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10/04/23 Nerdsletter

Contributors: Nerd Senior and Nerd the Third

Learning a lesson, part 1

September was a big month in the Nerd family: Mrs. Nerd and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary a few weeks after Nerd Junior and Nerd Ever After celebrated their first. The world has changed drastically in the 27 years between those two marriages but one thing hasn't: the Omaha Archdiocese still requires couples to go through marriage preparation in the months before their wedding.

As it did for us in 1995, Nerd Junior's marriage preparation process largely consisted of two components: (a) the bride- and husband-to-be each complete a lengthy FOCCUS inventory instrument, and (b) a facilitator has a series of meetings with the two to discuss the results. The FOCCUS instrument isn't a test, but rather is designed to assess each partner's viewpoints on hot-button issues like money matters, child-rearing and spousal roles that can lead to marital conflict. During our sessions our priest spent time focusing on the items that Mrs. Nerd and I answered differently, but he also spent considerable time asking us how we planned to get through rough patches.

Since humans often model behavior based on what they have observed, the priest asked me about my parents' conflict resolution approach. Because I was the last kid at home, I told him that for a few years I infrequently found myself in the role of communicating my mother's displeasure to my father (or vice versa), and then returning to my mom with my father's response. The priest listened intently and then replied with the obvious question: "And based on those experiences, how do you plan to resolve disagreements with your wife?"

"That's easy," I replied quickly. "We plan to have children as soon as possible so one of them can be our mediator."

The priest guffawed. Mrs. Nerd looked like she wanted to punch me.

Of course, Father Partusch wanted to know that the two of us could learn from watching others, and most days I do a pretty good job of that. (If the TV is on, however, then all bets are off. My wife could be screaming 'fire' and I'd still be fixated on watching John Wick 2 for the 50th time.)

How good are you at learning lessons in the world of running? By this point in the season, most of you have had two months of training and raced at least five times. What have you learned about fueling before a practice or race? Do you adjust your hydration strategy on hot days? When the coach tells you to rest up, do you stay off your feet but then stay up late playing video games? What about race strategy? If you're the 4th girl on your team, are you settling into the pack or darting out to the front before feeling exhausted by 1000 meters?

You have entered championship season. Conference meets this week, Districts next week and, for the fortunate few, the State meet on October 20. You're got a few aches and pains. You're more tired than you were in August. The new variant of COVID is flying around your community. What's your strategy to arrive at the starting line healthy, rested and confident?

Haven't learned those lessons yet? Talk to your coach or a trusted mentor on your team. Now is not the time to wing it.

Learning a lesson, part 2

I had a text exchange on Monday with an experienced sports dad who is relatively new to cross country. I asked him a simple question: now that you've been through almost three seasons of cross country, how has your perspective changed? His answer: "I follow the sport more closely since ____ has become more competitive, but I think I'm a worse father on race day worrying whether ____ will be happy with the result. I'll try to fix that the next three weeks and just enjoy the ride."

Based on that exchange, I posed a question on our Facebook page asking parents of 'retired' runners what lessons they would share with parents of current runners. The post generated more free-form comments than anything we've posted in a while, so here are a few suggestions:

* Show up early for meets and stay late. Watch how your athletes interact with others when they're not racing. For most kids, that's the best part of cross country.

* Be there, no matter how small the race. While you're there, cheer for every competitor, not just the kids from your school.

* Let the coach be the coach. Lay on the positive feedback. Be your athlete's biggest fan.

* For the back-of-the-pack kids, ask them: "Did you finish, did you improve, did you do your best?"

* Don't focus on medals. You can't want it more than they do. The real value of the sport is developing the confidence that comes from becoming something more than they were before they started.

* Celebrate PRs. Celebrate long runs. Celebrate the end of the season.

* Expect your child to fail, especially when they make bad decisions. Self discovery is a crucial part of distance running.

* Don't push too hard. Runners do best when they love the sport, and a parent can squeeze the joy from it. Few runners earn valuable scholarships; the best part of running collegiately is the new community they will join.

* Offer to support them - arrange for running windows while on vacation, offer to drive them to an off-season race, be clear you'll buy good running shoes - but let them decide whether to take advantage of those things.

* If the school needs drivers, volunteer and then avoid the temptation to talk. Just listen to the kids talk.

* Enjoy every minute of this. It goes by too quickly.

If you're an intense parent and need a little perspective, here's my suggestion. Commit to training for and racing a timed 1600 at full effort on your local track, and ask your athlete to help you prepare for it. Pick a random day and enlist them to be your pacer. They'll love to be your coach and you'll realize - starting at around 800 meters - that the 'hopeless-I'm-going-to-die' feeling you're having is pretty much what your athlete experiences during a race. You'll realize that "Go faster" and "You can try harder" are not helpful things to say, but maybe "You're doing great" and "Go ____" are much better alternatives.


We've updated our results page at with links to 21 high school and junior high meets that were held last week. Our followers have been rock stars about forwarding results to us, and the data helps us make better-informed choices when we prepare the weekly rankings. Nerd the Third has prepared a list of notable results further down in the Nerdsletter.

District assignments

The District assignments for all four classes are now posted on the NSAA website for boys (click here) and girls (click here). While dates have been finalized, times are not fully set. Most meets will start in the afternoon to allow for teams to travel in the morning.

Class A and B assignments are based on a team's two fastest meets, using average times for the top 5 scorers for Class A and top 4 scores for Class B. If you want to know more about the seeding process, you can read a long and very boring article I wrote in 2020 about the Class A seeding process. Because the NSAA wants the boys and girls team for a high school team to compete at the same District site, they alternate between using the boys' seeding times and the girls' seeding times. In 2023, the seeding is based on the boys' data. If they have more than one District meet at a location, the NSAA can shift the girls teams around to make the District assignments equitable. If you want to really dig into the data, here is the seeding data for 2023:

I believe the Class A and B seeding approach is the best option for Districts rather than assigning teams based on geography. For example, Class C Districts are established based on geography, and the C-1 District currently has four ranked teams. A few parents have observed that C-1 is loaded - reminiscent of the "Massacre at the Mount" District meet a few years ago that led Class B to move to a seeding approach - and that may be the case. We think geography-based assignments are not as fair, and yet some coaches prefer it; one coach just told me that her team is at a disadvantage because they have a long bus ride the morning of Districts.

The NSAA is a member-driven organization so any athletic director can propose a better solution. For Class A and B, I'm not sure there is one.


We've released Week 5 rankings at (A big thanks to Nerd Junior for knocking out the ratings graphics you saw on social media in the midst of dealing with COVID.) You may recall that we reflected the UNK results in the Week 4 rankings, so there weren't many changes from Week 4 to Week 5. Our theory is that runners should be rewarded for running well and winning head-to-head match-ups in big meets, so we give more weight to the UNK results than the smaller meets that occurred at the end of the week. However, in addition to correcting a few oversights from Week 4 (e.g., Liston Crotty in Class C), we did have a few athletes who had their best two performances of the year at UNK and their meet later in the week - and that second performance might have pushed them a little further up the rankings.

Photos and videos

All of our UNK photos are posted now - all 3000+ of them - and you can find links to the photos for the entire year at We've published the race videos for Class A and C on YouTube, and Class B and D are on their way.

As of now, we don't plan on filming at the State high school meet, but the Nerd video team does plan to be at the State Junior High meet at Papio South on Saturday, October 7. In terms of race environment, the State junior high meet is second only to the State high school meet. Even if you don't have an athlete competing, please consider attending. Carson Noecker and Jordyn Arens are just a few of the high school State champs who got their start at the junior high meet.

In terms of photos, the Nerd crew was hard at work all week. This is grind season so we're a bit behind, but new meet albums are dropping nearly every day on Facebook. In addition to UNK, last week we were also at Crofton, Morton Middle School, Millard West, Columbus and York. This week we're tentatively scheduled to shoot at least eight meets. By my count, we've been to 56 cross country meets this season, and we're hoping to be at 80 by November. Our Nerds are on their A-games, and here are a few of their great ones:

Millard West (Nerd Dawg)

Millard West (Nauj Nerd)

York (Nerdlee)

Crofton (Bloomin' Nerd)

A happy ending

A few weeks ago I wrote a long article about Memphis Zabawa, the Millard North Middle School boy who on September 8th had a cardiac arrest near the end of a race at Walnut Grove. After a series of extensive tests, he was cleared to race again last Friday. Three weeks to the day after he nearly died, he had an uneventful race to close out his season.

The Zabawas agreed to share their deeply personal story to encourage the running community to sign up for CPR classes and to push for AEDs at practices and sporting events. One week after I published the article, a high school coach shared in an e-mail that their school agreed to buy an AED last spring but it didn't get ordered until they read the story about Memphis. Their new AED will accompany their XC and T&F teams to every practice and meet; the school is also applying for a grant to purchase AEDs for the other teams in their school. The Zabawas couldn't be happier.

Columbus and corn fields

I haven't had the opportunity to go to a Columbus High or Columbus Scotus cross country meet but Joyful Nerd made the trip last Friday. The high schools rent a field from a local farmer for the meet. It's a pasture until early September when the field is mowed and holes are filled with dirt. Athletes run under a center pivot, behind a barn, around hay bales and through a field of alfalfa. They also run next to either a corn field or a bean field; the farmer alternates between the two crops. A few weeks ago Joyful Nerd told me she was excited because "this is a corn year so the pictures will be better." She was spot on. I've included a few of her pictures below but you can find all of the Columbus shots on our Facebook page.

PRR and Blazing Tiger

The second annual collegiate Platte River Rumble will be held on Friday, October 13 at Mahoney State Park starting at 1:00 p.m. with the women's race. Participating teams include hosts UNO and Creighton, Nebraska, Marquette, South Dakota State second team, UNK second team, Bellevue, Benedictine, Buena Vista, Cloud County, Iowa Western and Peru State. Due to the smaller size of the meet, parking is available on site by with an annual or daily park pass.

The Blazing Tiger NAIA meet will be held on Saturday, October 21 at Mahoney State Park. The women's field will include the #1, #3, #6, #7, #8, #15 and #27 ranked teams in the NAIA. On the men's side the field will include #4, #5, #7, #13, #15, #24 and #29 ranked teams. Southern Oregon, College of Idaho, and Taylor (IN), will be making the trip. Because the GPAC is such a great conference, there has been muted criticism that Nebraska teams don't race against strong teams from other regions prior to the national meet. The Blazing Tiger meet certainly addresses that issue.

Follow-up on the high school PRR

The high school PRR course was professionally measured (again) on 10/3/23 and the Omaha Sports Commission will issue the results once the engineering firm has finished computing them. Suffice it to say that no course has been measured more often this fall than the PRR course. If you've forgotten the controversy, you can read our 9/13/23 Nerdsletter for the background story.

The NSAA stepped in a few weeks ago and decided that the PRR results should not be submitted for the Class A and B District seeding. To my knowledge, no other courses were subject to this extra scrutiny and, as I noted in the 9/13/23 Nerdsletter, I don't have a high degree of confidence that most courses are within +/- 20 meters of the stated 5000 meters.

Post-season racing for all ages

(Info provided to us by USATF Nebraska) As part of the First Annual Nebraska XC Festival, USATF Nebraska is excited to announce that the 2023 Nebraska XC 5k Open & Masters Championships on November 5 in Beatrice will be the featured race and the 2023 USATF Nebraska XC Junior Olympics will be our anchor event, kicking off the inaugural XC Festival!

You can learn more and sign up online at As we grow the event in coming years we hope to include Coaching clinics that feature the areas top college and High School coaches. One of the first clinics will be aimed at helping middle school XC coaches with foundational training for their programs.

The course will be open at 11am for coarse walk through. Races start at 12pm with the USATF Nebraska Junior Olympic Championships. All following races will be a rolling start. The Open & Masters race registration fee is $25. Youth registration is only $8. There will be $200 prize for each winner, $100 for each 2nd place finisher and $75 dollars for each person that comes in 3rd. The prize money is for both the Open and Masters top three women and men. You must be a USATF Member to qualify for the prize money.

ATTENTION: All High School XC runners and coaches. This race will be a great tuneup for the Nike NXR Heartland Regionals that will take place the following week on 11.12.23 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Our race annually features some of the areas top professional, semi professional and former collegiate runners participating in our championships.

Admission to the event is free for all USATF Members. For the free admission you must show your USATF Membership card, this includes all adults, coaches and athletes. For all non-USATF members entry is only $5. To become a USATF member you can go to

Notable results

Nerd the Third scoured our website for the most impressive results of the week:

Crofton Invitational:

Luke Woockman (Bloomfield/Wausa), 17:37

Jordyn Arens (Crofton), 21:03


Juan Gonzalez (Fremont), 15:38

Jack Witte (MW), 15:53

Dalton Heller (MS), 15:57

Wes Pleskac (Fremont), 16:08

Riley Boonstra (Norris), 16:12

Braden Lofquest (GE), 16:14

Porter Bickley (MW), 16:31

Austin Carrera (Hastings), 16:32

Dylan Lender (MS), 16:33

Kaden Boltz (GI), 16:34

Gus Lampe (Roncalli), 16:43

AJ Raszler (Platteview), 16:47

Tyler Hetz (Gothenburg), 16:47

Mason McGreer (Perkins County),

Carter Hohlen (Lincoln Christian), 16:52

Elijah Goodell (Perkins County), 16:57

Mia Murray (LE), 18:36

Kassidy Stuckey (York), 18:56

Kaitlyn Swartz (Papio South), 19:00

Kendall Zavala (Norris), 19:04

Ella Ford (Elk North), 19:10

Abigail Burger (Kearney), 19:19

Kate Ebmeier (MW), 19:26

Lindee Henning (Ogallala), 19:31

Ellie Thomas (Norris), 19:32

Kara Muller (BW), 19:39

Tessa Greisen (Seward), 19:43

Lily Kenning (Milford), 19:48

Peyton Svehla (LE), 19:50

Gracie Suppes (Papio), 19:55

Talissa Tanquary (Sidney), 20:14

Liston Crotty (Auburn), 20:30

Hannah Swanson (Nebraska Christian), 20:46

Mark Matthews Invitational:

Peyton Paxton (Mullen), 20:48

Gothenburg Invite:

Tyler Hetz (Gothenburg), 17:06

Emma Cappel (McCook), 21:07

West Holt Invite:

Delani Runnels (NV), 20:19

Angela Frick (North Central), 20:42

York Invitational:

Austin Carrera (Hastings), 16:59

Columbus Invite:

Wes Pleskac (Fremont), 16:26

Juan Gonzalez (Fremont), 16:26

Isaac Ochoa (Norfolk), 16:29

Liam Gonzalez (Norfolk), 16:37

Kara Muller (BW), 20:00

Chloe Hemmer (Fremont), 21:05

LPS City Meet:

Max Myers (LSW), 16:11

Easton Zastrow (LNS), 16:39

Caleb Ruch (LE), 16:54

Mia Murray (LE), 18:39

Hope Riedel (LNS), 19:12

Sadie Yager (LE), 20:20

Peyton Svehla (LE), 20:23

Millard West:

Dalton Heller (MS), 15:51

Jack Witte (MW), 16:16

Eli Jones (Prep), 16:22

Dylan Lender (MS), 16:24

Porter Bickley (MW), 16:25

Kaitlyn Swartz (Papio South), 18:46

Kate Ebmeier (MW), 19:23

Abbigail Durow (MS), 19:42

Bearcat Invite:

Axton Stone (Gering), 16:54

Rich Ziegler Invite:

David Krier (Pius), 17:13

Joe Dustin (Pius), 17:13

George Ivanov (Pius), 17:13

Liston Crotty (Auburn), 20:16

Norah Stewart (Pius), 20:25

Live the Nerd lifestyle

We introduced the Nerd clothing line in Spring 2022 as a joke, and then ordered a ton of t-shirts last fall that are still cluttering up Fashion Nerd's old bedroom. She can't visit until we sell all of the t-shirts, so do the Nerd a solid and take a look at our store at


First published at by Henry Slagle and Jay Slagle on October 4, 2023. If you find an error, shoot us an e-mail at and we'll get it fixed.

Like this coverage of Nebraska high school distance running? 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. 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

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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