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State Day 1 musings

Contributor: The Nerd

The State track meet is hectic so we often don't have much time to think, but here are a few observations from Day 1.

Lazarus Thompson

RaeAnn Thompson of Falls City has been a bit beat up this season, not unusual for a sprinter/jumper, but she's earned three State sprint golds over the last two seasons so you can't count her out. On Wednesday she looked in good form in the 100 prelims when she ran 12.53 to qualify 4th for the finals on Thursday. However, she limped to the starting block for the 400 that was held about two hours later, and she struggled through a 1:11 with what appeared to be a hamstring issue, finishing well behind the other runners. Imagine our surprise when she returned to the starting line for the 200 prelims at the end of the day, finishing 3rd in her heat and qualifying for the finals with the sixth-fastest time. She's already come back from the dead, so who knows what she'll do on Thursday?

Good tears

I covered the Class A Districts at Columbus last Tuesday and caught an image of Elizabeth Wemhoff of Columbus in tears after she qualified for State in the 100. I asked her later in the day why she had cried, and she responded that she didn't expect to qualify for State after the disappointment she had at her injury-filled freshman Districts. On Wednesday, Elizabeth qualified for the 200 finals with the 2nd-fastest time in prelims, winning her heat, and her 100 time was the fourth fastest in prelims. I'm wondering if more good tears were shed.

Rain and lightning

During the 3200 races I caught up with my good friend and top-notch official Donald Softley of Grant. He was the official starter at the C9 Districts on Thursday that started at Grant and, after 4-5 hours of intermittent weather delays, was moved to Ogallala for a late-night finish. I had seen videos of pouring rain at the Ogallala site, so I asked him why the meet was moved. His response: "Grant had rain and lightning, and Ogallala only had rain." He had nothing but good things to say about the meet organizers and timers who moved an entire track meet 20 miles to the north with little notice.

Some of our followers have questioned whether it was fair that the C9 athletes had to battle harsh conditions while much of the rest of the Class C Districts were held in better weather. Some observed that the weather was known well in advance and that a Wednesday or Friday meet would have been more fair to the athletes. The assumption is that the weather negatively impacted the at-large qualifiers that are selected for State, although I haven't looked to see what came out of that District. All good points, but it is my understanding that all Class C meets had to be held on Thursday per the NSAA.

She's Wade fast

Kennedy Wade of Bennington broke the Class B State and State meet record during the 200 prelims, running 24.54. The NSAA website has already been updated but I believe she was also the previous record holder. After running all of the sprints north to south on Wednesday, the track officials switched the 200 from south to north in the midst of what seemed to be calm conditions. The officials were right; Wade was helped by a slight 0.9 m/s tailwind, well below the allowable 2.0 m/s.

Also of note, Kennedy was the third-fastest qualifier in the Class B 100 prelims. She actually flinched during the 'set' period of the starter's instructions in the 100, but she flinched so early that the starter called up the field before the gun was fired. If she had flinched a fraction of a second later, she likely would have been DQ'd. She has a knack for good timing.

He called his shot

Sam Cappos of Lincoln East and I are DM buddies on Twitter, and he's been telling me that the Class A State meet record was his to break. Indeed it was. He threw 63-9.75 today to break Larry Station's record. Larry competed for Omaha Central and the University of Iowa, and was generally considered to be an athletic freak. That's a great record to break.

A tale of four 3200s

There wasn't much drama in the Class A and B girls 3200 races today. Jaci Sievers of Elkhorn South and Maddie Seiler of Gering had gapped the rest of the field by 400 meters, and they ran alone for the entire race. Sievers has long aimed at the Class A 3200 record of 10:23 set by Emily Sisson in 2008, but the heat, cloudless sky and relatively high humidity worked against her. Jaci finished in 10:36, followed by Claire White of Westside in 11:00.

Maddie Seiler has been a one-woman wrecking crew this year and appeared to be shooting for a similarly fast time, with the Class B record sitting at 10:27. The solo running and weather also impacted Maddie, who won in 11:00 with Lindee Henning of Ogallala winning a tight battle with Kassidy Stuckey (York) and Ella Ford (Elkhorn North) for 2nd in 11:27.

We expected a sub-9:00 attempt in the Class A 3200 but ended up with a very tactical race. Juan Gonzalez of Fremont took over the lead fairly early in the race but did not seem intent on pushing the pace, and I believe all 24 boys were bunched together at the 1600 split between 4:56 and 5:05. The leaders turned up the screws from that point on, and six boys were in the title hunt with 800 to go: Gonzalez, Jack Witte (MW), Denny Chapman (Prep), Porter Bickley (MW), Piercze Marshall (MW) and Max Myers (LSW). Gonzalez, Witte and Chapman separated from the pack by 400. Witte took the victory with a 57-second final lap, finishing in 9:19, followed by Gonzalez (9:21) and Chapman (9:23). Witte had previously run the anchor leg of the 4x800 and has the 800 and 1600 on tap for Thursday. He's probably the favorite in both races, particularly after that blistering final lap in the 3200.

Speaking of blistering final laps, Riley Boonstra of Norris one-upped Witte in the Class B race, splitting a 55-second lap to win in 9:39. Tommy Rice of Skutt ran a 60-second final lap, which ought to be good enough to win a race, and he finished second in 9:44. Gus Lampe of Roncalli had taken out the 3200 with a hard pace but no one really went with him, and Boonstra ran splits of 5:04/4:35 for the win. Lampe finished 4th with a gutty performance. (Editor's note: we could have posted a picture of Riley crossing the finish line but the one above seemed more important.)

4x8 is great

The Elkhorn North girls and Skutt boys both broke Class B State and meet records. Since it opened a few years ago, Elkhorn North has fielded a crazy great mid-distance team, and it did so again despite missing Britt Prince from last year's team (Prince was injured in the Class B title game back in March and has not competed this spring). Elkhorn North ran 9:27 to break the previous record of 9:29.

The Skutt boys obliterated the previous record of 7:55.54, running 7:49.18. Our all-time records are a little outdated, but we think that on the all-class all-time charts, that performance could be good for 7th. All four boys ran out of their minds but the demonstrates why Skutt has been such a force in cross country the last decade. They have serious depth.

The Lincoln East girls did not break their own Class A record of 9:12 from 2018, finishing today with a 9:13. Berlyn Schutz ran an anchor leg of 2:10. It seems like the Spartans have this every year, but the 2023 version of their 4x800 squad was a dream team. They didn't break the record but we're big fans.

The Burke boys were not on our radar for the 4x800 title, but they were in the mix early despite not having much State experience on their squad. They were in 6th place with 800 to go, but Reed Emsick ran a 1:51 anchor to just edge Jack Witte in Millard West for the win. Burke's 7:55 was by far their best effort of the season, and it happened on their home track. That fact wasn't lost on Emsick who, if I can read lips, said "this is our house" after the dramatic win.

Curious decision

We've covered the State meet for about five years, and in all five years the credentialed photographers were allowed to sit just beyond the long jump and triple jump pit to get photos. There's a flag rope that separates the competition area from the photographer area, and from my experience this separation has been respected. This year the NSAA has decided that photographers should not be in the line of vision of jumpers, which means that most photographers will no longer be able to take good pictures of jumpers.

Small-town newspapers have a love-hate relationship with the NSAA and this will only add to it. The photographers, who often double as reporters, have a list of athletes from their drawing area that they are assigned to shoot. Their success rate seems less likely with these new rules, and they'll likely end up using photos from a small-town meet that doesn't look remotely like the Burke atmosphere.

The NSAA gets to make whatever rules it wants, but this is a curious one. This season we've shot at over 100 collegiate and high school meets including the Devaney Center, KU Relays, NAIA indoor nationals, UNK, Doane, Concordia, etc, and all of those venues allow credentialed photographers to be at the end of the pit. I also asked a college coach on hand at Burke as well as multiple certified officials about the line-of-vision rule for horizontal jumpers, and none of them had heard of it. The college coach told me that his jumpers expect to see six or more cameras at the end of the pit, although their sole focus is on the jump board.

We cover T&F as a hobby so we're just along for the ride. Likewise, if a newspaper doesn't get a picture, it doesn't hurt them. However, it is a bummer for the athlete and the athlete's family. It's about the kids, right?

A one-time deal?

We might add some musings tomorrow night, but we might not. I'm kind of tired and I'm kind of old. It's only Day 1 of 4. We'll see how it goes.


Published at on 5/17/23 by Jay Slagle.

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