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Nerdsletter 9/13/23

Contributor: Nerd the Third and Nerd Senior


Nerd Down

Nerd Senior took a well-deserved but perhaps ill-advised vacation this week, so lower your expectations for the next few minutes. In Third's opinion, it was foolish planning to leave in the heat of the nerd season, but slackers gonna slack. Nerd Senior did return from vacation soon enough to contribute to the PRR article, but blame Third for everything else.


Photos

There may be a delay with uploading some of this week's photos due to Senior's absence, but look for photos from Laurel Invite, Buffet middle school, Fremont, Chase County, Aurora, Platte River Rumble and probably at least one other that I've forgotten. As always, check out all albums at https://www.facebook.com/PrepRunningNerd/photos_albums.


Here are a few highlights from the week:


Platte River Rumble, Nerd the Third


LCC Invite, Bloomin' Nerd


Fremont, Joyful Nerd


LCC Invite, Bloomin' Nerd


Platte River Rumble, Nerd the Third


Aurora, Nerd Speedwalker



Platte River Rumble

Friday marked the first ever Platte River Rumble high school meet. Last fall, a collegiate race was held at Mahoney State Park, the inaugural PRR. The 2022 edition was a success, but the event organizers - the Omaha Sports Commission, Creighton XC and UNO XC - had a more ambitious goal to host a high school meet. Over the past few weeks, anticipation has been building for the PRR and it did not disappoint. Over 2,000 runners were entered across 42 teams. Classes A-D were all represented, setting the meet up to be a clash between competition that does not see each other often. The course was fast, the weather was nice, everything was well organized... all in all, not much went awry.


In the large school race, Mia Murray took the lead early and never looked back. She led a pack that included the Norris contingent of Kendall Zavala, Ellie Thomas, and Atlee Wallman, Kaitlyn Swartz (Papio South), Lindee Henning (Ogallala), and Ella Ford (Elkhorn North). It wasn't until later in the race that Westside's Stella Miner and Claire White (both typically start slow and finish hard) entered the picture, but they challenged Murray all the way to the line. Murray won in 17:49, with both White and Miner also cracking the 18 minute mark. In the team race, the Norris girls pulled of a mildly surprising two-point upset over the Lincoln East powerhouse.


The large school boys race consisted of many of the top class A runners (Jack Witte, Denny Chapman, Max Myers, Dalton Heller, Conor Gross) and also Riley Boonstra and Braden Lofquest from class B. The 400+ meters of the final straightaway were unbelievable. Witte barely survived a late charge from a diving Boonstra to win by .10 seconds. Creighton Prep continued their unbeaten season, positioning themselves as the team to beat in class A, and Norris took down a Tommy Rice-less Skutt Catholic team.


Plattsmouth freshman Mallory Robbins, in what we believe was just the third or fourth 5k of her career, took the win in the small school girls' race, while Scotus showed surprising strength and edged Duchesne and Lincoln Christian. The boys race was won by Plattsmouth's Elijah Dix, and Mount Michael beat Plattsmouth by just 1 point.


As the 2,045th runner crossed the line to the Cha-Cha Slide playing over the loudspeakers on Friday afternoon, Nerd the Third thought two things: (1) wow, this has been a long day, and (2) this was awesome! Outside of the late-September race in Kearney, teams rarely race top competition outside of their conference. It was great to see Norris, Skutt, Ogallala and other class B/C teams opt up a race to go head-to-head against Class A (this has been a longstanding but rarely-used option at the UNK meet). Also, the new course was a refreshing change since teams typically race a rotation of the same 5-6 courses year after year. For example, Nerd Junior and Nerd the Third used to race Walnut Creek, then Walnut Grove, then Kearney, then Walnut Grove, then Walnut Creek... by their senior year, it got old. This is not to say that there is something wrong with the traditional meets. After all, some have been great for decades. However, attending a massive meet like the PRR was incredibly refreshing. No one there had ever raced the course, expectations were high, and the meet still lived up to the hype. Sure, the parking situation was a little sticky and ideally will be improved next year, but this meet deserves a standing ovation. Coach Chris Gannon, Coach Cliff Cisar, the Mahoney State Park staff and the Omaha Sports Commission deserve bouquets of flowers.


Unfortunately, within minutes of the large school race finishes, social media lit up with 'not-real times' posts by people who were there - and by those who have not seen the course. Here were the top times from Friday morning:


Jack Witte (MW), 15:04

Riley Boonstra (Norris), 15:04

Denny Chapman (Prep), 15:08

Max Myers (LSW), 15:21

Dalton Heller (MS), 15:22

Braden Lofquest (Gretna East), 15:24

Connor Gross (Westside), 15:31

Jayden Wall (Westside), 15:38


Mia Murray (LE), 17:49

Claire White (Westside), 17:55

Stella Miner (Westside), 17:56

Kaitlyn Swartz (Papio South), 18:10

Kendall Zavala (Norris), 18:18

Peyton Svehla (LE), 18:30

Lindee Henning (Ogallala), 18:38

Ellie Thomas (Norris), 18:39

Mallory Robbins (Plattsmouth), 19:44

Maggie Lickteig (Duchesne), 20:29


First, let's be clear about cross country State records. THERE ARE NONE. While the NSAA keeps track of the winning times at the Kearney course and some coaches keep track of meet records (or team records) at specific courses, a State XC record is not a thing. Tracks are generally considered to be uniform in length and surface, and thus State records are recognized regardless of location as long as there is official timing and proper verification for races, plus wind-measurements for sprints/jumps. However, XC courses differ due to elevation changes, surface type (long or short grass), sun exposure and, yes, length. There have been a few notable 'short courses' recently - several years ago the Heartland meet in Pella meet was found to be several hundred meters short, and I've spotted a few small meets the past few year where the majority of runners ran PRs of 60-90 seconds.


Most XC courses are not repetitively measured. Meet directors are typically teachers first, coaches second and meet directors third, and it's my belief that most XC races held on non-dedicated XC courses (e.g., golf courses) are at least 20 meters long or short of 5000 meters. Most meet directors simply don't have the luxury of time to wheel a course multiple times to confirm the correct distance - especially if they're given control of the golf course a few hours before the first race.


Few people beyond XC coaches know how to measure a course or even care about it. The standard for Nebraska high school meets appears to be to use a measuring wheel and of course the goal is to have a course that measures 5000 meters. I'm guessing that most high school coaches follow guidance issued by the USATF or National Federation of High Schools .


Interestingly, the measuring wheel approach may not be as accurate as you would think. The Florida Milesplit website includes a 2017 article by a cross country coach who is also a licensed surveyor and mapper, and he noted that measuring wheels typically measure long because of slippage on grass and dirt. You can read the article yourself but his recommendation is that you should multiply the measuring wheel distance by 1.0093 for tall grass and dirt (and by 1.0067 for short grass) to have an accurate distance reading. Using his conversion factor, a dirt/grass course that is 5000 meters per a measuring wheel may actually closer to 5045 meters. If you use a measuring wheel while riding in a golf cart, then the course could easily extend beyond 5100 meters. The coach noted that there is no conversion factor for concrete or asphalt since wheel slippage should be uncommon.


Coach Chris Gannon did his own experiment with the conversion factor, using a measuring wheel to measure a flat concrete path near his house. The wheel measured exactly 187.6 meters six times. He then wheeled the same distance, but on the grass next to the concrete path, and the distance ranged between 184.7 and 185.8 meters on six attempts. That equated to a conversion factor between 1.0097 and 1.0157.


The PRR course was designed and plotted to 5000 meters by the engineering firm Olsson. After the course was painted, Coach Gannon wheel measured the course. Due to a late painting error around the horseshoe section of the course and when considering the 1.00933 conversion factor, he estimated before the race that the course might only be 4980 meters. However, he and UNO Coach Cisar measured the course five times in the days since the meet using the most aggressive tangents, and their results repeatedly centered around 4,944 meters which - when converted by the 1.0093 factor - equates to 4,990 meters. Several athletes have posted their Strava maps that show a racing distance of 3.09 to 3.11 miles, which would suggest the racing distance was right on mark if those athletes used the most aggressive tangents.


Several high school coaches also measured the course after the meet and settled on a wheeled distance of 4,900 meters. I know all of the coaches involved here and I would say they all have next-level OCD when it comes to measuring the course. That raises an interesting question - how can four high-level coaches repeatedly arrive at results that are 45 meters different? A difference in the measuring wheel, how they hold the wheel, the speed at which they walk, or something else? In the end, that 45 meters is less than a 1% difference of the total course, but it's clearly become a big deal in our running universe once three girls run sub-18:00 times.


What's the time difference if, in the worst-case scenario, the course is 100 meters short? For Witte and Boonstra, that means they ran a 15:22 instead of a 15:04. With another 100 meters, Mia Murray's 17:49 would translate to an 18:10, roughly on par with the 18:11 result she posted twice last fall at a much tougher Pioneer's Park in Lincoln - in races she won by 40 and 60 seconds, respectively. I watched Mia run an 18:40 at the revised (and, in my opinion, much tougher) Walnut Creek course six days before PRR, and she also ran alone for most of that race. Mia won State last fall with a 18:23 at a significantly more difficult Kearney course.


Denny Chapman of Creighton Prep ran a 15:24 at Augustana Twilight seven days before his 15:08 at PRR. The Twilight course is the shape of an 'H' that is run multiple times, so the athletes make over twenty 90-degree turns in a varsity boys race that had over 400 competitors. Chapman likened the PRR course to running on a track - it had solid footing and gentle turns that eliminated lost momentum. Indeed, the entire course was rolled with a 5300-pound roller no less than 40 times in the past year, and some parts had been rolled up to 70 times (along with watering to maximize the impact of the rolling). When the collegiate meet was held at Mahoney last fall, a large portion of the field opted for carbon-plated shoes rather than spikes because the ground was so packed down that more energy could be generated from each stride with racing flats. At last Friday's race, combine the firm turf with less than 60 feet of elevation gain over the entire race, throw in good weather, great competition and super shoes, and you end up with these types of times.


If you go with Coach Gannon's post-race measurement of 4940 meters using a wheel and ignore the conversion factor, the Witte/Boonstra time is 10 seconds short and Murray's time is 12 seconds short. If you accept his 4940 meets and the conversion factor, then the times appear to be accurate.


At some point you have to decide who is the authority for the official measurement - does the meet director's measurement carry the day?


Coach Gannon has already contacted Olsson and will have the course measured, as run, within the next few weeks. Once he has that official number, he will make it public.


Questioning fast times is not just a Nebraska thing. After Clay Shively ran 14:25 at the Olathe Twilight meet last weekend (Omaha South was also there), Kansas Milesplit wheeled the course and found it to be 4892 meters. Just like the PRR, the GPS results for many of the Olathe athletes reflected at or near 3.10 miles.


We could write volumes on this topic but it takes away attention away from a great event that will be a perfect book-end to the late-September UNK meet. So we'll close with this:


1) Worse case scenario, the winning times were 15:22 and 18:10. If we rely on Coach Gannon's repeated measurements of 4,944 meters, the adjusted times are no worse than 15:14 and 18:01. If you accept the 4,944-meter length and the conversion factor, which most of you could re-create by finding a grassy area next to a path, the actual winning times of 15:04 and 17:49 appear to be accurate.


2) We don't think there is another course in Nebraska that has been, or will be, scrutinized as much as PRR. We also don't think there has been as much attention given to designing a fast course - but please let us know if you're aware of another course designed by an engineering firm. PRR is a 5000-meter race track.


3) Class A and B District seedings are based on a team's two fastest meets. We're told that to be a qualifying time for District seeding, the course must measure 5000 meters using a wheel. We are skeptical that that all of the times submitted for District seedings will be on courses that have been repetitively measured to that level of detail. Maybe we're wrong.


4) We had never heard about the measuring wheel conversion factor before yesterday. We believe in the concept, if not the specific number. We're also surprised that high-detail coaches can measure the same course repeatedly and get different results. We seem to lack a gold standard for arriving at 5000 meters.


5) Nerd Senior will not be scheduling a vacation during next year's PRR. After watching the Nerd-produced videos and hearing from attendees, it's now a can't-miss event for him.


Finally, we're disappointed, both for the athletes whose times are being openly questioned on social media and for the people who spent the better part of the last six months planning the meet. These kids ran their hearts out, yet some people feel the need to invalidate the performances. There were no records to be broken. There were no State medals to be won. Friday was simply a day about competing with some of the best athletes in Nebraska and, for at least few minutes, all of the attention was squarely on the athletes. As it always should be.


Race recap videos

We have compiled race recap videos from the varsity races at Platte River Rumble. Check our YouTube channel for those or click the links below. A massive thank you to the directors of the PRR for allowing drone footage and a videographer on the back of the lead cart. The Nerd team is relatively new to this video format, but it has been exciting to see the progress. Nerd HD, Nerd Ricky Bobby, and Nauj Nerd crushed these. Hope you enjoy!






It runs in the family

Norfolk Catholic, Bloomin' Nerd

Bloomin' Nerd was on hand for the Norfolk Catholic meet and sent along this tidbit. The Arens and Wortmann families from Crofton each had three daughters competing at the meet - two in the high school race and one in the junior high race - and the Arens family threw in a son in the boy's junior high race just for fun. This scenario is a dream for those parents who have have to go to six different events each week to watch their kids play a sport - the Arens family gets to watch four kids in just a few hours.


The two families have not only quantity but also quality. Jordyn Arens won the girls title, continuing her 3+ year unbeaten streak in Nebraska XC races. Sophomore Sophia Wortmann was second overall, senior Elizabeth Wortmann was 7th and junior Rylie Arens was 8th. In the junior high race, 7th-grader Avery Arens won the title while 8th-grader Cecilia Wortmann was 12th.


The Crofton girls won the 2021 team title and finish 3rd in 2022. They're one of the favorites this year along with Pender, Nebraska Christian, Aquinas, Ainsworth and defending champ Hemingford.


A perfect 10

Wayne Invite, Bloomin' Nerd

The Pender girls are on a roll. At the Wayne meet on Tuesday, 9/12, Pender's top four girls placed 1st through 4th, earning a perfect team score of ten. It's the third time they've achieved a perfect score this season.


Results

Our results page for the week is only missing Loup City. See the full page of results at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/copy-of-results. Some especially notable results from the week can be found below.

Lexington Invitational:

Isac Portillo-Munoz (Lexington), 17:02

Lazaro Adame-Lopez (Lexington), 17:12

Miguel Cruz (Lexington), 17:28


Susana Calmo (Lexington), 21:42


Arlington Invite:

Nolan May (Arlington), 17:08

Payton Day (Concordia), 17:10


Hailey O’Daniel (Arlington), 20:39


Chase County Invite:

Mason McGreer (Perkins County), 16:07

Jarrett Miles (NP St. Pat’s), 16:33

Eli Goodell (Perkins County), 16:38

Haven Hauxwell (Chase County), 16:54


Peyton Paxton (Mullen), 20:56

Ashley Robertson (Wallace), 21:07

Dajana Garrison (Wallace), 21:09


Fremont Invite:

Juan Gonzalez (Fremont), 15:42

Wes Pleskac (Fremont), 15:52

Ethan Walters (Elkhorn), 16:00

Ryan Burton (Bennington), 16:08

Grant Lewis (Elk South), 16:15

Noah Miller (Fremont), 16:18


Gracie Suppes (Papio), 19:14

Lindsey Neil (Elk South), 19:22

Chloe Hemmer (Fremont), 19:29

Addison Washburn (Elkhorn), 19:32

Grace Volzke (Elk South), 19:38

Alexis Chadek (Papio), 19:42


LCC Invitational:

Kyla Krusemark (Pender), 21:35

Jala Krusemark (Pender), 21:40


Milford Invite:

Avery Carter (Milford), 16:37

Gavin Dunlap (Milford), 16:53


Lilly Kenning (Milford), 19:08

Hailey Hengtgen (Palmyra), 21:03


Wahoo Invite:

AJ Raszler (Platteview), 16:20

Gus Lampe (Roncalli), 16:21


Reece Ewoldt (Blair), 19:42

Lydia Stewart (Platteview), 20:46

Allie Czapla (Blair), 20:47

Brooklyn Kermmoade (Platteview), 20:58


Aurora Invite:

Austin Carrera (Hastings), 16:27

Ethan Smith (Northwest), 16:41


Kassidy Stuckey (York), 18:45

Tessa Greisen (Seward), 19:55

Annah Perdue (York), 20:39


Chadron:

Talissa Tanquary (Sidney), 21:37


Kearney Invite:

Kaden Boltz (GI), 16:01

Isac Portillo-Munoz (Lexington), 16:15

Ruben Caceres Perez (GI), 16:22

Miguel Cruz (Lexington), 16:25

Lazaro Adame (Lexington), 16:27


Abigail Burger (Kearney), 18:31

Kara Muller (BW), 18:44


Broken Bow Invite:

Tyler Hetz (Gothenburg), 16:39

Jarrett Miles (NP St. Pat’s), 16:52


Izzy Renner (McCook), 20:20

Emma Cappel (McCook), 20:46

Katherine Kerrigan (Ainsworth), 20:46


Omaha Central Invite:

Sadie Osher (Central), 20:47


Heartland Preview (SD):

Isaac Ochoa (Norfolk), 15:26

Easton Zastrow (LNS), 15:51

Josiah Bitker (LNS), 16:01


Hope Riedel (LNS), 18:24


Rankings

As usual, our rankings were published on Tuesday. We did take into the account the speed of courses, but as always, these are subjective! Don't hate us, please. Links to individual and team rankings can be found at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/rankings.



******


First published at www.preprunningnerd.com by Henry Slagle and Jay Slagle on September 13, 2023. If you find an error, shoot us an e-mail at jayslagle@hotmail.com and we'll get it fixed.


Like this coverage of Nebraska high school distance running? 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. Once the season starts, we'll also rank the top 15 athletes in each Class at the Rankings tab. 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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