Contributors: Nerd the Third and Nerd Senior
Top teams from 2022:
1. Cornerstone Christian
2. NP St. Pat’s
3. Nebraska Christian
5. Tri County
Top returners from 2022:
1) Jarrett Miles, NP St. Pat’s (2nd) 2) Mason McGreer, Perkins County (3rd) 3) Jacob Swanson, Nebraska Christian (5th) 4) Brody Taylor, Ponca (7th) 5) Porter Connick, NP St. Pat’s (9th) 6) Gannon Walsh, Pender (10th) 7) Zeke Christiansen, Garden County (12th) 8) Mason Hagan, North Central (16th) 9) Kyler Carraher, Franklin (22th) 10) Jobjosiah Muthiani, Freeman (23rd) **) Rowan Jarosik, Sandy Creek (11th in Class C)
This list may not be complete, but I have found the following changes that impact Class D:
· Palmyra was in Class D in 2022 but has moved up to Class C for XC in 2023.
· Gibbon, Lincoln Lutheran and Valentine have moved from Class C to Class D.
· Sandy Creek has deconsolidated 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, and Lawrence-Nelson also resides in Class D.
· Omaha Roncalli and Brownell Talbot have deconsolidated, so Roncalli is in Class C and Brownell Talbot is in Class D.
Individuals In 2022 the epicenter of Class D distance running brilliance was on a small stretch of Highways 23 and 83 – in Wallace, North Platte and Grant. Trey Robertson of Wallace, Jarrett Miles of North Platte St. Patrick and Mason McGreer of Perkins County battled several times last fall, finishing in that order at the State meet. While Trey is now running for Concordia, Jarrett and Mason renew their friendly rivalry this fall. Miles has finished 14th, 6th and 2nd in his three State XC meets, has earned six 1600/3200 State track medals, and has PRs of 4:36/10:04. McGreer, now a junior, has shined on the track, earning five distance medals at Burke and setting PRs of 1:57, 4:30 and 9:56.
While Miles and McGreer have the most hardware, there are several boys who had strong track seasons and could challenge them. Brody Taylor of Ponca has finished 60th, 16th and 7th in his three State XC meets, and his PRs of 4:35 and 10:09 are among the three fastest of this year’s field. Drew Martin of West Holt finished 43rd at Kearney last year but then popped off a 4:36 to place 8th in Class C 1600 at Burke. Logan Recoy of South Loup had a strong 2022 XC season, winning his conference and District meets before finishing 59th at State. He rebounded nicely with a 4:38 PR in the spring.
Mason Hagan of North Central was ranked for much of 2022 before finishing 16th at State; he was 12th the prior year as a sophomore. He ran PRs of 2:00 and 4:42 in the spring and we expect him to be in the top 10 for his senior year.
Rowan Jarosik was seemingly poised for a huge State track meet last May, having qualified in the 1600 and 3200, but he pulled his hamstring in the first 100 meters of the 4x800. He’s healthy again and his PRs of 4:46/10:24 put him in the hunt for a medal. After finishing 11th in Class C last fall while competing for South Central, deconsolidation means he’ll be running in Class D for Sandy Creek this year.
Freshman boys don’t usually make much of a mark but Jacob Swanson of Nebraska Christian was the exception last year. He won four meets, finished 5th at State XC and ran PRs of 4:46 and 10:23 last spring. We assume he’s grown a bit since last fall, so look for him to keep improving. His teammate Noah Fischer ran well for much of the XC season before finishing 41st, and his 2:08/4:48 PRs from the spring suggests he’ll be a key scorer.
Here's an athlete easy to overlook if you haven't met him - Logan Lebo of Lincoln Lutheran, which has been moved from Class C to Class D this fall. He finished 13th at Class C State XC in 2021 as a sophomore, and he was sporadically ranked last fall. We watched as he worked back into racing shape over his first four races, and then he finished 1st or 2nd at the next four meets before State. However, State didn't go well and he finished 24th. Not to worry, because Logan bounced back in the spring to sweep the Class C 400 (49.36) and 800 (1:55.72) after dealing with a nagging injury for much of the season. He now has six State medals in the 400 and 800. Barring injury, we expect Logan to be in the top 10 at Kearney.
Porter Connick of NP St. Pats ran consistently during the 2022 season and nearly PR’d at the State meet with a 17:30 and 9th place finish. He ran 5:20/11:26 during the track season. Gannon Walsh is headed into his senior season at Pender looking for a third State medal to go with a 15th and 10th; he ran 5:01/10:45 this spring. Zeke Christiansen of Garden County is one of three athletes with that exact name in the athletic.net database, but he’s by far our favorite Zeke after his 12th place finish last year and his 5:22/10:49 PRs on the track. Marcus Hernandez of Bertrand finished 1st or 2nd in seven of his meets last year, including runner-up finishes at his conference and District meets, so his 39th place finish at State was one of his rare off days. We expect him to be a factor after his 4:51/10:26 marks in track. Likewise, Kael Garrett of Medicine Valley finished 56th last fall as a freshman, but then made huge gains in the spring to establish solid PRs of 4:54 and 10:29. Jobjosiah Muthiani (pictured below), a junior at Freeman, has seen a fair amount of success in both sports, finishing 23rd at State XC last fall and running 4:46/10:48 last spring.
Franklin High School returns the 9th, 12th and 17th finishers from last year’s meet in Kyler Carraher (senior, 11:05), Trace Bislow (junior, 5:07/10:48) and sophomore Carter Trambly (5:29/11:24). Athletes in small schools often have problems finding good training partners but that's not a problem in Franklin. It will be interesting to see if these boys can help each other make the jump to medal status. My search for freshmen wasn’t as productive for Class D but I found a few boys who may be competing this fall:
· Elijah Goodell of Perkins Country finished 2nd at JH State XC and ran a 4:54 1600 at the JH State track meet. His athletic.net profile also reflects a 2:22 800 PR. · Coltan Ham of NP St. Patrick ran a 5:05 1600 at the State track meet and has a 2:24 800 PR. · Sylas Delmont of Wisner-Pilger ran 2:16 and 5:08 at the JH State meet. · William Rasser of Red Cloud ran a 5:10 1600 at the JH State meet but has no XC profile. Our predictions: Nerd the Third: I’ll go with Miles and McGreer, two battle-hardened athletes who have performed well when the spotlight is on them. Based on McGreer’s 3200 time, I’ll give him the edge for a State title. Logan Lebo was my pick in Class C before I found out Lincoln Lutheran got moved to Class D, so he's my wild card pick. Nerd Senior: I also like Miles and McGreer but I’m excited to see how Logan Lebo, Brody Taylor, Drew Martin, Logan Recoy, Jacob Swanson and Rowan Jarosik match up with them. Fortunately, the UNK meet in late September will feature many of Class D’s top runners. At the risk of being called wishy-washy, I don’t have a strong enough opinion here to make a pick.
Team race Cornerstone scored a mild upset last year when they won the team title with three medalists and just 16 points. Their three scorers have graduated so attention turns back to North Platte St. Pats, the 2022 pre-race favorite that finished second with 19 points. St. Patrick returns medalists Jarrett Miles and Porter Connick, and should also return William Tolstedt (senior, 47th) and sophomore Dimitri Petti, who filled a spot admirably at Districts while Miles recovered from a minor injury. Freshman Coltan Ham should compete for a varsity spot. Nebraska Christian returns their #1 and #3 runners, Jacob Swanson and Noah Fischer, and the depth of their program makes me think that they can develop another solid scorer. As noted above, Franklin returns their top four runners from last fall. While they don’t necessarily have a low stick, they could compete well if their top three boys make incremental improvements this fall. Their fourth returner, Isaac Dejonge had PRs of 5:30 and 11:49 this spring. Axtell finished 10th last fall and returns their #2, #3 and #5 runners – Luc Lopez (junior, PRs of 52.2 and 2:00), Isaiah Springer (junior, 5:10/11:11) and Keyton Cole (53.6/2:00/4:54). Axtell also returns Tyler Hanson, who didn’t run last October due to injury but had PRs of 4:56 and 10:44 this spring, qualifying for State in both events. Norfolk Catholic returns all five 2022 State competitors, led by senior Alec Foecking. They finished 11th last year so they have quite a bit of ground to make up, but they could see big improvements from the two freshmen who competed last year.
There are a number of other teams who return a high stick or at least three competitors from 2022 State. I'm not sure that alone can carry a team to the podium. Lincoln Lutheran did not qualify as a team in Class C in 2022 but they definitely have the high stick - Logan Lebo - and a dude on Instagram tells us that they'll be in the hunt for the State title. Class D scores a team's top three finishers and the recipe for success seems to be having all three boys dip under 18:00 at the State meet. NP St. Patrick and Nebraska Christian each have a low stick and a second boy who can go sub-18:00. Axtell and Franklin have at least three returners who could hit that benchmark but both are unlikely to have someone competing for a top-5 spot.
Our predictions: Nerd the Third: I think it comes down to a dogfight between St. Patrick and Nebraska Christian, and I’ll give St. Patrick’s the nod as long as their boys are healthy. The wild card is Perkins County. If Mason McGreer and freshman Elijah Goodell continue to run well, they just need a third boy in the top 20 to make a run at the title. Nerd Senior: It’s a risky pick since they finished 10th last year, but I’ll put my money on Axtell for the win because we have a good idea of who their top four guys will be. They’ve got two 2:00 half-milers, a sub-5:00/11:00 guy and a fourth runner who put up solid times in the spring. I’ll pick St. Patrick’s second, Perkins County third, Nebraska Christian fourth and Franklin fifth. ******
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