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State meet recap

Updated: Oct 30

Contributor: The Nerd


So this is it...

If you're like me, your adrenaline levels are finally back to normal after Friday's thrilling State championship. We've posted all of our State photos, thanks primarily to the patience of Mrs. Nerd and Mrs. Dr. Nerd, who begrudgingly gave up their husbands last weekend and several nights this week so we could edit photos. However, after a great Friday and a lot of screen time, we're not quite sure how much brilliance or energy we have left for our recap. So, if it stinks, we'll change the byline to Nerd Junior and blame it on him.


Throughout the year we try to give attention not only to the fast kids but also to everyone else in the race. That's the reason we continued to take pictures well past 25 minutes of each of the eight State races, and that's why we post a lot of photos from all of the 68 meets we attended this year. However, this article is mostly about the kids at the front of the race, so bear with us as we shine some attention on them.


To simplify organization, once we get into race analysis, we'll summarize the races in the order in which they were held.


Strategy, strategy, strategy

I've only been attending the State meet for the last nine years, but I assume that almost every seasoned XC coach has a race strategy for the State meet that is tailored to that specific course. For example, the uphill portions of the first 3200 meters are rare and brief, and many of the recent Class boys champions (John Nownes, Liem Chot during his first two titles) have run fairly conservatively during the first mile. From my perspective, the first mile at State is never where races/medals are won but often where they are lost.


Former boxing champ Mike Tyson once said, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth," and I suppose the corollary for State XC is that "every runner has a plan until the adrenaline overwhelms them." While I imagine some coaches said "Get out fast" to a few top runners, that strategy didn't work out well for many runners.


Class D Boys

Full results https://www.onlineraceresults.com/race/view_plain_text.php?race_id=75877

1 Trey Robertson, 12, Wallace, 16:38.7 (#6, #1)

2 Jarrett Miles, 11, North Platte St. Patrick's, 16:45.7 (#1, #3)

3 Mason McGreer, 10, Perkins County, 16:52.1 (#2, #2)

4 Ashton Hughes, 12, Cornerstone Christian,17:02.1 (#13, Watch list)

5 Jacob Swanson, 9, Nebraska Christian,17:17.3 (Watch list, #5)

6 Justin Sherman, 12, Cornerstone Christian, 17:20.0 (#7, #4)

7 Brody Taylor, 11, Ponca,17:20.5 (#9, #6)

8 Trenton Neville, 12, McCool Junction, 17:29.4 (Watch list, #15)

9 Porter Connick, 10, North Platte St. Patrick's, 17:30.9 (Not ranked, Watch list)

10 Gannon Walsh, 11, Pender,17:34.1 (Not ranked, #13)

11 Caleb Schlichting, 12, Lyons-Decatur Northeast,17:36.9 (Not ranked, not ranked)

12 Zeke Christiansen, 11, Garden County, 17:37.5 (Watch list, not ranked)

13 Clinton Turnbull, 12, Centennial, 17:39.0 (#10, #9)

14 Carter Siems, 12, Tri County, 17:40.9 (Not ranked, Watch list)

15 Benjamin Ehrenberg, 12, Cornerstone Christian, 17:41.0 (Not ranked, #12)

Legend: (Place, Name, Grade, School, Time, Pre-season rank, Pre-State rank)


Team standings:

1 – Cornerstone, 16 (2, 4, 10) – 1st

2 – North Platte St. Pats, 19 (1, 6, 12) – 5th

3 – Nebraska Christian, 45 (3, 17, 25) – 2nd

4 – Franklin, 49 (13, 14, 22) – 3rd

Legend: (Place, School, Points, Finishers excluding runners without teams, Pre-State rankings)


The area between Wallace, North Platte and Grant (Perkins County) covers less than 1,000 square miles compared to the 77,000 square miles for all of Nebraska, and yet it includes the three best runners in Class D. Trey Robertson, Jarrett Miles and Mason McGreer have repeatedly faced off this year, so it's only fitting that they had one final race at State. Robertson and McGreer had also raced at Districts, but Miles sat out Districts to recover from a cold. While he could have raced at Districts, Coach O'Neill was confident that NP St Pat's would qualify as a team without Jarrett - and they did, with 5 of the top 10.


We know Trey from his 2021 State 3200 title, but he was a football player his first three years of high school until a blood clot last spring led him away from the gridiron. (Brent Wagner of the LJS published a post-race interview here.) Despite his limited track experience - no season in 2020 due to COVID and a shortened 2022 season due to the blood clot - Trey came into the year with the reputation as a fast starter, and he's run every race with that approach. Aside from a stride-for-stride battle with Miles at the Chase County meet, Robertson has run alone for much of the year, collecting wins in every race except when he opted into Class A at the UNK meet.


As expected, Robertson blew out to an early lead at 400 meters. By the 1000-meter mark, he had a 10-meter lead over a field that was already beginning to thin out. At that point Miles sat back in the main pack in about 15th place while McGreer was closer to 50th. Of the six boys immediately behind Robertson at 1000 meters, the averaging finishing place was 42nd with just one medaling.


Robertson blew through the one-mile mark at 5:09, followed by Raden Orton and Mason Hagan of North Central, Brody Taylor of Ponca and Gannon Walsh of Pender. Miles passed through in 5:17 (7th) with McGreer in 5:18 (9th). Ashton Hughes (Cornerstone) and Trent Neville (McCool Junction) were 25th and 23rd at the mile mark, but they would make their marks later.


The race had tightened by 2600 meters (picture above) with a gap of a few seconds between the top three. Fourth-ranked Justin Sherman (Cornerstone) led a group of ranked runners behind the top trio. Sherman was shadowed by Jacob Swanson (#5, Nebraska Christian), Orton (#8), Taylor (#6), Walsh (#13) and Hagan (#10). Not much had changed by the 2-mile checkpoint, and Robertson (10:38), Miles (10:42) and McGreer (10:45) were the only boys below 11:00. At that point Sherman held 4th, Taylor was 5th, Swanson was 6th, with Cornerstone's Benjamin Ehrenberg and Ashton Hughes made up significant ground over the 2nd mile to pass through in 7th and 9th, respectively.


We have a shooting spot at 4600 meters, at the start of the final horseshoe, and there are often significant placement changes in those last 400 meters. (Due to poor cell phone reception on the course, I often have no idea of the finishing order until I stop at Runza.) With 400 to go, Miles was just a few seconds behind Robertson, who stretched that lead to 7 seconds by the finish, recording a 16:38. McGreer was at least 40 yard back in 3rd before the final 400, and he closed to within three seconds of Miles.


The real surprise came next: Ashton Hughes was 4th at 4600 meters and held that through the finish, running 17:02. While Hughes was 13th in our preseason poll and 8th in the Week 1 poll, he spent the rest of the season on the Watch list after consistently running behind teammates Sherman and Ehrenberg. That 17:02 was a season best by 41 seconds, which makes his pedestrian 5:25 first mile look pretty smart.


Surprisingly, of the top 15 boys with 400 meters to go, 14 medaled. Carter Siems of Tri-County was the only boy who moved onto the podium over that last stretch, and he finished in 14th. Jacob Swanson finished a superb freshman season at 5th, Justin Sherman held steady at 6th and Brody Taylor finished 7th.


How did our pre-State rankings play out? The medalists included 10 of the 15 ranked runners as well as three boys on the Watch list. Zeke Christiansen (12th place, Garden County) was ranked once this year and on the Watch list for four weeks, but we totally whiffed on Caleb Schlichting (11th, Lyons Decatur Northeast). To make matters worse, Caleb wasn't on our tracking sheet even though I had watched him run at Beemer and Oakland. Shame on me, Caleb.


Our incredibly exhaustive (ok, maybe not) State preview only listed two teams that we thought were contenders for the title - NP St. Pat's and Cornerstone. As we noted in that article, Cornerstone is based on Bellevue and had only faced a few ranked teams all year, so we weren't quite sure how they would compare. Well, thanks to Ashton Hughes running out of his mind, Cornerstone had three medalists. After throwing out the non-team finishers, the trio of Hughes, Sherman and Eisenberg scored just 16 points, three better than the St. Pat's boys that finished 2nd, 9th and 19th. Cornerstone graduates all three of their scorers while St. Pat's returns their top two next year.


Class C Boys

Full results https://www.onlineraceresults.com/race/view_plain_text.php?race_id=75875

1 Carson Noecker, 12, Hartington, 14:58.3 (#1, #1)

2 Aj Raszler, 11, Platteview, 16:43.0 (#15, #3)

3 Carter Hohlen, 11, Lincoln Christian,16:44.2 (#2, #2)

4 Noah Osmond, 12, Broken Bow, 17:02.0 (#12, #11)

5 Parker Graves, 11, Gothenburg, 17:02.7 (Not ranked, #4)

6 Ely Olberding, 12, Fort Calhoun, 17:06.1 (#5, #7)

7 Lance Olberding, 12, Fort Calhoun, 17:19.2 (#6, #8)

8 Jaxon Kilmurry, 10, Battle Creek, 17:22.0 (#11, #13)

9 Josiah Wilkinson, 10, McCook, 17:23.5 (Not ranked, Watch list)

10 Dyami Berridge, 12, Winnebago, 17:25.7 (Not ranked, #6)

11 Rowan Jarosik, 10, South Central, 17:26.4 (Watch list, #9)

12 Jackson Feauto, 11, Lincoln Christian, 17:27.5 (Not ranked, Watch list)

13 Lucas Gautier, 11, Aurora, 17:34.2 (Not ranked, #5)

14 Drew Miller, 9, Wayne, 17:34.6 (Not ranked, Watch list)

15 Brady Franzen, 12, Lincoln Lutheran, 17:34.7 (Watch list, not ranked)

Legend: (Place, Name, Grade, School, Time, Pre-season rank, Pre-State rank)


Team standings

1 – Gothenburg, 45 (4, 12, 14) – 1st

2 – Lincoln Christian, 47 (2, 7, 17) – 3rd

3 – Fort Calhoun, 54 (5, 6, 18, 25, 27, 30) – 2nd

4 – Milford, 76 (11, 20, 22, 23) – 4th

Legend: (Place, School, Points, Finishers excluding runners without teams, Pre-State rankings)


This is Carson Noecker's world and we're just living in it.


On Friday Carson capped off a dream season that already included multiple sub-15:00 races, a 14:36 equivalent on a national meet, a Kearney course record (14:51) and (we're presuming) multiple marriage proposals from running fans. His 14:58 on Friday set a new State meet record, knocking off Seth Hirsch's (Millard West) 15:04 from 2016. Carson also earned his 4th State XC title, making him the first Nebraska boy to reach that accomplishment.


Seth is definitely on Nebraska's Mount Rushmore of male high school runners, and Carson belongs beside him. Is Carson the best runner in Nebraska history? Well, Seth made quite a name for himself in post-season XC races and still holds the Nebraska 3200 record at 8:54. When we spoke with Carson after his California race, he was non-committal on any Nike or Champs (previously Footlocker/Eastbay) regional races, so it's anyone's guess whether he'll compete again this fall.


While we were excited to see if Carson could break the State meet record, we were actually more interested in the race for 2nd. Carter Hohlen (Lincoln Christian) had been ranked #2 all year while Platteview's AJ Raszler had settled in at #3 for the last six weeks. Their only matchup this year was at UNK, where Hohlen prevailed by 8 seconds.


Noecker had a 50-meter lead by 1000 meters and flew through one mile in 4:28 (his track PR is 4:19), with Dyami Berridge (Winnebago) in 2nd and at least another 50 meters ahead of the pack at that 1K mark. #13 Jaxon Kilmurry of Battle Creek followed Berridge in the early stages, followed by the Fort Calhoun Olberding twins, Raszler, Nolan May (Arlington) and Parker Gaston (DC West). Hohlen was around 20th place at 1K.


Berridge remained in 2nd place through the mile mark with a 5:06, while Raszler was third in 5:12 and Hohlen had moved up to 7th place. Surprisingly, 8 of the first 10 boys at the mile mark were in the top 10 at the finish.


Noecker's breakneck pace kept us from spending much time at the 3000-meter mark, but the top eight runners were set by that point. Hohlen (10:41) had a few steps on Raszler (10:42) at two miles, while Parker Graves, Ely Olberding, Kilmurry and Lance Olberding had the next four spots. The 8th-place boy at 2 miles was Noah Osmond of Broken Bow, who ran a brilliant race. His 1.0/1.0/1.1 mile splits were 5:30, 5:30, 6:02 (5:29 average pace), and he moved from 41st to 8th during the second mile simply by maintaining his pace.


Raszler had a few steps on Hohlen at 4600 meters and kept that to the end, taking second place by 1.2 seconds in 16:43. Just as in Class D, there were very few changes at the end end of the race; no one broke into the top 15 during the final 400 meters and the order of the top 9 did not change during that stretch.


Eleven of the 15 medalists were ranked, three were on the Watch list, and 15th-place Brady Franzen of Lincoln Lutheran was unranked in Week 8 after spending the previous four weeks on the Watch list. Josiah Wilkinson (10th, McCook sophomore), Jackson Feauto (12th, Lincoln Christian senior) and Drew Miller (14th, Wayne freshman) were the three Watch list athletes.


In the team race, both the coaches and the Nerd team felt that Gothenburg and Fort Calhoun were the favorites, with third-ranked Lincoln Christian also in contention. Although Parker Graves was Gothenburg's only medalist, the Swedes took a one-point victory over Lincoln Christian due to a tiny margin between Gothenburg's next three guys - who finished 18th, 20th and 21st. Lincoln Christian had medalists in Hohlen and Feauto, along with 25th and 29th place. Fort Calhoun finished 8 points behind Gothenburg in 3rd.


Here's the scary part; all of the scorers for Gothenburg and Lincoln Christian are underclassmen.


Class D girls

Full results https://www.onlineraceresults.com/race/view_plain_text.php?race_id=75878

1 Jordyn Arens, 11, Crofton,19:29.8 (#1, #1)

2 Katherine Kerrigan, 11, Ainsworth, 20:12.2 (#7, #4)

3 Brekyn Kok, 12, Cornerstone Christian, 20:12.6 (#14, #12)

4 Anna Fitzgerald, 10, Doniphan-Trumbull, 20:23.9 (Watch list, #9)

5 Madison Davis, 11, West Holt, 20:26.5 (#11, Watch list)

6 Angela Frick, 9, North Central, 20:28.6 (Not ranked, #3)

7 Isabelle Peters, 9, Tri County, 20:29.5 (Not ranked, #6)

8 Miriam Frasher, 10, Aquinas Catholic, 20:41.3 (#9, #13)

9 Dakota Horstman, 9, Hemingford, 20:41.3 (Not ranked, #7)

10 Braelyn Gifford, 10, North Platte St. Patrick's, 20:41.8 (#15, #5)

11 Gianna Frasher, 11, Aquinas Catholic, 20:43.8 (#8, Watch list)

12 Lilly Harris, 9, Homer, 21:00.4 (Watch list, #14)

13 Peyton Paxton, 10, Mullen, 21:05.4 (#3, #10)

14 Cecilia Barron, 10, Morrill, 21:05.6 (Not ranked, #15)

15 Chaney Nelson, 12, Oakland-Craig, 21:14.2 (Not ranked, #11)

Legend: (Place, Name, Grade, School, Time, Pre-season rank, Pre-State rank)


Team standings

1 – Hemingford, 38 (6, 14, 18) – 3rd

2 – Ainsworth, 48 (2, 16, 22) – 2nd

3 – Crofton, 41 (1, 15, 25, 29) – 1st

4 – Aquinas Catholic, 49 (7, 8, 34) – 4th

Legend: (Place, School, Points, Finishers excluding runners without teams, Pre-State rankings)


Just like Carson Noecker's race in Class C, we didn't foresee much drama about who would win the Class D girls race. We noted last week that we don't think Jordyn Arens of Crofton has ever lost a high school XC race in Nebraska, and her 43-second win on Friday gave her a third State title. She'll be a favorite to win a 4th next year, where she will look to join Carson and three girls as 4-time winners. The other 4-time winners are Shona Jones (Hastings, 1982-1985), Amber Fairbanks (Geneva, 1993-1996) and Jeralyn Poe (Lincoln North Star, 2011-2014).


Jordyn had a 10-meter lead by 400 meters and was well clear of the field by 1K. She went through one mile at 5:52, followed by Katherine Kerrigan (Ainsworth), Brekyn Kok (Cornerstone) and Hannah Swanson (Nebraska Christian) in 6:04. Angela Frick (North Central) and Peyton Paxton (Mullen) were next at 6:09. All six girls were ranked in the top 12 prior to State.


Swanson, #4 Kerrigan and #12 Kok continued to stay close through two miles, with Swanson passing through in 12:44, a few seconds ahead of the other two. Swanson has been ranked #2 for most of the past two seasons, a testament to her consistency, and she had not lost a race in 2022. Third-ranked Frick, a freshman, led #10 Paxton, Watch-list Maddie Davis (West Holt) and #6 Isabelle Peters (Tri-County) through two miles in 13:02-13:04.


While the second mile is a net downhill, the times did not reflect that. Most of the medalists ran their first mile in 6:10-6:20, but Arens ran her 2nd mile in 6:31 and the rest of the top ten averaged just over 6:50.


While placements did change over the last 1.1 mile, 14 of the 15 medalists were in place by the two-mile split. Hannah Swanson was the only top runner to drop out of medal contention, finishing 17th. She has been an absolute beast during her first three years and she's been one of my favorite interviews, so we'll be rooting for her next year during her senior season.


The biggest mover over the last mile was Anna Fitzgerald on Doniphan Trumbull, who improved from 9th place at the 2-mile mark to 6th with 400 meters remaining to 4th at the finish. The biggest surprise for us was Cornerstone's Brekyn Kok, who finished 3rd, just 0.4 seconds behind Kerrigan. Kok had been ranked as high at 8th this season and entered State at #12, but she pulled an Ashton Hughes once she got on the course.


The medalists included 13 of 15 girls in the pre-State poll, with Watch-list girls Maddie Davis (West Holt) and Gianna Frasher (Aquinas) also grabbing medals. The Frasher sisters joined the Fort Calhoun's Olberding twins as double-medal families.


In terms of the team race, the Hemingford girls came from the legion of unranked teams to win the mid-season UNK Invite, and they remained at the top spot before a blah District result dropped them to #3. In our State preview, we said, "Ignore the polls; if Dakota Horstman, Carlye Kresl and Aurora Hinsman run as well at State as they did at UNK, Hemingford will win the title." The Horstman, Hinsman and Kresl trio finished 9th, 21st and 26th (6, 14 and 18 team points), earning a two-point win over Ainsworth. Crofton was another point back with 41, powered by the Arens and Wortmann sisters.


Here's the craziest stat: of the top five teams - Hemingford, Ainsworth, Crofton, Aquinas and Palmyra - just one of the twenty-four State competitors was a senior. There were four freshmen in the top twelve medalists. There is incredible talent in Class D, and that talent is very young.


Class C girls

Full results https://www.onlineraceresults.com/race/view_plain_text.php?race_id=75876

1 Keelianne Green, 12, Arlington. 19:15.5 (#1, #1)

2 Lindee Henning, 11, Ogallala, 19:34.3 (#2, #2)

3 Lilly Kenning, 10, Milford, 19:50.8 (#7, #3)

4 Talissa Tanquary, 11, Sidney, 20:10.1 (#4, #4)

5 Olivia Lawrence, 11, Platteview, 20:29.2 (#5, #9)

6 Liston Crotty, 9, Auburn, 20:29.2 (#15, #7)

7 Hailey O'Daniel, 10, Arlington, 20:34.0 (#6, #8)

8 Sienna Dutton, 11, McCook, 20:34.4 (Watch list, Not ranked)

9 Mira Fosmer, 12, Louisville, 20:34.7 (Watch list, #12)

10 Josephine Jansen, 12, Omaha Gross Catholic, 20:34.8 (Not ranked, Watch list)

11 Maelie Nelson, 9, Fort Calhoun, 20:34.9 (Watch list, Watch list)

12 Emma Cappel, 9, McCook, 20:40.8 (Not ranked, not ranked)

13 Alexis Ericksen, 9, Aurora, 20:41.9 (Not ranked, Watch list)

14 Jala Krusemark, 10, Wayne, 20:42.5 (Watch list, #10)

15 Laura Hasemann, 12, Wayne, 20:47.9 (Watch list, #15)

Legend: (Place, Name, Grade, School, Time, Pre-season rank, Pre-State rank)


Team standings

1 – Wayne, 74, (10, 11, 15, 38) – 5th (2nd in Poll 2)

2 – Auburn, 76 (4, 17, 20, 35) – 2nd

3 – Lincoln Christian, 86 (14, 23, 24, 25) – 1st

4 – Chadron, 93 (16, 18, 29, 30) – 10th

Legend: (Place, School, Points, Finishers excluding runners without teams, Pre-State rankings)


This was the fourth race of the day but the first that promised a head-to-head battle for the title. Keeli Green of Arlington came into the race as the top-ranked runner for several reasons: she was the defending champ, she bested Lindee Henning (Ogallala) at UNK, and she was undefeated in her two seasons of XC. However, Keeli's season hasn't been as remarkable as last year, and she readily admits that the only reason she was undefeated this year is because her teammate Hailey O'Daniel let her win at her home meet after Keeli bonked halfway through the race. Conversely, Henning has been on a tear this season and seemed well-positioned to improve on her 2nd-place finish in 2021.


We've only seen Keeli race one way - hard from the start - and she did that again at State. However, she had company this time, with Henning and Talissa Tanquary (Sidney) close behind at the 1K mark. Four girls passed the mile mark in under six minutes: Green and Henning in 5:48, Tanquary in 5:52 and Milford's Lilly Kenning in 5:57. Although Kenning has been ranked #3 in the last four weeks preceding State, she was a question mark after a DNF at Districts. She dropped out at Districts due to hip pain (but was subsequently to complete at State by her doctor) and the Milford team squeaked through with a 3rd place finish in a District that only had four teams score.


(A side note: In the days after State, Lilly posted on social media that she had been struggling with performance anxiety. In the last few weeks we've seen some amazing transparency from Keeli Green and Madison Seilier, and Lilly shared the following quote: "Anxiety and fear are cousins but not twins. Fear sees a threat. Anxiety imagines one.")


At the halfway mark, Henning was 20 meters ahead of Green and seemingly pulling away. We initially thought this was a strategic move on Green's part to make Henning do some of the leader work, but Green's visible discomfort changed our mind. After the race, Keeli told us that she had given up on winning by this point, but then she felt that God was telling her to push through. By the two-mile mark, Keeli had used a short hill to gain ground to get back on Lindee's shoulder. Kenning and Tanquary were running side-by-side at 2500 meters, but Kenning turned that into a 12-second lead by the two-mile mark.


The course was considerably more crowded after those four girls. Fifth-ranked Sammie Rodewald (McCook) and eighth-ranked Hailey O'Daniel (Arlington) were followed by freshman Liston Crotty (#7, Auburn) and Olivia Lawrence (#9, Platteview), with #12 Mira Fosmer (Louisville) in 9th place. The field was remarkably aligned with the rankings.


By 4600 meters, Green had regained her legs and opened up a 75-meter lead over Henning. Green would finish in 19:15, 25 seconds slower than her 2021 performance, but perhaps more rewarding after her struggles this fall. Henning finished in 19:34, and Kenning cut 47 seconds from her freshman time in 2021 to finish in 19:50.


Twelve of the top 15 finishers were in medal placement at the two-mile mark. The biggest medal mover in the last 1.1 miles was McCook's Sienna Dutton, who improved from 16th to 8th - including jumping from 14th to 8th in the last 400 meters.


The biggest surprise of the meet - or maybe my biggest rankings mistake of the season - was Josie Jansen (Omaha Gross) and her 10th-place finish at State. We failed to recognize until Districts that Omaha Gross was in Class C, so she wasn't considered for rankings all season. I'm guessing Josie would rather have a 10th-place medal than a mid-season ranking from the Nerd team.


The paradox of championship racing is that the best athletes - the ones trying to move up a few places in the individual or team competition - are also the athletes most likely to drop out of the race. The runners in the back half of the race simply slow down if they're not feeling well, but the top athletes - the ones running at near-top effort the entire race - simply do not budget for the possibility that their bodies don't respond quite the way they expected. We saw this in 2021 when highly-ranked Zarah Blaesi of North Platte collapsed with 400 meters to go and when #9 Braden Taylor of Fremont, a 4:18 miler, took almost four minutes to walk the last 400 meters of his race.


If the race for an individual medal weren't enough incentive for Sammie Rodewald, the McCook team was hunting for a podium finish. Similarly, Lincoln Christian's Annie Hueser was on the Watch List and was perhaps a long shot for an individual medal. However, Lincoln Christian had been ranked #1 in two of the last three polls despite not having only one ranked runner the entire year - and then only for two weeks. Sammie and Annie did not finish their races, but Sammie had a thoughtful response when I reached out to her the following morning: "For whatever reason God had other plans in mind. I'm disappointed but I'm really grateful that I've had the past four years of high school school cross country."


I interviewed Sammie last year and have been rooting for her since then, so it was heartbreaking to see her staggering in my viewfinder while I sat at my perch at 4600 meters. She had just been passed by the 15th place runner, but it was clear that there was no more effort left in her body as she struggled to walk a straight line. A few moments later, UNK Coach Bonsall caught her just before she fell headfirst. Like every kid in that race, Sammie and Annie are extraordinary, and a DNF doesn't change that.


In terms of the team race, 5th-ranked Wayne had our attention in part because of their dominant performance at Districts. They have a nice core of girls but the Krusemark twins have struggled to be healthy at the same time over the past the two years. They were healthy on Friday. Jala Krusemark finished 14th, Laura Haseman 15th, Kyla Krusemark 21st, and Lilyan Hurner was 52nd. The Krusemarks were in the last 20% of the field at 400 meters and 42nd and 43rd at the mile mark, so their 'start slow' approach certainly paid off. Wayne pulled out a two-point victory over Auburn, who placed three girls in the top 30 with an entire team of freshmen and sophomores. Lincoln Christian finished 3rd despite losing Hueser, while senior-heavy Chadron finished 4th.


Only four of fifteen medalists are seniors, so the 2023 meet is going to be just as fun as this year.


Class B boys

Full results https://www.onlineraceresults.com/race/view_plain_text.php?race_id=75873

1 Riley Boonstra, 11, Norris, 16:14.8 (#3, #2)

2 Jayden Ureste, 12, Lexington, 16:29.0 (#12, #4)

3 Mesuidi Ejerso, 12, South Sioux City, 16:38.9 (#1, #3)

4 Thomas Rice, 10, Omaha Skutt Catholic, 16:39.3 (#8, #1)

5 Miguel Cruz-Mendoza, 11, Lexington, 16:44.7 (#13, #11)

6 Jack Wade, 11, Omaha Skutt Catholic, 16:45.4 (Watch list, #6)

7 Oscar Aguado-Mendez, 12, Lexington, 16:45.8 (#9, #5)

8 Alexander Rice, 12, Omaha Skutt Catholic, 16:47.8 (#7, #10)

9 Lazaro Adame-Lopez, 11, Lexington, 16:49.9 (#6, #8)

10 Gus Lampe, 11, Roncalli/Brownell, 16:52.5 (#15, Watch list)

11 Wyatt Behrens, 11, Norris, 16:55.4 (Not ranked, Watch list)

12 Elijah Dix, 11, Plattsmouth, 16:55.7 (Not ranked, #9)

13 Austin Carrera, 10, Hastings, 16:56.0 (Not ranked, #7)

14 Brayden Geiger, 12, Elkhorn, 17:01.8 (Not ranked, #15)

15 Colin Standifer, 12, Seward, 17:04.0 (Not ranked, Watch list)

Legend: (Place, Name, Grade, School, Time, Pre-season rank, Pre-State rank)


Team standings

1 – Lexington, 23 (2, 5, 7, 9, 20) – 1st

2 – Omaha Skutt, 33 (4, 6, 8, 15, 19) – 2nd

3 – Blair, 80 (17, 18, 23, 31) – 6th

4 – Norris, 90 (1, 10, 36, 43) – 3rd

Legend: (Place, School, Points, Finishers excluding runners without teams, Pre-State rankings)


We noted in the State preview that at least eight boys had a shot at the Class B title, and I had zero confidence as to which of those eight boys it might be. Mesuidi Ejerso has sat in the top ranking for most of the last two years, but he was supplanted by Skutt's Tommy Rice after Rice won the River Cities title two weeks before State. You could have also convinced me that Jayden Ureste and Oscar Aguado-Mendez were the favorites, although it was tough to figure out which since neither had established himself as Lex's #1 runner. Despite Riley Boonstra (Norris) spending most of the last two years ranked #2, we've gotten a lot of good-natured DMs from Riley's posse telling us that 'Riley is him.' I attended a funeral three days before State and ended up meeting a Norris XC boy who whispered - while we were taking a selfie - that Riley was rated too low.


Jayden Ureste (Lex) took an early and sizable lead at 1K, gapping three Gering runners by 40 meters and the rest of the field by 50 meters. Ureste kept that lead through the 1-mile mark, passing through in 5:04. He was followed by a pack of 13 mostly-ranked boys who passed the mile in 5:10-5:12


The Class B boys race was the only one of the eight races where I didn't make it to the halfway point. However, the results reflect that Ureste hit the two-mile mark at 10:30, followed by Boonstra (10:34), Austin Carrera (Hastings, 10:40) and ten other boys between 10:42 and 10:48. Carrera's presence at the front was notable because he had been on crutches nine days earlier at Districts after sustaining a hip injury; he was able to compete at State because his team easily qualified 2nd out of the B-4 District. Austin eventually faded to a 13th place finish, a remarkable result given his recent injury and his one sub-18:00 performance prior to 2022.


Between the 3200- and 4600-meter marks, Boonstra turned a 4-second deficit into a 100-meter lead, and he took the title in 16:14. Ureste remained clear of the rest of the field, finishing in 16:29. Tommy Rice tried to close the gap to Mesuidi Ejerso in the last 400 meters, but Ejerso prevailed by one second in 16:38. Not surprisingly, Lexington and Skutt took seven of the top nine spots, including #4 through #9.


As an example of the hard-hitting hack journalism that only the Nerd team provides, after the race I had an impromptu interview with Mesuidi in the lobby at Arby's. I asked him how the race went and his response was: "I'm happy with third. I really didn't run much this summer, and I only consistently ran starting with the first day of practice. I'm going to be better in the spring - I'll be running all winter and I'll be ready for track season."


Twelve of the 15 medalists were ranked prior to State. The other three medalists were Watch list athletes: Gus Lampe (10th, Roncalli), Wyatt Behrens (11th, Norris) and Colin Standifer (15th, Seward).


As expected, Lexington and Skutt were well ahead of the rest of the teams. Lexington won their second consecutive title with 23 points while Skutt finished with 33 points. Blair and Norris finished 3rd and 4th. Lex and Skutt are the only two teams to take the podium the last six years, but the Lex and Skutt coaches don't call this a rivalry.


Lex Coach Sam Jilka shared this with me: "There is no rivalry with Omaha Skutt; I have great admiration for their program and what Coach Carroll's staff does to bring out the best in their athletes." Assistant Coach Joe Monrroy mentioned that the Skutt and Lex boys walked part of the course together on Friday, and the Lex boys told him how friendly and kind the Skutt boys were.


In the same vein, Coach Carroll wrote this: "One thing we admire about about the Lexington team is their culture and their togetherness. They're well coached, they work hard, and they seem to have a great understanding of what they need to do in races. Their success motivates our team, and I see the two teams bringing out the absolute best in each other personally and athletically."


After watching Lexington's success the past two years at both the junior and high school level, I asked Coach Jilka if he had any wisdom to share. In addition to a strong summer running program, "our program has three C's that we repeatedly focus on: Connection, Confidence and Contribution. Connections focuses on relationships and supporting teammates by holding them accountable and encouraging one another. As that develops, the intent is that they develop their talents and feel 'good' about what gifts they have to offer, resulting in a strengthening confidence. We then ask them to utilize that talent to not only contribute to the team but also contribute in other means (volunteering, giving of themselves, supporting a teammate etc.). The goal is to give them opportunities to apply these skills and experiences in their adult lives."


Lexington and Skutt each graduate two scorers while Norris returns its entire State team. In addition, Lex should have Ian Salazar-Molina, the 2022 1600/3200 State champ, back next fall after injuries prevented him from competing this season. We can't wait for 2023...


Class A boys

Full results https://www.onlineraceresults.com/race/view_plain_text.php?race_id=75871

1 Juan Gonzalez, 10, Fremont, 15:36.1 (#5, #2)

2 Max Myers, 11, Lincoln Southwest, 15:38.8 (#9, #4)

3 Jack Witte, 11, Millard West, 15:52.6 (#7, #7)

4 Isaac Graff, 12, Lincoln East, 15:58.9 (#3, #3)

5 Isaac Ochoa, 11, Norfolk, 16:11.0 (#1, #1)

6 Wesley Pleskac, 11, Fremont, 16:11.7 (Watch list, #11)

7 Piercze Marshall, 12, Millard West, 16:12.8 (#2, #6)

8 Dennis Chapman, 11, Creighton Prep, 16:17.3 (#6, #10)

9 Thomas Vasquez, 12, Omaha Burke, 16:18.7 (#11, #9)

10 Braden Lofquest, 10, Gretna, 16:20.7 (Not ranked, Watch list)

11 Noah Lawrence, 12, Columbus, 16:21.4 (Watch list, #12)

12 Luke Johnson, 12, Elkhorn South, 16:24.1 (#8, #8)

13 Sergio Martinez Cruz, 11, Omaha South, 16:26.3 (Not ranked, Watch list)

14 Porter Bickley, 11, Millard West, 16:26.3 (Watch list, #15)

15 Grant Dixon, 12, Elkhorn South, 16:33.4 (#10, #14)

Legend: (Place, Name, Grade, School, Time, Pre-season rank, Pre-State rank)


Team standings

1 – Fremont, 72 (1, 5, 20, 21, 25) – 1st

2 – Millard West, 105 (3, 5, 11, 16, 69) – 2nd

3 – Gretna, 108 (8, 13, 24, 27, 35) – 7th

4 – Lincoln Southwest, 135 (2, 29, 30, 33, 41) – 5th

Legend: (Place, School, Points, Finishers excluding runners without teams, Pre-State rankings)


Our State preview identified #1 Isaac Ochoa (Norfolk) and #2 Juan Gonzalez (Fremont) as co-favorites, but you wouldn't have known that 1K into the race (pictured above) when Ochoa had already gapped the field by 75 meters. The gap had barely shrunk by the one-mile mark, with Ochoa clocking in at 4:50, joining Carson Noecker in the sub-5:00 split club. Sixth-ranked Piercze Marshall (Millard West) and fifth-ranked Zach Schultz (Millard North) led a group of over 20 boys through the mile split between 5:02 and 5:08, and the size of the pack indicated that the top contenders weren't racing yet.


Ochoa still had that sizable lead at the halfway point, while the chasers had broken into a lead pack (above) of ten ranked runners and a chase group of at least eight boys led by Braden Lofquest (Gretna, Watch list) and Wes Pleskac (Fremont, #11). Aside from Ochoa's large lead, there were very few surprises in the race through 2500 meters.


The ensuing 700 meters before the two-mile split feature what I (who has never run it) would characterize as two rolling uphills and downhills, but the field began to spread out. Ochoa hit two miles at 10:02, expanding his lead over the pack to 16 seconds, and he looked to be in good form. Behind him, Gonzalez, Schultz, Max Myers (Lincoln Southwest) and Isaac Graff (Lincoln East) had separated from the other leaders but just slightly - eight boys passed two miles between 10:18 and 10:23. The only new face in the pack was Pleskac, who had bridged the gap from the chase group.


Alas, the most significant moves in the race happened while we were moving to our next spot at 4600 meters. By that point, Ochoa had faded to 6th, roughly 150 meters behind the new leaders, Myers and Gonzalez. Graff was in third with significant separation from Jack Witte (Millard West) in 4th, who was at least 50 meters ahead of Marshall and Ochoa. With only 400 meters to go, Myers (4:27, 9:27 PRs) and Gonzalez (4:27, 9:29) were well-matched.


Gonzalez won the race in 15:36, nearly three seconds ahead of Myers. Seventh-ranked Witte continued his tradition of peaking at State, finishing 3rd in 15:52. Graff was 4th in 15:58, with the four sub-16:00 boys matching the total from 2020. Ochoa, Pleskac and Marshall had a tight finish in 16:11-16:12.


There were relatively few surprises in the race. Thirteen of the medalists were ranked prior to State, with two Watch list boys making the podium. Braden Lofquest (Gretna) finished 10th and Sergio Martinez Cruz (Omaha South) was 13th, earning South's first State medal since the pre-COVID era. The top 15 with 400 meters remaining were the 15 medalists; no one improved by more than one place during that last stretch, and only one runner dropped more than one spot. Due to the relatively slow first mile by the pack, there were not any huge leaps over the last two miles; Martinez-Cruz improved 10 spots in the last 2.1 miles, but his 23rd place position at one mile was only six seconds out of 2nd place.


In terms of the team race, Fremont and Millard West were the two favorites coming in. While Millard West had three medalists and four boys in the top 20, it couldn't match Fremont's overall depth; Fremont's fifth boy finished 31st, giving Fremont a 33-point win. Gretna ran its best race of the season and just missed the podium by three points. The most impressive part of Fremont's win wasn't the margin, but rather that Gonzalez was the only returner from last year's State championship team.


Class B girls

Full results https://www.onlineraceresults.com/race/view_plain_text.php?race_id=75874

1 Madison Seiler, 12, Gering, 19:13.1 (#1, #1)

2 Atlee Wallman, 10, Norris, 19:43.1 (#7, #4)

3 Emma Steffensen, 9, Waverly, 19:52.3 (#14, #5)

4 Ellie Thomas, 11, Norris, 19:55.9 (#6, #6)

5 Jadyn Scott, 12, Gering, 20:03.5 (#12, #11)

6 Kassidy Stuckey, 11, York, 20:05.4 (#2, #2)

7 Kendall Zavala, 10, Norris, 20:18.0 (#3, #3)

8 Gabriella Westfall, 10, Omaha Skutt Catholic, 20:22.7 (#10, Watch list)

9 Anika Richards, 12, Omaha Skutt Catholic, 20:24.1 (#5, #14)

10 Karnie Gottschalk, 12, Seward, 20:31.6 (Not ranked, #9)

11 Margaret Lickteig, 10, Omaha Duchesne Academy, 20:34.8 (Not ranked, #12)

12 Gabriela Calderon, 12, Bennington, 20:37.7 (#4, Not ranked)

13 Tessa Greisen, 10, Seward, 20:40.7 (Not ranked, #8)

14 Jenna Polking, 9, Elkhorn North, 20:46.8 (Not ranked, #13)

15 Susana Calmo, 11, Lexington, 20:47.2 (Not ranked, Watch list)

Legend: (Place, Name, Grade, School, Time, Pre-season rank, Pre-State rank)


Team standings

1 – Norris, 50 (2, 3, 6, 39) – 1st

2 – Bennington, 69 (11, 15, 20, 23) – 4th

3 – Elkhorn North, 76 (13, 18, 19, 26) – 2nd

4 – Omaha Skutt, 83 (7, 8, 32, 36) – 3rd

Legend: (Place, School, Points, Finishers excluding runners without teams, Pre-State rankings)


Consistent with her season-long racing strategy, top-ranked Madison Seiler (Gering) went hard from the gun and opened up a 40-meter lead over #2 Kassidy Stuckey (York) by the 1K mark, with the rest of the contenders about five meters behind Stuckey. Seiler passed the one-mile mark in 5:46, 15 seconds ahead of Stuckey, while seven other girls were a few seconds behind Stuckey. Seiler's mile split was actually the fastest girls time of the day despite the warmer temps (a cloudless ~75 degrees) at the 3:30 start time.


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