Updated: Aug 24
Contributors: Nerd the Third and Nerd Senior
3. Lincoln Christian
5. DC West
1) Lindee Henning, Ogallala (2nd)
2) Lilly Kenning, Milford (3rd)
3) Talissa Tanquary, Sidney (4th)
4) Olivia Lawrence, Platteview (5th)
5) Liston Crotty, Auburn (6th)
6) Hailey O’Daniel, Arlington (7th)
7) Sienna Dutton, McCook (8th)
8) Maelie Nelson, Fort Calhoun (11th)
9) Emma Cappel, McCook (12th)
10) Alexis Ericksen, Aurora (13th)
This list may not be complete, but I have found the following changes that impact Class C:
· Omaha Roncalli drops from Class B to the sixth-largest Class C school. In 2022 they were a co-op with Omaha Brownell Talbot for XC, and now Brownell Talbot is competing on its own in Class D.
· Palmyra was in Class D in 2022 but has moved up to Class C for XC in 2023.
· Gibbon, Nebraska Lutheran and Valentine have moved from Class C to Class D.
· Sandy Creek has deconsolidated (is that even a word?) from Lawrence-Nelson, so there is no longer a South Central team. Notably, this means that returning medalist Rowan Jarosik will now compete for Sandy Creek in Class D.
Keeli Green of Arlington only ran two years of XC but she made the most of it, capturing the Class C titles in 2021 and 2022. While she and the other seniors have graduated, there’s no shortage of talent among the 17 top-25 finishers from 2022 who return this fall.
Lindee Henning of Ogalalla had the unfortunate luck of arriving in high school XC just as Keeliee Green was turning her back on softball. She’s had an exceptional first two XC seasons, finishing as runner-up both years, and State XC was the only meet she lost in 2022. She was also a consistent performer in track in 2023, taking her PRs down to 5:22 and 11:27 in route to winning two State medals.
Lilly Kenning of Milford may have racked the most races of any Nebraska distance runner between January and July. Normal humans would have gotten tired, but her 1600 times included a 5:15 in January, a 5:13 in March, a 5:15 in May and June, and a converted 5:08 in July. She netted three silver medals at State, running 2:15 (PR), 5:15 and 11:39 (PR). As if that wasn’t enough, she opened State with a 2:18 split in the 4x800. From 2022 to 2023 she improved her 1600 PR by 24 seconds and her 3200 by 37 seconds.
Talissa Tanquary of Sidney focuses on mid-distance during track season, posting PRs of 1:01 and 2:24. In her first three State XC meets she’s finished 12th, 4th and 4th, and she seems to be on track to have another high finish. She set her track PRs of 59.7 and 2:19.6 as a freshman but has performed consistently on the track throughout high school. How consistent has she been? In her three State XC performances, her finishing times have been 20:18, 20:16 and 20:10 despite significant differences in weather conditions. Her three UNK times? They are 20:20, 20:27 and 20:24. You can set your watch by Talissa.
Olivia Lawrence and Lydia Stewart of Platteview are medal prospects in 2023. Olivia finished 5th last year while Lydia was 17th. Both girls were ranked in 7 of the 8 weeks last fall, with the girls trading top finishes on their team. Olivia’s track bests were 2:35/5:46 while Lydia ran 2:25/12:12. It’s great to have two evenly matched training partners, so look for both girls to excel this fall.
Auburn returns a number of top runners including medalist Liston Crotty (6th last fall as a freshman) and juniors Kristen Billings and Lilyan Becker. Crotty and Becker appear to play another sport in the spring, but Billings threw down PRs of 5:33 and 12:13 in the spring.
Hailey O’Daniel of Arlington ran in Keeli Green’s shadow for much of last fall’s XC season, but she used her 7th place finish at State XC to have a spectacular track season. She reduced her 800 PR by 7 seconds to 2:25 and her 1600 PR by 18 seconds to 5:16, earning a 5th place finish at State. Because it’s apparently something that Arlington distance runners do, Hailey also qualified for State in the long jump. She’s got the second fastest 1600 PR in the Class C XC field, so we may see her take a step up this year.
Both Sienna Dutton and Emma Cappel (above) of McCook were ranked at different times last year, but they weren’t ranked or on the watch list in our final pre-State ranking. So… that confirms that we’re not very smart. Sienna had a season-best 2:26 during track season while Emma ran 2:27 and 5:25. Team leader and perpetual grinder Samantha Rodewald has graduated and is now competing for Chadron State, but Sienna and Emma have the chops to make McCook a contender.
Fort Calhoun has a history of developing strong distance runners, and Maeli Nelson had a strong freshman campaign. In addition to her 11th place medal, she had PRs of 2:32 and 5:48 on the track.
Alexis Ericksen and Ella Eggleston of Aurora were a one-two punch for much of the 2022 season. Ella finished 31st at State, which is not reflective of how we she ran all year, while Alexis finished 13th. Ella was very active during the informal winter indoor season, running a 2:31, and she ran 2:35 and 5:37 during the outdoor season. Alexis posted season-bests of 5:58 and 12:46.
Class C had a very strong freshman class in 2022, including Addison Strong of DC West. She was ranked 14th or 15th the last four weeks of the year before finishing 18th at State XC. She has no track results so we’re going to guess that she’s a soccer player. Her teammate Ava Grimm finished 41st at 2022 State XC but saw big improvements this spring when she ran 5:40 and 12:35.
Other top returners include Eva Daniell (19th in 2022, PRs of 2:33/5:49/12:38) of Lincoln Christian and Faith Jipp (28th, 5:43/12:25) of Omaha Concordia. Sawyer Benne of Lincoln Lutheran (23rd, 2:31/5:37) was expected to be a medal contender in Class C - but Lincoln Lutheran will be competing in Class D this fall.
A key newcomer is Hailey Hengtgen of Palmyra, which has moved up from Class D. She finished 19th last fall in Class D, and this spring she qualified for State track in both the 1600 (5:40) and 3200 (12:13). Teammate and fellow sophomore Bella Chambers ran 2:36/5:46 in the spring but does not have XC results from last fall, so she may be a volleyball player.
Our search for incoming freshman wasn’t particularly productive. We found two but we absolutely expect at least two unknown freshman to find their way into the rankings this season:
· Jaelyn Witter who finished 10th at JH State XC and ran a 6:04 1600 this spring. She’ll be attended Kearney Catholic.
· Emma Williams of North Bend Central ran an exceptional 5:29 1600 this spring. Athletic.net doesn’t reflect any junior high cross country results for Emma, so she may be headed to the volleyball team.
Nerd the Third: Can we just say that someone with a name ending in 'enning' will win? No? Based on 3200 PRs, I’ll put my money on Lindee Henning to win the title, followed closely by Lilly Kenning and Hailey O’Daniel.
Nerd Senior: I’ll give the nod to Lilly Kenning based on the steep trajectory she recorded in the last twelve months. My one caveat: she started competing in January and raced deep into the summer, so I’m assuming that she had a rest period after the AAU National meet. I think Henning finishes second, but the reality is that they’re evenly matched and the girl who feels the best that day will probably win. I don’t feel like we collected a lot of data from the track season that allows us to make any predictions beyond projecting Hailey O’Daniel in third. The positive to that is that it’s going to be a very competitive State meet.
Like nearly everyone else, we expected McCook or Lincoln Christian to take the 2022 title, but we know that top athletes occasionally red-line too long and don’t finish the race. The Wayne team emerged from a crowded field to top Auburn by two points. Unfortunately, Wayne lost their #2 finisher to graduation and their #1 and #3 finishers, Jala and Kyla Krusemark, to Class D Pender by way of transfers. Those transfers blow open the Class C team race.
Auburn returns all six of its 2022 State competitors and is arguably the frontrunner in the title race. However, Kristen Billings is the only one of their top three with 2023 track times, so it’s difficult to judge their progression since last October.
Lincoln Christian returns five of six 2022 State competitors including Eva Daniell (2:33/5:49/12:38), Riley Dallman (6:02), Joslyn Schneider (6:11) and Annie Hueser (6:11). All of these girls except Eva had very limited track results on Athletic.net. Lincoln Christian has a great program so it seems likely that they’ll have a tight top four by Districts.
DC West finished 5th in 2022 and returns five of six competitors, including Addison Strong (no track results), Ava Grimm (5:40/12:35), Maria Malousek (2:28/5:48), Olivia Malousek (6:03) and Joslyn Giles (6:32).
McCook returns medalists Sienna Dutton (2:26) and Emma Cappel (2:27/5:25) as well as Brecken Gale (37th, 6:13) and Megan Miller (6:40).
Platteview has two medal contenders in Olivia Lawrence and Lydia Stewart. Can they find a third and fourth runner to push them onto the podium?
Fort Calhoun returns four of their top five from 2022 with Maeli Nelson and Bria Bench leading the way. Hailey O’Daniel leads five returners from Arlington, while Aurora and Sidney also return five athletes. Kearney Catholic finished 15th in 2022 but returns all six girls and adds at least one strong freshman.
Nerd the Third: Flip a coin.
Nerd Senior: I’ll go out on a limb and say that Lincoln Christian and DC West battle for the title, followed by a dogfight between Aurora, Arlington, McCook and Auburn. The winning team will have to have their top two girls race better than last year AND they’ll need to go five deep to account for at least one teammate having a bad day.
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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.