Updated: Sep 14, 2022
Contributor: The Nerd
Embrace the suck
We were on site at Wahoo last Thursday for a beast of a race. If the 90-degree temps, lack of shade and recently-cut uneven path through acres of wild grass weren’t hard enough, the course also included two trips up a mountain disguised as a hill. I had never been to the Lake Wanahoo course and wasn’t prepared for this brutality, but I discovered during photo editing that several girls were fully informed. A Blair runner had written on her arm, “It’s just a hill, get over it,” while a Columbus Scotus girl (Emma Brezenski) wrote “Embrace the suck” on her thigh. During this large meet that resulted in several ambulance calls, I’m not sure there was a better mantra than Emma's.
It's rare to find a cross country runner like Elli Dahl or Gabe Hinrichs that seems to float over cross country courses collecting one title after another. It’s more common to see JV runners putting in miles every week in exchange for team-building opportunities and a chance to get a bit more fit. For example, at the Millard South meet on Friday, only 65 boys in the JV race went under twenty minutes; 221 boys did not. For 80% or more of high school runners, cross country offers no glory or medals, and it often provides more ‘suck’ than joy.
And yet thousands of Nebraska high school athletes pursue this difficult path every autumn. They test their will, record incremental improvements and discover the rewards of consistency and shared suffering. Their bad runs likely outnumber the good ones, but they still show up for practice, still support their teammates and still give their best on race day.
With 9/11 a few days in the past, I am reminded that most of us don’t fit Hollywood’s version of a hero. Few of us will ever serve in the military, be a first responder or save lives as a healthcare provider. That doesn’t mean we can’t live heroic lives. I think the closest I’m ever going to get to being a hero will be as a faithful and attentive husband, a supportive and consistent father, and a reliable employee and friend. Fulfilling our roles in life – every day – can be heroic, and the fundamental behaviors needed in those roles can be formed and reinforced through distance running.
Emma embraced the suck of hills, hot temperatures and hard work. That’s life. All of these high school kids are going to face countless obstacles in their adult lives, and the lessons learned in cross country may help get over them.
Speaking of mantras
I ran into a high performer last week who was coming off of a bad race. “Are you hurt?” I asked. “No, it’s all in my head.”
It's tough being a teenager and particularly a high school girl. I know a number of coaches of high school girls who spend considerable time focusing on mental toughness, positivity, self-image, empowerment and goal setting through outside speakers, group discussions, assigned readings and journaling. College programs employ sports psychologists and counselors to address anxiety, build perseverance muscles and create good mental health habits. There are no easy solutions to the high school years, but it’s definitely not helpful to ignore mental health issues. “Toughen up” is not a solution.
We can’t solve any of those issues but we have written what we believe is a helpful article about the power of mantras. If you haven’t read “No room for fear or doubt”, here’s the link.
The results are in and we're batting 1.000
With apologies to those of you who don't understand baseball stats, we're excited at our success in tracking down meet results. Coaches, parents, meet directors and timers are all contributing links or results that help us build a complete results list at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/copy-of-results. While we'd love to have 100% of race results on athletic.net, we'll gladly accept e-mailed results. In addition to sharing the results with our followers, it also helps us develop our weekly rankings.
If you haven't visited the results page, you'll find it to be a useful resource. In addition to posting last week's results, we also post this week's meet schedule - which our Facebook and Twitter followers help us build every weekend. On top of that, if we're fairly certain that a Nerd photographer will be at the meet, we'll note their planned attendance on the meet listing.
The all-volunteer Nerd team hit another eight meets last week, overcoming Nerd Junior's unproductive week on a Jamaican beach. Our meets last week were Fremont, Arlington, Wahoo, Millard South, Kimball, Aurora (still in editing), Broken Bow and Omaha Central. All of our photos are posted on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/preprunningnerd but you can easily find a specific meet by going to our website at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/2022. Here are a few of our favorite pics from this past week:
To JV or not to JV... that is the question
We post nearly all of the photos we take, but we don't shoot every race at every meet we attend. While we love JV runners and endeavor to provide as many pictures as we can, we also have work and home lives to which we need to attend. So, for example, I shot the Millard South varsity races over my lunch hour but had to bug out before the JV races. On Thursday I arrived in Wahoo in time for the junior high races so I shot them, but I missed the JV races later in the day because I wanted to see Mrs. Nerd. We'll do the best we can, but an hour at a meet generally equates to three hours of editing - so we have our limits on much much Nerding we can fit into the week.
Races of the week
The Nerd team was on site for three great head-to-head races last week. We'll start off with Art Nerd's breakdown of the dual between Class D #1 Trey Robertson (Wallace) and #2 Jarrett Miles (NP St. Pat's) at the Chase County meet:
Trey Robertson and Jarrett Miles were meeting for the second time in the season and were joined by #3 Mason McGreer (Perkins County), #15 Porter Connick (NPSP) and watch-list Marcus Hernandez (Bertrand). The first 400 looked more like an open 800 rather than a 5K with Jarrett and Trey moving out front immediately. Trey and Jarrett hit the mile mark at 5:07 with Mason at roughly 5:20 and the rest of the leaders at 5:30. Jarrett pushed the second mile and managed to get a few steps ahead before Trey responded and took back the lead. By the 3K mark they had swapped positions several times, with each boy trading surges. They hit the 2-mile mark in 10:24 with Trey leading by a few steps, but Jarrett reclaimed the lead at 2.5 miles. Both boys began their sprint with 600 meters to go, and Jordon Stroup's video below captured the dogfight. Trey won the title in 16:26, edging Jarrett by 0.8 seconds. Jarrett notched a school record and a PR, and Trey improved his PR by 21 seconds in the second 5K of his career.
The Millard South meet is always packed with talent, and this year was no exception. In the girls' race, #2 ranked Mia Murray (Lincoln East) went out hard, taking a 30-meter lead over a pack of four Lincoln East girls (all ranked or on watch list) plus #3 Stella Miner (Westside), #4 Claire White (Westside), #7 Isabelle Hartnett (MWest) and #14 Kaitlyn Swartz (Papio South). By the 3300-meter mark, just before a 180-degree turn, Murray had a 5-meter lead over Miner. Over the next 200 meters, Stella turned that deficit into a 20-meter lead, exploding off of the downhill portion of the turn. The rest of the leaders were strung out by then, with White, Berlyn Schutz (Lincoln East), Peyton Svehla (East) and Hartnett behind the two leaders. Miner extended her lead slightly over the final 1500 meters, winning in 18:40. Murray finished 2nd in 18:48, followed by K-tape-sponsored White (19:04), Svehla and Schutz (both 19:15) and Hartnett (19:30). Miner and White typically don't lead from the start in competitive 1600-5k races, but it was still impressive to watch all of these ladies compete. While Miner didn't approach the course record of 18:11 (Emily Venters, Lawrence Free State), she earned back her preseason #2 ranking.
The boys' race featured NINE ranked boys, led by #2 Isaac Graff (Lincoln East) and #4 Zack Schultz (Millard North). At the mile mark, sixth-ranked Denny Chapman (Prep) had a 15- to 20-meter lead on pack of nine runners that included Graff, Schultz, #5 Piercze Marshall (MWest), #7 Jack Witte (MWest), #10 Max Myers (LSW), #12 Dalton Heller (MSouth), #13 Paul Youell (Prep) and #15 Bo Crews (Papio South). Little had changed by 2200 meters. However, by 3300 meters Graff had a few steps on Schultz and Myers, with Chapman 20-30 meters back. At 4400 meters, Schultz was on Graff's shoulder with Myers 20 meters back and Crews, Witte and Chapman at least 40 meters beyond Myers. The surprisingly large midday crowd was amped for a final sprint, but it did not happen; Schultz noted on Strava that his body seized up on the final hill 300 meters from the finish, and he eventually jogged to the finish line at the back of the field. Graff won in 15:54 followed by Myers (16:05), Witte (16:08), Crews (16:15) and Chapman (16:21). Would Chapman have had a faster time if he had ran with the pack? He likely would have. However, regular season races are for experimenting, and we're sure he learned quite a bit by going for broke.
Nerd Junior has been off the grid for about ten days due to his wedding and honeymoon, so Nerd the Third had to do exceptional work to keep the ratings machine rolling. We don't have Junior's fancy graphics, but Week 3 ratings are posted here. If you want to see all of the individual rankings and coaches' polls that have been published so far this year, just head to the rankings tab on our website.
There were no changes at the #1 spot this week, but Stella Miner (Westside) and Riley Boonstra (Norris) moved from #3 to #2 in their respective rankings. We'll give you slightly more detail in the next section.
Top o' the classes
Here's a brief rundown on the top ranked runners for each class:
Class A boys: #1 Isaac Ochoa (Norfolk) ran a solo 15:45 at Omaha Central on Saturday, while #3 Juan Gonzalez (Fremont) had considerably more company at the Fremont meet. Juan won in 15:45 followed by the Elkhorn South duo of #9 Luke Johnson (15:59) and #10 Grant Dixon (16:00). Isaac Graff (Lincoln East) remains at #2 with his 15:54 at Millard South (the same course Ochoa ran the next morning) and Zach Schultz (Millard North) remains at #4 despite his setback against Graff. Max Myers (LSW) jumps from 10th to 5th after his 16:05 2nd-place finish behind Graff.
Class A girls: #1 Jaci Sievers is still nursing an injury and has skipped the first two ElkSouth meets. Stella Miner (Westside) and Mia Murray (Lincoln East) flip #2 and #3 after Miner's win at Millard South. Claire White (Westside) remains at #4 with her 19:04 in the same race, while Marissa Holm (North Platte) takes over #5 on a coin flip after running 19:27 at Seward. Berlyn Schutz and Peyton Svehla (both Lincoln East) essentially tied at Millard South in 19:15, and they are now #6 and #7, respectively.
Class B Boys: Mesuidi Ejerso (South Sioux City) retains his #1 ranking after running 16:17 at the fast-and-flat Fremont course. Riley Boonstra (Norris) moves from #3 to #2 after his 16:51 win at the more difficult Pius course, while previous #2 Ian Salazar-Molina (Lexington) drops to the watch list after missing his second meet with an injury. Fear not, Lex, because Oscar Aguado-Mendez jumps in the #3 spot after winning the Kearney High invite in 16:22 and finishing 2nd at the Johnson Lake meet behind teammate Lazaro Adame-Lopez, who is now #6. (Lexington athletes are notoriously difficult to rank because the top 4 or 5 are interchangeable in weekly results - there doesn't seem to be a clear #1, #2 or #3.) Alex Rice (Skutt) stay at #4 after running 16:55 at the Millard South meet, a whisker ahead of brother and #5 Tommy Rice. Mason Houghton of Nebraska City stays at #7 after another strong win; we'd love to see him match up against Lex or Skutt to see how he fares.
Class B Girls: #1 Maddie Seiler (Gering) picked up another win at Chadron with her 18:53, while #2 Kassidy Stuckey (York) won Aurora in 19:07 a week after her 19:00 at Augustana. Ellie Thomas (Norris) remains at #3 after winning Pius in 20:25, and teammate Kendall Zavala stays in 4th with her 20:34. Atlee Wallman (also Norris) moves from #6 to #5 after finishing ahead of Zavala at Pius, while Gabriela Calderon (Bennington) falls from #5 to #6 after her 20:37 at the fast Fremont course.
Class C Boys: Carson Noecker (Hartington) ran a 15:01 at Norfolk Catholic last week, and had a good shot at breaking 15:00 this Monday at Wayne until he slipped on a transition from a bridge to concrete with about 400 meters to go. He finished in 15:21 despite the hard fall. Carter Hohlen (Lincoln Christian) stays at #2 after being the first Class C finisher (17:21) at Pius, while AJ Raszler moves up a spot to #3 after running 17:10 on a punishing Wahoo course. Noah Osmond (Broken Bow) moves from #6 to #4 after winning the Gothenburg meet in 17:04, topping three very solid Gothenburg runners including Parker Graves, who moves from #3 to #6. Lucas Gautier (Aurora) remains at #5 after being the first Class C finisher at Aurora in 17:09.
Class C Girls: Keeli Green (Arlington) retains her #1 spot after effectively tying teammate Hailey O'Daniel at the Arlo meet; Keeli had a rough go in the latter half of the race and likely would have dropped out if not for Hailey's encouragement. Keeli hasn't had a high-stakes meet yet, so we're looking forward to her match-up with #2 Lindee Henning (Ogallala), who is still on a sub-20:00 streak with her 19:45 win at Chase County. Sammy Rodewald (McCook) moves up a spot to 3rd after winning the Broken Bow meet in 19:58, while Lilly Kenning of Milford drops from #3 to #5 after a 21:34 outing at Milford. Talissa Tanquary (Sidney) improves from #5 to #4 after being the first Class C finisher at Chadron in 21:15. Most of the ranked runners will face off at the UNK meet on 9/26, so that will help sort out these rankings.
Class D Boys: Trey Robertson (Wallace) and Jarrett Miles (NPSP) keep their #1 and #2 spots after the epic race we described above, and Mason McGreer (Perkins County) stays at #3 after running a solo 17:07 in that same race. Justin Sherman (Cornerstone Christian) remains at #4 after cruising to an easy 19:00 win at Fremont Bergan; Cornerstone swept the top 3 spots. Raden Orton (North Central) improves to #5 after topping teammate and #6 Mason Hagan at Boyd County on a course that measured a bit short.
Class D Girls: Jordyn Arens (Crofton) followed up her speedy Augie season debut of 19:11 with a 19:12 at Norfolk Catholic, a course described by coaches as tough and fair. Hannah Swanson picks up her 3rd win this season with a two-minute win (20:51) at Centura. Angela Fricke (North Central) stays at #3 after winning at Boyd County. #4 Peyton Paxton (Mullen) appears to be getting back into racing shape, winning Chase County in 20:21 ahead of #7 Braelyn Gifford's (NPSP) 20:28. Anna Fitzgerald (Doniphan-Trumbull) moves up one spot to #5 after her 20:48 at Broken Bow, where she finished just behind #6 Katherine Kerrigan (Ainsworth) and ahead of Gifford. Should Kerrigan be ahead of Fitzgerald? Maybe. After eight blurry-eyed hours of working on rankings, we gave Fitzgerald the nod.
Spikes for low-income kids?
I ran into Gretna XC dad Kip Edmonds at Class of Metro and he posed a question. Would the public high school XC programs be interested in accepting slightly-used racing spikes for their low-income athletes? Like many XC families, the Edmonds have accumulated in their closets a number of still-usable spikes that probably won't be worn again. I'm guessing we have at least five pairs in our house.
I'm not looking for an extra task, but my discussion with Kip raises several good points that would require a business-minded approach to tackle:
a) Would high school coaches be interested in this program? Are used spikes useful, or are they are already getting used spikes from teammates or coaches?
b) How would the logistics work? Spikes sizing varies by brand, so how would needy athletes be matched with spikes?
c) Who decides the athletes who are eligible? I'm guessing you'd go with students eligible for free or subsidized lunches.
d) While running stores would be the logical place to drop off used spikes, this would reduce demand for new spikes. Would they be interested in helping?
e) What crazy-about-running volunteer wants to be inundated with slightly-smelly shoes at their house? Would parents be willing to dig through closets and mail the shoes to that volunteer?
If you're a coach, let me know your thoughts. If you're a potential volunteer, shoot me your contact info. My e-mail is email@example.com.
Pre-season previews - more interesting now?
We spent quite a bit of time writing the pre-season previews for each class, but sometimes they don't feel relevant until meets begin. If you missed the previews but are following race results, you may be interested in what we thought in August. Some observations have been spot on. Others, well, not so much. Here are the links:
Where are the Nerds?
With rankings published on Tuesday and the Nerdsletter posted on Wednesday, it's a tall order for several of us to photograph Monday and and Tuesday meets. We expect to hit the following meets this week: Bridgeport (CW Nerd), Harold Scott in Lincoln (Nerd Central for photos and Nerd HD will be taking some video), Waverly (Nerd HD), O'Neill (Hurdle Nerd) and the Woody Greeno collegiate meet in Lincoln (Nerd Junior, Nerd Senior and we'll be surprised if Dr. Nerd stays away) on Saturday. We'll also pick up at least one other meet close to Omaha on Thursday (Blair and Bennington are the two candidates), but we won't decide that until the Nerd family dinner tonight. Finally, CW Nerd may be covering the Alliance meet on Saturday if she finishes her ranch chores.
While all ten of us are Nerds, we do like to talk to people, so come chat with us or just yell out, "Hey Nerd, please take a picture of me!" That line worked for the Millard West girls on Friday.
Speaking of Mr. Greeno - a collegiate race
We suspect that the Woody Greeno meet being held at Mahoney Park on Saturday will be this fall's largest collection of Nebraska-native collegiate runners. Co-hosted by Wesleyan and UNL, the 2021 meet included squads from Doane, Bellevue, Midland, Creighton, Peru State, Southeastern CC and 15 other colleges, including many that feature Nebraskans (South Dakota, Wichita State, Iowa Western, etc.).
The men run at 10:00 a.m. and the women run at 10:50. Parking is $5. More info:
* As of Monday, 36 colleges (including 13 from Nebraska) were registered for the meet. The full list is at https://nwusports.com/documents/2022/9/14/GreenoDirksen_Teams_2022.docx.
* General meet info can be found at https://nwusports.com/documents/2022/9/6/Greeno-Dirksen_Information_2022.doc (ignore the start times on the website; the ones listed above are correct)
* The course map is at https://nwusports.com/documents/2022/9/6/Greeno_Dirksen5K_8KMap.jpg
* Parking instructions are at https://nwusports.com/documents/2022/9/7/Parking_Map.jpg
Fartleks (i.e., speed play)
* The planned Striv telecast of the Arlington meet did not happen this year due to technical difficulties, but we're still hoping other schools will take on this challenge at their home meets.
* If you have an elementary or junior high runner who is looking for something in addition to their school club/team, Nebraska offers a number of great USATF youth programs. Go to the state website at http://nebraskausatf.org/main/. You don't have to join a local club to race on Sundays, but your child will have to join the national USATF for $25. The race schedule is at http://nebraskausatf.org/main/?p=1560 and race registration is typically less than $10. The benefit to joining a club is to have training partners and a coach; Nerd Junior and Nerd the Third both had positive experiences with USATF clubs.
* We've become bro buddies with NebPreps, which provides killer coverage for Nebraska high school ball sports. Mike Sautter and Clark Grell are former newspaper guys who go above and beyond in terms of game coverage and recruiting news, and Tony Chapman seems to be at six sporting events at once - including his daughter's cross country meets. You should follow them on Twittter at @THEnebpreps or visit their website at www.nebpreps.com. We're just ten hobbyists who focus on running, but TheNebPreps guys are the real deal.
I have a radio face and a newspaper voice, but Rich Barnett of High Plains Radio in McCook keeps inviting me back for interviews about the Nerd life. We dropped our latest interview shortly after this Nerdsletter was published. Click here to listen to it. Rich and I talked about Carson Noecker, an epic Class D race last week, the best team in the State, and all the things I don't know - which is a really long list. Nobody is more excited about high school sports that Rich Barnett, so I'm honored to be his semi-regular guest.
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 shirts run a little small, but we're thrilled with the quality of the gear. Our store can be found here.
Do you see any errors, typos or key omissions? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.