules in place on page 20 of the NSAA track manual if the electronic timing fails at Districts: "In the event the FAT timing system would fail in any district in any running event, any individual running event would qualify the top 6 places and any relay event would qualify the top 4 places. This would pertain only to those events where the FAT failed."

Life isn't fair but sometimes adults can make it a little more fair, especially when the other competitors aren't harmed by an act of sportsmanship.

Junior High awesomeness

Gothenburg hosted the Junior High State Championship on Saturday and, as usual, there were some crazy good performances. Full results are posted at The ones that jumped out at us:

  • Bryson Neels, son of Gothenburg coach Tony Neels and the runner-up at the State JH XC meet, won the 800 (2:06.79), 1600 (4:41.23), long jump (20-05.25) and was a member of the winning 4x400. We're high on Bryson's cross country future but we hear he's also a pretty good football player.

  • Jayce Haas (Hemingford) won the boys 400 in 54.40.

  • Tyler Scott (Beatrice) finished 2nd in the 1600 in 4:45.96; he won the State JH XC title in October.

  • Dreyson Puppe (Laurel-Concord-Coleridge) swept the 100 and 200 hurdle events. We'll make an educated guess that he's related to Deagan Puppe who won the Class C 110HH titles in 2021 and 2022 for LCC before moving on to compete at Mount Marty.

  • Beau Wells (Ord) won the pole vault with a leap of 12-08 while Keaston Beavers (Elm Creek) cleared 12-04. We noticed a familiar name in 5th place - Isaiah Onnen of Kearney Catholic, the younger brother of Class C record holder Alyssa Onnen.

  • Macie Reiner (Blair) won the girls 400 in 57.74, a time that would have placed 5th in Class B at the 2023 high school State meet.

  • Payton Dolliver (Malcolm) won the 800 in 2:20.46.

  • Emily Hegge (Papillion) followed up her 5:12 1600 two weeks ago with a 5:13.25 win in Gothenburg. She's just a 7th grader.

  • Madison Shaw (Sandy Creek) ran 2:25.69 (800) and 5:20.43 (1600). We're guessing that one of Madison's training partners is Emma Fisher of Sandy Creek, who burst onto the scene in 2023 as a freshman when she won the Class D 1600 (5:28), finished 2nd in the 3200 (12:02) and 4th in the 800 (2:25).

  • Aspen Billeter of Southwest high jumped 5-03, a height that would have been good enough for 1st in Class D or 5th in Class C at the 2023 high school State meet.

  • Kaitlyn Staehr of Aurora won the triple jump in 34-01 followed closely by Alexa Porter of GI Trinity Lutheran in 34-00. Kaitlyn's older brother Carson, who now competes at USD, jumped 23-03.25 and 47-09.75 in high school.

  • Sami Campos of Lincoln pole vaulted 12-07. According to one of her coaches, after you eliminate the high school marks incorrectly listed in the and Milesplit as middle school rankings, that 12-07 is the #1 middle school jump in the US by more than one foot; it's also five inches under the US middle school record. Only Alyssa Onnen of Kearney Catholic - an equally impressive jumper who was a friendly competitor with Sami during the winter season - has a better mark this season among the Nebraska high schoolers.

Little bites

  • I've mentioned the local 'Chasing Three Hours' podcast in prior Nerdsletters, but this past week I listened to the one that featured Kearney High and NWMSU alum Nolan Zimmer in the lead up to the Boston Marathon. Nolan is a teacher and coach now, and it was interesting to hear him talk about his running and coaching experiences since high school. You can find the podcast at all the normal places or at Josh Peterson's website at

  • Keep in mind that there are no 300 hurdle or 400 meter prelims at State, which could result in some pretty fantastic races due to fresher legs. If I were a betting man - and if the weather is tolerable - I'd look for State record in at least three 400 races - with Class A, B and D girls and Class D boys races where they're most likely to happen.

  • We haven't seen many head-to-head races between the top distance boys in Class A and B this season. Look for fireworks in the 800, 1600 and 3200 from Juan Gonzalez (Fremont), Jack Witte (MWest), Denny Chapman (Prep), Braden Lofquest (Gretna East), Riley Boonstra (Norris), Tommy Rice (Skutt) and others. In 2023 Jack won the Class A 1600/3200 and Riley the Class B 1600/3200 with sit-and-kick strategies, but this year I think the racing will begin much earlier than 400 meters remaining in those races.

  • I ran into Christina Elder, a Platteview coach and world champ Masters runner, at the Waverly Districts. During the second half of August she's headed to the Worlds meet in Gothenburg, Sweden, where she's qualified to compete in the 400 and 800. She's also hoping to join the USA 4x400 squad.

  • We've been ruminating on a three-day State meet for a few years. In fact, we've had a draft article sitting on the side for over a year. Depending on how many coaches I talk to this week, I may publish the article by Saturday.

  • Carter Nelson of Ainsworth enthralled us two years ago during his head-to-head high jump battle with Landon Olson when both cleared 6-10 at the State meet. In addition to being a Husker football commit, he is so talented that there are least six individual events where he had a chance to medal at State. He won District titles in the 200 (22.01) and long jump (22-00.75) but did not qualify in the notoriously fickle discus and pole vault events where he had been ranked, respectively, first and second in Class C this season.

  • Stella Miner of Westside, who holds or is part of all-Class records in the 800, 1600 and 4x800, has qualified in the 400, 800, 1600 and 4x400. She will not be part of the 4x800 Westside team that ran 18 seconds faster than any other team this season.

  • You might be underwhelmed by the seed times for the Class A and B distance races but a large of number of distance athletes worked overtime at Districts to qualify for State in all three distance events - the 800, 1600 and 3200. With such a heavy load over a six- to seven-hour period at Districts, many of those athletes simply did the minimum required to earn an automatic qualifying spot. Expect much faster times this week.

  • If you're looking for drama at State, the best spot may be near the triple jump and long jump pits. Three or four years ago the NSAA determined that photographers should not be in the immediate area beyond the jump pits, and it's been a major point of conflict between small-town newspaper photographers, the sports photo company that pays to be a NSAA sponsor, and the NSAA representatives who enforce the rule. We've yet to see the rationale for why photographers aren't allowed, and the Nebraska State meet is the only meet where we've ever seen it applied. In the past two years we've shot the NCAA D1 & D2 indoor meets, the NAIA indoor national meet, the USATF outdoor nationals meet where the Worlds team is selected, and national-level outdoor meets at KU and Drake. All of those meets allow credentialed photographers to be stationed just beyond the jump pits. Will the rule be enforced this year? We don't know. However, if it is, the athletes who don't get good State photos are the real losers.

Drop your shield

We wrote an article last October after the 2023 State cross country meet to try to put some sense into all the heartbreak we saw on a day where dozens of top performers had an absolutely miserable day. The article, Drop Your Shield, generated tens of thousands of views and hopefully helped heal a few wounds.

We posted that article last week after Districts because the message applies to pretty much any competition - sports, singing, academic decathlons, etc. One Facebook follower said the article was terrible because it talked about tears and hugs instead of about jumping the farthest and running the fastest, but most people seemed to appreciate it.


A-1 Districts (Joyful Nerd)

As noted above, the Nerds to go a lot of meets. Nerdka, Nerd atTack, Nerd Stammpede and Nerd Ricky Bobby shot at least two meets last week. Based on what he's done so far this season, it's possible that Nerd Dawg gave up sleeping and shot a meet every day. Of course, all of our Nerds have been great, and the photo above by Joyful Nerd is just another example of the great work they do.

The Nerds stepped up their game for Districts and tried to capture as many moments as possible during and after races. That means more photos to edit, which is why we still have a number of albums that haven't been posted. Keep watching our Facebook page for new albums. If you're not sure if we attended a meet, just go to to see the listing of every meet we shot this spring and to find direct links to the Facebook albums.

Thank you, Uncle Nerd

All of this spring's Nerdsletters have been faithfully proofread by Uncle Nerd, aka Colonel Jeff Slagle (USAF Ret.). He's caught way too many typos and logic errors, and in general has helped us sound a bit less stupid.


First published at by Jay Slagle on May 14, 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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