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07/04/23 Nerdsletter

Contributor: The Nerd

With a long weekend and no track meets to shoot, I'm posting a quick Nerdsletter with a few tidbits that have come up since the State meet wrapped up.

Gatorade honorees

Lademi Davies of Omaha Westside and Caiden Fredrick of Papio South were honored as the Nebraska T&F players of the year last week. The press release announcing Lademi's honor can be found at while Caiden's is posted at!. Lademi will be attending the University of Texas this fall on a music scholarship where she'll be a preferred walk-on on the track team; Caiden will be attending (and competing at) South Dakota State.

Shawn Gray fundraiser

Shawn Gray, the head girls Cross Country Coach and co-head T&F coach at Papio La Vista, was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer. He's in his early 40s and has three young children - 7, 5, and 1. His wife Julie Gray is a teacher and track and field coach in Millard at Russell Middle School. Obviously, it is devastating news to have this type of advanced cancer at his age.

For years Shawn has coached the hurdlers at PLHS. All-class 110HH champion Jesse Malone found out about Shawn's diagnosis the week of State. It made Jesse's success all the more sweet for Shawn and the other coaches.

Shawn's treatment will be extensive and will likely involve some travel and time away from family. Any cancer treatment is certainly costly. To that end, the Papio community has started a GoFundMe page for Shawn and his family at

In addition, Papio and Papio South are going to host a community-wide 3K/5K and 1 mile walk on August 5th at Walnut Creek. A link for more race information and to register for the race is at Since NSAA XC Season begins on August 7th, so any athlete can participant without risking eligibility. In addition, it's a great opportunity for parents and siblings to on the the course that will be used for Class of Metro, Metros and a number of other events.

Walnut Creek course changes

Athletes either love or hate the Walnut Creek course adjacent to Papio South, but it's never been particularly fan-friendly unless a spectator was willing to jog a bit. The Papio South coaches are spearheading course changes that should eliminate that devastating hill around 2.5 miles AND give spectators more opportunities to cheer without breaking a sweat. The new course will feature both a 3k and 2K loop that will allow the course to host a race of about any distance. The goal is to have the new course plotted in time for the August 5th fundraiser race; click below for a map of the new course.

NEW Walnut Creek 5K XC Course
Download PDF • 1.76MB

USATF nationals

Eugene, Oregon is the place to be this week if you're an American track star who hasn't negotiated a lucrative appearance fee at a European meet. Thanks to Coach Bonsall from UNK, we've got a rundown of former Nebraska high school athletes competing for a national title:

* Three-time national champion Wes Ferguson (Fremont/UNK) has qualified for the 800 starting with an opening heat at 4:50 CDT on Thursday. He's seeded 8th in the field. Here's an interview Wes did in June that includes his decision to compete for UNK for a 5th year in 2023/24.

* Brayden Sorensen (Kearney High/UNK) has qualified in the HJ and will compete on Sunday beginning at 7:05 CDT. They don't mess around at Nationals; he'll be close to a PR (currently 7-01.75) if he clears the to-be-determined opening height.

* Mayson Connor (York/UNL) will also be competing in the HJ. He has career best of 7-04.25.

* Current UNL coach Maggie Malone (Fillmore Central, UNL/Texas A&M) will be competing in the javelin. She is seeded second in the event based on declared entries.

* Dajaz Defrand (Lincoln High/Florida State) had an incredible freshman season at FSU, finishing 8th in the 100 at NCAAs to earn a First-Team All-American title to go along with the ACC Freshman of the Year award. She's seeded 22nd in a star-studded 100 field.

* Ashley Petr (Adams Central/UNK/Kansas State) is competing in the discus. She had a major sports surgery in high school and ended an impressive collegiate career at K-State where she qualified for NCAA nationals in 2019 (19th) and 2021 (15th). She was also a regional qualifier in 2018.

* Nationals includes a few Masters events, and Angee Henry (Bellevue West/UNL) is listed as competing in the Masters 200. Angee was a 10x All-American at UNL and has notched several American and world records while competing in the Master's division. Coach Bonsall has his money (figuratively, not literally) on Angee to take the win at that race.

USATF is live-streaming the meet for a fee. Most of the the marquee events at the meet will not be on live TV because... well, because the national USATF organization sometimes makes stupid financial decisions. They've also decided that pro athletes can't bring their own photographers and videographers because of their broadcast contract - which is interesting since so little of the meet is being broadcast by anyone other than USATF. If they did allow photographers as they have in previous years, they most definitely would have allowed them to sit at the end of the long and triple jump pits.

Sara Vaughn

We featured Gering native Sara Ensrud Vaughn in an interview last winter. She continues to make waves as a pro runner; Fast Women featured her in a recent article at

State photos

It took us five weeks to edit and upload photos, but we have now posted more than 16,000 photos from the State meet on our Facebook page. To make it easier to find your favorite athlete, our website provides FB links to each event at

Nerd gear

We can't order any new Nerd gear until we sell last year's models. We've got white short- and long-sleeve t-shirts, black t-shirts, hats and a limited supply of sweatshirts. You can find pictures of the gear and order links at

We need more Nerds

Our springtime Nerd roster swelled to seventeen volunteers, but we know we're going to lose a few Nerds once XC season arrives. We're in desperate need of Nerds from all over Nebraska. However, we especially need one or two based in Grand Island, Kearney and Hastings, and we know there are sports nuts in all three towns. What are the qualifications? A love for the sport, a good sports camera and lens, the ability to edit photos, and a working knowledge of Facebook. If you have the slightest glimmer of interest, shoot me an e-mail at and I'll give you more details.

Confidence Camp

Coach Jeremy Haselhorst of Papio South is a Mental Performance Mastery certified coach, and he's created a Confidence Camp of three 90-minute evening sessions on July 17-19 at College of St. Mary. Jeremy have been talking about mental preparation for distance runners for years, based on what he does for his own team and what he's learned through his certification process, so I'm excited to see him share this information with other schools. Camp is limited to the first 30 registrants and the cost is $100. E-mail him at for more info.

Happy Independence Day

We've got a heckuva country. Celebrate safely.


That's all I've got. Have a great summer!


Originally posted at by Jay Slagle on July 4, 2023.

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