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2023 Class B Boys XC preview

Contributors: Nerd the Third and Nerd Senior


For the 2023 season, Class B only includes 24 boys' program. Lincoln Pius, Omaha Westview and Omaha Buena Vista have opted up to Class A again this year, and Mount Michael has been pushed down to Class C as the 61st largest school. Roncalli has also dropped to Class C.


Top teams from 2022:

1. Lexington

2. Skutt

3. Blair

4. Norris

5. South Sioux City


Top returners from 2022:

1) Riley Boonstra, Norris (1st)

2) Tommy Rice, Skutt (4th)

3) Miguel Cruz, Lexington (5th)

4) Jack Wade, Skutt (6th)

5) Lazara Adame-Lopez, Lexington (9th)

6) Gus Lampe, Roncalli (10th) - Class C in 2023

7) Wyatt Behrens, Norris (11th)

8) Elijah Dix, Plattsmouth (12th)

9) Austin Carrera, Hastings (13th)

10) Bryce Carrillo, Gering (17th)

**) Braden Lofquest, Gretna (10th in Class A)


When we’re on the ball, we try to start these previews shortly after the track season since we have more free time and because the track season races are fresh in our minds. One thing stands out on the Class B boys scene: Riley Boonstra (senior, PRs of 4:18 and 9:39) of Norris is a monster. All three of the Class B boys distance races at the State track meet were fantastic races, and both the 1600 and 3200 were fairly tactical. Riley absolutely dominated the last lap of both races, winning with large margins and absurdly fast bell laps (55 and 56). If Boonstra was not the clear Class B favorite after his win last fall, he is now. He has the strength and the speed to take the drama out of the last mile in Kearney. Boonstra will have some help with returning teammate Wyatt Behrens (11th, senior) as well as the other four boys from the 2022 State team.


Braden Lofquest (Gretna East) snuck under the radar last fall as a relatively unknown sophomore. His 10th place finish in Class A at 2022 State XC ago speaks volumes about his talent. In the spring he blazed to a 1600 PR of 4:16 but finished 10th at the State meet in 4:27 – no doubt in part to the adrenaline spike he experienced after winning the Class A 800 title from the slow heat a few hours earlier. Only a junior, Lofquest’s future looks scary-bright. If Gretna East grows quickly, this may be their only year in Class B, so look for Lofquest to make a mark.


Tommy Rice (junior, 1:57/4:20/9:30 PRs) of Omaha Skutt had an incredible sophomore year, capped by the epic duals with Riley Boonstra in last May’s 1600/3200 State races. Tommy dropped his XC PR down to 16:15 last fall. His teammate Jack Wade was just behind Tommy at State XC, but Jack didn’t appear to run an individual race during track season until Districts. No worries though – his only two 1600’s of the season were at 4:31, and his opening split of 1:57 helped Skutt set a new Class B State and State Meet 4x800 record.


Lexington took the 2022 team title with four boys among the top nine finishers. We feel like we know Nebraska distance running pretty well, but last year we gave up predicting who would be the top Lex runners at each meet – or even who would run varsity on a given day. Miguel Cruz-Mendoza and Lazaro Adame-Lopez are returning medalists. Mendoza-Cruz ran 4:51/10:09 in the spring. Adame-Lopez established new PRs of 4:26/9:52 and finished 6th at State in both the 1600 and 3200.


Austin Carrera of Hastings? Yeah, he’s a dawg. Last XC season he accomplished his initial goal by joining the mid-season Nerd rankings and, despite being on crutches nine days before State AND missing the District meet, he justified the ranking by finishing 13th. He followed up with a phenomenal track season with PRs and school records of 4:24 and 9:33. However, at the State track meet he took a nasty spike during the 3200 and finished a disappointing (for him) 5th, but he came back with a solid 4:25 to earn 4th in the 1600 the following day. We expect him to take another step forward this season.


Elijah Dix (senior, 4:43/9:42 PRs) was Plattsmouth’s leader last year, finishing 12th in Kearney. He placed 14th in the 3200 this spring and has been putting in good mileage per Strava.


Bryce Carrillo of Gering raced sparingly last cross country season as well as this spring. He ran without fear at State XC and was in 2nd place at the first mile marker before finishing 17th. We will see if he has more consistency this fall.


Some other guys jump out at us due to strong track results: Ethan Walters (senior, 4:26 PR) of Elkhorn made huge gains as a junior, improving from 27th at State XC to 8th at State track in a competitive 1600 field. Calin O’Grady (junior, 2:03/4:28) of Bennington cut his 1600 PR by 11 seconds in 2023 and should be a strong medal contender this fall. Ryker Pithan (senior, 1:57/4:36) of Elkhorn North was largely an 800 specialist this spring, earning 6th place at State, dropping his PR from 2022 by a whopping five seconds. Look for him to move up from his 41st place finish in 2022.


Sam Talero (senior, 2:01/4:36) of Norris had a disappointing finish to his 2022 XC season, but he was on a roll in the middle of the track season. We’re also looking forward to seeing what Gregory Cockerill (junior, 4:35) and Jared Schroeder (sophomore, 4:37/10:15) of Waverly will do this year after promising spring campaigns.


We’ve scoured the junior high XC and track results – as limited as they are – and found a few boys who make may an impact this fall:


· Isac Portillo-Munoz of Lexington ran a jaw-dropping 4:36 1600 at the JH State meet… and got 2nd behind a boy from Gothenburg. Isac won the State XC title in October by a huge margin and should have the chops to earn a varsity spot on a talented team.

· Ethan Smith of GI Northwest ran 4:52 as an 8th grader. For comparison purposes, Nerd Junior ran a 4:49 as an 8th grader and as a freshman ended up the 4th runner on the Class A State championship team. Northwest only returns two competitors from its 2022 State team, but Ethan should help the team rebuild.

· Gerardo Hernandez-Tapia ran a 4:59 1600 this spring and appears to be headed to Elkhorn High.

· Cody Rice, one of 27 (give or take) Rice brothers to compete for Skutt, swept the PAL distance events with times of 2:18 and 5:00.

· Jesse Oltmans of Beatrice finished 8th at the JH State XC meet and his limited athletic.net profile lists PRs of 2:20/5:07.


Our predictions:

Nerd the Third: Boonstra makes it four state titles in twelve months. Braden Lofquest, Tommy Rice and Lazaro Adame-Lopez follow.


Nerd Senior: I see a tight race between Boonstra and Lofquest. Since both have killer foot speed, I think the title is determined in the last 50 meters if they both have good days. I expect either Tommy Rice, Austin Carrera or a Lexington runner to round out the top four. Which Lexington runner? I have no idea.


Team race:

Lexington and Skutt have been the top two teams for the past six years. Lexington returns three competitors from the 2022 State meet - Miguel Cruz-Mendoza, Laz Adame-Lopez and Anthony Taracena. As noted above, they also add at least one strong freshman. Unfortunately, Lexington's squad does not include senior Ian Salazar, which is disappointing; although he was injured last fall, he swept the Class B 1600/3200 titles in 2022 and finished 7th in the 3200 (10:04) in 2023.


Skutt returns Tommy Rice, Jack Wade, McCoy Hausler and Barrett Jurgensen. Hausler finished 9th and 6th at State XC his first two years before a 25th-place finish in 2022; he had PRs of 1:59/4:39 in the spring. In addition to freshman Cody Rice, senior Jack Germany (4:52/10:30) and sophomore Lincoln Wolfe have been improving since March and could be in the mix for a varsity spot. If Hausler is healthy, Skutt may just need a top-120 finish from their 4th runner to threaten Lexington's grip on the title.


For the first time in years, there’s a third team that has a legitimate chance for a podium spot. Norris returns all six competitors from last year’s State team – Boonstra, Behrens, Talero, Eli Van Brocklin, Dalton Weber and Cole Bare. The team is healthy and training well, so we’ll have a better feel from them by the end of September.


Among the other 2022 team qualifiers, Hastings returns their entire squad, Gering, Seward and Plattsmouth return 5 of 6, and Elkhorn North 4 of their top 5.


Our predictions:

Nerd the Third: Skutt comes out on top followed by Lexington and Norris.


Nerd Senior: I predict the winner will need to have their top four finishers as medalists. In my opinion, Lexington’s consistent pattern of ‘next man up’ will carry them through to another title even if a key runner gets hurt. Skutt will be a close second but… and this is a big but… if the stars align, both Skutt and Norris have the building blocks to do something special. Among the rest of the field, Hastings, Gering and Elkhorn North appear have the best odds to make the top 5.


******


First published at www.preprunningnerd.com by Jay Slagle on August 21, 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, the Articles tab for long-form articles, 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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