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8/24/22 Nerdsletter

Updated: Aug 24

Contributor: The Nerd


Low expectations

I read this in the New York Times fifteen years ago, so I apologize if this is no longer true. Each year a group of researchers survey people around the world to assess their life satisfaction, and then they rank nations on a happiness index. Scandinavian countries, and particularly Denmark, consistently ranked among the happiest countries in the world despite harsh living conditions, less sunlight and no Runza restaurants. Diving deeper, the researchers found one (among several) interesting reason why the Danes were happy: they had low expectations. They didn't plan on great weather or long days or delicious cabbage and beef concoctions, so reality often exceeded their expectations.


What's this got to do with a high school running newsletter? Well, if you go into this into this Nerdsletter with low expectations -- after all, we're just a bunch of non-journalist hacks doing this as a hobby - you might be pleasantly surprised.


Our weekly routine

A tremendous number of great things happen every week in Nebraska high school cross country, and much of it can’t be boiled down to a tweet or Facebook post. That's why we started the Nerdsletter. While we won’t promise that our weekly Nerdsletter will be the most profound thing you’ll read all week, we’re pretty confident that no one else covers Nebraska high school cross country quite like the Nerd team. The Nerdsletter may be a little soft on content this week; we don't want to pull a writing muscle before the first meet.


At some point we’ll settle into a regular day for posting the Nerdsletter, but here’s what we do have scheduled:


· Saturdays – We’ll ask our followers on Twitter and Facebook to help us build the meet schedule for the following week.

· Sundays – We’ll post the meet schedule and update it as needed, with notations for the meets where we expect to have a Nerd on site.

· Tuesdays – We’ll post the individual boys and girls rankings for all four Classes.


Throughout the week we’ll upload race photos to our Facebook page, and we’ll post notable race results on Twitter and Facebook. We’ll also chase down race results and include those links on our website.


The Nerd team has expanded

You can click on our About tab for more information, but the Nerd team grew from three to ten over the summer. In addition to the original Nerds in Omaha, we’ve added Nerd HD (Elkhorn), Dr. Nerd (Fremont), CW Nerd (Gurley, near the Wyoming border), Art Nerd (North Platte), Broken Nerd (Wood River), Nerd Central (Lincoln), and Hurdle Nerd (O’Neill). All ten of us are volunteers who love running and photography. Is bigger better? We think so. For example, out of the 18 high school meets being held in Nebraska this week, we’re able to be on site for 9 of them.


Unless school or work gets in the way, look for someone with Nerd gear and a camera at the following meets this week:


* Thursday - Weeping Water (Nerd the Third), Scottsbluff (CW Nerd), Logan View (Dr. Nerd) and Auburn (Nerd HD);

* Friday - The GI Northwest meet (Broken Nerd);

* Saturday - Sutherland (limited photos from Art Nerd, who will also be coaching), Norris (Dr. Nerd) and the Class of the Metro at Papio South (Nerd Junior and Nerd Senior).


Will we grow more in the future? We're not sure. We’re trying to see what infrastructure is needed to support the additional Nerds, and we’re not entirely confident that Facebook is going to allow us to upload photos for 8-12 meets per week. However, if you love running and you’ve got one of those expensive sports lenses (I’m specifically talking to all of those LSW parents who were with me at the District T&F finish line), keep us in mind for next spring. Being a Nerd may be the coolest non-paying job you’ll ever have.


Season previews

So you’re a running fan but you follow one Class more than others? Say no more. We’ve written season previews for every Class and for boys and girls, and they’re all posted on our blog. Here are the direct links:


Class A girls

Class A boys

Class B girls

Class B boys

Class C girls

Class C boys

Class D girls

Class D boys


Believe it or not, we actually worked hard on the season previews. In addition to compiling a list of the top returners, we reviewed track season results and reached out to coaches for off-the-record insights on their teams. We also reviewed the State junior high XC and T&F meet results and asked for follower feedback about high-potential freshman. While the previews inevitably included errors, we still believe they're the most comprehensive reviews you can find.


History in the making?

If you don’t want to dive into the season previews, here’s a few tidbits that you might find interesting:


· Carson Noecker, a senior competing for Hartington-Newcastle, enters the season with three Class C XC titles. No Nebraska high school boy has ever won four titles. If you count Carson’s State junior high title that he won in 8th grade, he’s looking at #5.


· Jordyn Arens, a junior from Crofton, has won the Class D XC titles as a freshman and sophomore, as well as five Class C track titles. She’s the prohibitive favorite this season, and is in position to become the fourth Nebraska high school girl to win four titles if she wins in 2022 and 2023. She would join four-time winners Shona Jones of Hastings (1982-1985), Amber Fairbanks of Geneva (1993-1996) and Jeralyn Poe of Lincoln North Star (2011-2014).


· It’s rare for a Class A boy to win four State XC medals; only six boys have accomplished it out of the last 26 graduating classes. We have two current runners hoping to join that list. Issac Ochoa, a junior at Norfolk, already has two medals, while Fremont’s Juan Gonzalez won a medal last year as a freshman. Isaac has a chance to be the first Class A athlete since Wyatt McGuire (North Platte, 2010-2013) to accomplish this feat.


· Is the Class A girls State meet record in jeopardy for the third consecutive year? Jeralyn Poe of Lincoln North Star set the standard at 18:14 in 2013, the first year that Nebraska girls raced at 5000 meters. Stella Miner (then at Marian) lowered that to 18:10 in 2020, and then Elli Dahl of Fremont ran 17:57 last fall. Given Jaci Sievers’ incredible track season, it seems likely the record could fall again – especially if Jaci has company at the front of the race.


Save the date

Nebraska Wesleyan has announced that it will be hosting a ‘Meet of Champions’ on June 3, 2023 that will be open to athletes from Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Colorado and South Dakota. They will take the top 16 entrants in each event.


A rankings primer

We have published our individual preseason rankings at this link and we'll continue to push them out each Tuesday leading up to State. Everyone has a different way of ranking athletes/teams, but here's ours:


* For the preseason rankings, we use the 2021 XC results as a starting point. However, we also consider track results, since someone like Mason McGreer of Perkins County got a lot faster during the spring.

* As the weeks progress, we'll review meet results with particular attention paid to head-to-head matchups.

* We also review times and try to factor in course difficulty, weather and competition. This is pretty easy for Class A since course lengths are well-established and we know each course well. This isn't as easy for the other classes, but we can usually detect too-short courses by comparing the field's time to previous races.


Please don't take rankings personally. We're sure we've missed someone who is rankings worthy, but they have eight weeks to make a case for themselves. We rank the athletes with imperfect information and the only ranking that really matters are the State results. However, we know that rankings create conversation and buzz for the sport, which is also why the coaches prepare the team rankings. All XC athletes - not just the ranked ones - deserve more attention, but the ranking are a fun way to turn the spotlight on some of the fastest runners.


Super shoes

The July 19 edition of the Wall Street Journal included a lot of boring financial news but also an article on super shoes. Wouter Hoogkamer, a professor at UMass Amherst who allegedly was also the Swedish chef in the Muppet show, published a research paper on the effect that carbon-plate racing shoes has had on world-class track times. (How many running newsletters give links to published research studies?) A few statistics based on global results in 2016 and 2021, which were both Olympic years:


* The number of men running faster than 1:46 in the 800 in one year increased by 56%;

* The number of men running faster than 27:00 in the 10k increased by 59%;

* The number of women running the 5000 meters faster than 27:10 increased by more than 100%.


Extrapolating this data back to my senior year in 1985, I believe that means my 4:53 PR translates to a 3:55 1600 in 2021. Can someone check my math?


Class switches/new schools

We know we haven't caught all the NSAA classification changes that occurred this fall, we do know this much:


· Two new OPS schools – Buena Vista and Westview – will compete in Class A. A new LPS school, Northwest, will compete in Class B. All three XC teams have twitter accounts - @OPS_BVHSXC, @OPS_GXCWestview and @LNWCrossCountry - if you want to keep up to date on these new programs. It's not easy to start a new athletic program; on Tuesday OPS announced that Beuna Vista had to forfeit all of its football games this fall because it didn't have enough players. So let's do our best to support these new teams.


· McCook and Platteview move from Class B to C. This could have some medal implications, with 2021 Class B medalists Olivia Lawrence (6th) of Platteview and Samantha Rodewald (8th) of McCook adding to what was already a very competitive Class C title chase.


Nerd gear

Being a running nerd is not just a frame of mind; it’s also a lifestyle. If you’re a nerd, we don’t think you should hide it, which is why we’ve opened a Nerd store on our website. All of the profits from last year’s sales went to provide t-shirts to OPS schools. The Nerd strategy team hasn’t decided what to do with the proceeds from this year’s sales; frankly, Mrs. Nerd is more concerned about taking back the bedroom that has turned into inventory storage.


In contrast to previous sales, we have the product in stock so the there is not a deadline for orders. However, once a product is out of stock, it won't be sold. My personal experience is that the shorts run a little small, but we're thrilled with the quality of the gear. Our store can be found here.


The Tupper family

We mentioned this in our Class B girls season preview, but we’ll mention it again here since not everyone follows every Class. On the morning of June 19, rising junior Ali Tupper of Duchesne and her younger brother Joe (a St. Stephens student and runner) were killed when their car was hit by a drunk driver. Ali ran varsity at Duchesne her first two years and was expected to be a key contributor this fall. She was, by all accounts, an incredibly great girl with unlimited potential, and she will be dearly missed.


On Saturday, Duchesne opens the season at the Class of Metro meet. In a break from prior years, Duchesne will run all 60 or so of its girls in the opening 4k race. I suspect they’ll honor Ali in a special way at the meet and throughout the year. We also wanted to give a nod to Ali's spirit; she's ranked 15th in our Class B preseason poll.


After we posted our Class B preview, Ali’s mom left a comment on our Facebook page, and we’re sharing an excerpt of it here since it was addressed to all of you: “Through tears, I pray that each of these teams, athletes, coaches and parents recognize that whether you are first or last, it is a gift that you are there. Cherish it... Duchesne XC is a family, not a team. They embraced my daughter and taught her so many life lessons in two short seasons. And now they are showing up in ways for my husband and our youngest child that words cannot describe... We are thinking and praying for each of you. May you experience all the love, joy, support and successes that you possibly can this season.”


Write your own story

I was invited by GI Northwest coach to speak to his team on the first day of practice. I suspect it was an unremarkable presentation but it did spur to post a series of short articles during the first week of practice about why cross country is so great. I finished the week with the article, “Write your own story.” If you’re looking for a sappy story about the life-changing power of distance running, here is the article.


Summer stars

Nebraska athletes were exceptionally busy this summer at national meets, and a few captured age-group national championships. Out of fear of overlooking quite a few of these athletes, I’m just going to feature two athletes who were truly remarkable:


· Jaci Sievers ran 4:51.04 and 10:22:18 for the full mile and two-mile at Nike Nationals in mid-June. The mile converts to a 4:49.35 1600, just off the official Nebraska record of 4:49.3 from 2003 held by Elizabeth Lange of Lincoln Pius. The two-mile converts to a 10:18.57, ahead of the official 3200 record of 10:19.0 held by Karlene Ericson of Wheeler Central. However, I’m guessing that 1982 mark might be an actual two-mile race. Either way, it’s a moot point because out-of-season marks don’t count as official state records. Still – as we noted above – Jaci is truly a special runner.


· Jaylen Lloyd won two long jump national championships this summer: the Nike title with a 25’5” leap and the USATF title with 25’4.75”. Both exceed the official state record of 25’0.25” set by Robert Rands of Bellevue East in 2005. Jaylen’s wind-legal triple jump of 50’6” at Nike Nationals also earned him a national title and tops the official state record of 50’2.5” set by Todd Brown of Holdrege in 1978.


Don't be shy

We can't be everywhere so we rely on our followers to keep us informed. Send us a DM or e-mail us at jayslagle@hotmail.com if you have a tip, race results, outstanding performances or just want to tell us why you love distance running. We love hearing from coaches; no one understands the sport more than them. Our followers also know the back story of athletes that we haven't heard. For example, if not for a tip from Patrick Grosserode, we wouldn't have known about Emmett Hassenstab, whom we featured in the The Fall and Rise of Emmett Hassenstab in April 2022.


In addition to reaching out digitally, come say 'hi' to us at meets. Nothing makes us happier than hearing, "Hey, I'm a running Nerd too," when we're at a meet. Running nerds are cool. Never forget that.


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Do you see any errors, typos or key omissions? Send an e-mail to jayslagle@hotmail.com and we'll do our best to correct the article.


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 on our blog page, Nerd gear, 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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