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State meet recap

Updated: Oct 30, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

By the two-mile mark, Seiler had expanded her lead to 24 seconds (12:08) over Stuckey, who still looked great, while Norris' Atlee Wallman (ranked #4) had broken from the chase pack and was just six seconds behind Stuckey. Wallman was followed by the trio of Ellie Thomas (Norris, #6), Jadyn Scott (Gering, #11) and Emma Steffensen (Waverly, #5), while #3 Kendall Zavala (Norris) was 8 seconds behind Steffensen in 7th place.

The two hills between 3200 and 4600 meters are the most challenging part of the course, and Stuckey fell back to 5th during that stretch. Seiler had a 100-meter lead with 400 meters to go, and she cruised to a 19:13 win. Her pre-race goal had been the 18:30's, but the weather didn't do much to help her. Wallman ran alone for most of the last mile, finishing 2nd in 19:43 while Steffensen held off a late-charging Thomas to take 3rd.

Twelve of the fifteen medalists were ranked in the week prior to State. Skutt's Gabriella Westfall (8th place) and Lexington's Susan Calmo (15th) were both on the watch list, while 2021 bronze medalist and unranked Gabriela Calderon (Bennington) finished 12th after persevering through a difficult season. Calderon's performance leap was crucial for 4th-ranked Bennington, which finished as runner-up. Calmo was the only athlete who moved into a medal spot in the last 400 meters.

In light of Norris' absolute dominance the past two years and with 3 girls in the top 7, I supposed it's somewhat of an upset that they only won the team title by 19 points. Bennington finished with 69 points, Elkhorn North with 76 and Skutt had 83. Norris' six girls are all underclassmen, as are Elkhorn North's top five. York will also return all six of their girls, even though it seems like Kassidy Stuckey has been in high school for eight years. Only eight of the top thirty finishers are seniors, so Class B will stacked again next year.

Class A girls

1 Mia Murray, 11, Lincoln East, 18:23.4 (#4, #1)

2 Stella Miner, 11, Omaha Westside, 18:30.6 (#2, #3)

3 Claire White, 11, Omaha Westside, 18:45.8 (#3, #5)

4 Jaci Sievers, 12, Elkhorn South, 18:46.1 (#1, #2)

5 Kaitlyn Swartz, 11, Papillion-La Vista South, 18:48.9 (Watch list, #7)

6 Isabelle Hartnett, 12, Millard West, 19:09.8 (#6, #6)

7 Mia Urosevich, 9, Omaha Westside, 19:11.8 (Not ranked, #8)

8 Abbigail Durow, 9, Millard South, 19:18.2 (Not ranked, #12)

9 Kennedy Bartee, 12, Lincoln High, 19:22.0 (#9, #10)

10 Berlyn Schutz, 12, Lincoln East, 19:25.5 (#13, #4)

11 Peyton Svehla, 11, Lincoln East, 19:31.8 (#5, #15)

12 Alexis Chadek, 9, Papillion-La Vista, 19:31 (Not ranked, Watch list)

13 Claire Karjalainen, 9, Kearney, 19:39.7 (Watch list, Watch list)

14 Nayera Abdessalam, 12, Omaha North, 19:43.7 (Not ranked, Not ranked)

15 Marissa Holm, 12, North Platte, 19:48.6 (#7, #11)

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

Team standings

1 – Lincoln East, 65 (1, 9, 10, 14, 30) – 1st

2 – Omaha Westside, 123 (2, 3, 7, 50, 61) – 2nd

3 – Millard West, 132 (6, 27, 31, 33, 35) – 4th

4 – Papio South, 146 (5, 20, 34, 43, 44) – 6th

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

We noted in the State preview that top-ranked Mia Murray of Lincoln East had only lost one race this year - to Stella Miner of Westside. Given Westside's consistent strategy of starting slow - their #4 through #7 girls were in last place at 400 meters - we were confident that Murray would have the early lead. However, we were surprised there wasn't more separation between Mia and the field at 1000 meters, with Alexis Chadek (freshman, Papio, Watch list), and Kennedy Bartee (senior, Lincoln High, #10) just behind Mia and slightly ahead of a tight pack of 30+ runners.

Murray cruised through one mile in 5:53 while ten other girls clocked under 6:00. She expanded her lead from 4 seconds to 15 seconds over the next mile, while second-ranked Jaci Sievers (Elkhorn South) led seven other top contenders. Surprisingly, the top 10 girls at 2500 meters were also the top 10 finishers, although several girls made strong moves after the two-mile mark.

Sievers and Miner were 15 seconds behind Murray at two miles, but Miner eventually pulled away from Sievers. Miner was approximately 60 meters behind Murray with 400 meters remaining, and she closed to within 7 seconds by the finish to finish 2nd. Murray's winning time of 18:23 broke her string of consecutive sub-18:20 races, but the heat definitely played a factor in this final race of the day. Westside's Claire White finished 3rd in 18:45, passing Sievers in the final stretch. Miner and White both missed several mid-season meets due to injury, so Coach Preister apparently found the secret sauce to get them to peak at State.

The State meet can be intimidating for first-time competitors but four freshman excelled: Westside's Mia Urosevich finished 7th, her Sporting FC teammate Abbigail Durrow (Millard South) was 8th, Alexis Chadek (Papio) was 12th and Claire Karjalainen (Kearney) was 13th. Class A had six medalists who were seniors, but the top 3 and 5 of the 8 will return next year.

The medalists included 12 ranked girls. Abdessalam had been ranked for two weeks during the season, as had Karjalainen. Chadek never made it off the Watch list despite winning her District meet, so I will give our Class A ratings guru (Nerd Junior) a stern lecture the next time I see him.

With just 64 points and three medalists, Lincoln East easily captured its 5th consecutive team title. While Westside's three medalists weren't surprising given that they were all ranked, clutch performances by Reece Quinlivan and Eliana Wittman gave the Warriors the runner-up trophy with 123 points. Millard West was third with 132 points.

While I've been intently following Class A XC for the last nine years, I'm relatively uneducated on the Lincoln programs, so I asked Coach Brian Kabourek how his Lincoln East team has become so successful. The first reason he gave is the high expectations set by the runners; girls like Berlyn Schutz and Jenna Muma watched older sisters excel in the program, and they worked hard to meet or exceed those standards. Second, the girls' commitment to offseason running directly translates to performance and fewer injuries, especially with the addition of strength and agility training over the summer. Lincoln high schools effectively allow open enrollment that could drive the best junior high runners to East's XC program, but that doesn't seem to be the case. However, Coach Kabourek feels that his team has benefitted from girls who chose East for the school's speech or academic programs - and from ball-sport athletes who eventually realized that they were better runners than ball players.

For 2023, Lincoln East returns four of its State participants plus a deep stable of JV runners. Westside returns all seven, Papio South only loses 'made-you-look' Isabelle Clark, and Kearney returns all seven.

3x Class A medalists

This has been a beast of a project, but several years ago we began tracking three-time Class A XC medalists since that accomplishment is relatively rare. Piercze Marshall (Millard West) earned his this medal on Friday, while junior Isaac Ochoa is on track for four after he finished 5th place. Five other underclassmen have the potential to earn at least three medals before they graduate: Denny Chapman, Max Myers, Jack Witte, Juan Gonzalez and Braden Lofquest. Here is the boys' list.

The feat is slightly more common on the girls side. On Friday four girls earned their third career medals: Berlyn Schutz, Jaci Sievers, Claire White and Peyton Svehla. Six other underclassmen are in line for three or four career medals, including the four freshmen who medaled this year. Here is the girl's list.

Mea culpa

Due to a golf cart mix-up at State, I posted something on social media about how I had been wronged by another media member. In less than 16 hours, that tweet had received more comments and Twitter impressions than anything I'd posted in the prior five months. That told me two things: (a) the Nerd mom army has my back and (b) social media is the sword of cancel culture.

I pulled down the tweet and Facebook post around noon on Saturday, and my hope is that I don't need to address the situation again. Since we began the Nerd, we've purposely focused on the positive side of sports and life, and my posts on Friday were contrary to that approach. Instead of focusing on the 1% of bad stuff, I should have been focusing on the 99% that's good. Case in point: Andrea Beaudette of the Norfolk Daily News agreed not only to let me ride in her cart for the races despite not knowing me from Adam, but she also agreed to change her shooting spots so we could maximize the number of photos we captured for Nerd fans. Andrea is cool, and Dale Miller better not steal the t-shirt that I'm mailing her.


By this point you've probably figured out that we have tons of photos from the State meet. As is our custom, we post all of our pictures for free on our Facebook page, and upon request we'll provide free high-resolution pics to Yearbook sponsors. Sorting through 68 meets on our Facebook page can be a bit of a mess, so we'd suggest you start your search by going to

We're particularly proud of Nerdlee's album. While Dr. Nerd and I were 'volume' shooters, Nerdlee had work obligations and could only make the last four races. We asked her to do her 'art' thing and she certainly delivered.

Tough dude and cool coach

I mentioned last week that Kolter Van Pelt of Stanton qualified for State after missing more than half of his races due to an appendectomy. Kolter finished 20th on Friday, roughly 65 days after his appendix was removed. He started running again on September 12th, did his first workout on September 26th, and turned a partial race on September 29th into his first full race of the season after he found himself in medal contention. Kolter's a tough dude, and I can already hear him telling his kids, "When I was a kid, I ran a marathon three days after I had my appendix removed..."

I know about Kolter's surgery because I ran into Coach David Ernesti at the East Husker Conference meet. At that meet, I noticed that Coach Ernesti runs the start-line strideouts with his athletes, and he later told me that he does this to give some last-minute race advice and to keep his athletes engaged so they don't overthink the race. A 2003 Fremont High grad, Coach Ernesti tries to train with his kids as much as he can, especially during bad weather. Back in the day he could knock out a 52-second 400 or a 2:00 800, so he's a heckuva training partner and role model for his team.

How about OPS?

The rumors of OPS' death in cross country were greatly exaggerated. We were already pumped that OPS schools had qualified one team (Burke) and two individuals for State, but then those kids went nuts at State. Just a year after only only two OPS athletes qualified for State, the OPS crew brought home three individual State medals: Tommy Vasquez (Burke) placed 9th, Sergio Martinez-Cruz (Omaha South) was 13th, and Nayera Abdessalam (Omaha North) finished 14th. We're particularly happy for Tommy, whom we've been watching for the last nine years. If any top tier athlete has seen more of a transformation than Tommy has in the last four years, we'd love to hear that story.

Winning the Internet

By now many of you have seen the State playoff video of the Malcolm softball player who scored from second on a sacrifice bunt. With so many defenders and runners moving at the same time, the opposing team didn't see that she had missed third base by a country mile, and the Malcom coach added fuel to the fire by telling a newspaper that the play was not only legal but also one that they had practiced.

In the days leading up to State XC, Malcolm's Bricen Wilkie had the following tweet: "I will not be cutting corners at the state meet Friday, to whom it may concern." NebPrep's Clark Grell retweeted the post with this comment: "This kid just won Twitter." Bricen, a junior, was competing in his first State race, where he finished 19th.

Fan of the day

I met Tonya Miller of Fremont at Districts in Norfolk nine days before State. Tonya spent most of the time between Districts and State as a hospital inpatient fighting a very difficult condition. I was surprised to see her in Kearney, but she told me she informed her doctors very early in the week that she would be getting discharged on Thursday so she could be at the State meet. In the spirit of race day, she even decorated her walker.

Tonya's grit was rewarded. Her son Noah ran 16:51 to place 24th in Class A and, more importantly, was the third scorer for Fremont's State championship team. Last year around this year, Tonya was an accomplished triathlete. After State, her husband Ryan texted me this: "The truth is we are learning to be content in our weaknesses and hardships as it gives us greater opportunity to rest in Christ's strength" (2 Corinthians 12:10). Our prayers go out to Tonya as she fights this battle.

Take a moment

One of the more thoughtful moments we captured on Friday was a picture of Robert Hrnchir of Hastings St. Cecilia. Less than an hour after he wrapped up his high school XC career with an 18th-place finish, Robert was journaling under a tree near the 300-meter mark of the race course. Robert, who was ranked 7th prior the State, told me that he's been journaling since last year, and he's found it to be helpful for both running and sorting through the mess of life. Robert had a college visit scheduled for this week, so we're hoping his running career will continue past May.


The UNK meet is powered by volunteers, including 35 UNK distance runners who spent five hours at the golf course on Friday and 10-15 miles on a long run on Saturday morning. We were also fortunate to run into meet official Donald Softley of Grant, who was responsible for checkpoints near the one- and two-mile mark. Don has been our entertainment at State track the past two years, so we were thrilled to see him.


Congratulations to Jon Dolliver and the NSAA staff for another successful State meet. There are three State meets where athletes from so many schools congregate in one small area - XC, track and wrestling - and the environment is simply incredible.

Northeast Nebraska

I often joke that Northeast Nebraska is where meet results go to die, in part because so few are posted on However, coaches and fans have been exceptional in sending us results since last year, and now the area is getting a reputation as a distance running Mecca. NEN now can boast two State champions (Noecker and Arens), a State team title from the Wayne girls, a near-title by the Crofton girls, three boys in the Class D top 11, a strong season by Dyami Berridge (Winnebago) and freshman Drew Miller (Wayne), an up-and-coming huge program at Class D Homer, plus an amazing season by Norfolk's Isaac Ochoa.

The season is over. You won.

Two of the most popular articles we've ever posted are stories about failure. Each season we posted "The Season is Over. You Won", and this year we wrote about why "Failing Forward" is such an important part of athletics and life. If you have an athlete feeling bad about their performance at State, Districts or the season in general, I encourage you to share these articles.

Cut the newspapers some slack

I led off our recap with a link to Brent Wagner's article in the Lincoln Journal Star. Brent consistently writes articles about cross country despite having responsibility for a wide number of sports at the high school and collegiate level. Newspapers get beat up a lot for not covering cross country, a shift that led Dustin Llewellyn to create NETC, an effort that later morphed into Prep Running Nerd. At some point this year I wrote an extended piece in the defense of newspapers, but this was the main point: we should be appreciative of any newspaper coverage the sport gets, because distance running does not sell newspapers.

Nerd party

Friday marked the largest in-person gathering of the Nerd team and my first chance to meet three Nerds I had only met by text and e-mail. Pictured above: Dr. Nerd, Nerd HD, Nerd, CW Nerd, Broken Nerd, Art Nerd and High Mileage Nerd. Nerdlee was also on site for the Class A and B races. We were missing Nerd Junior and Hurdle Nerd (work), while Nerd the Third and Nerd Central had college obligations.

Junior and Third are family members and have to do what I tell them, but the other nine Nerds went all in on Nerding because they simply love the sport. CW Nerd texted me nearly every week this fall about how this volunteer gig had given her a closer connection to running and her daughter, and - get this - it led to start running consistently for the first time in her life. Dr. Nerd started booking time out of his clinic to shoot meets; when I reminded him that he wasn't getting paid to be a Nerd, he replied that the his Nerd volunteering made him realize that he needed to devote time to things he's passionate about. Each of the twelve Nerds has a different life experience with running but they all share an incredible dedication to promoting the sport and the kids who make it great. We haven't formally confirmed that all of the Nerds are on board for track season, but we're crossing our fingers.

This expansion season was so successful, with Nerds on site at 68 meets, that we'd like to continue to grow our volunteer network. Over the past two weeks we've had a number of Nerd-curious folks reach out to us but we haven't had a chance to reply to any of them. Please be patient as we work through our State to-do list, and then we'll touch base to see if you'd be a good fit. What's in it for you? Not much besides a few free t-shirts and the loving feedback of running families. Shoot an e-mail to if you want to learn more about the Nerd life.

Writers wanted

It's relatively easy for us to add photographers to the Nerd team, but far more difficult to add strong writers who understand the sport and the Nebraska running scene. Are there any distance coaches out there who would like to occasionally publish articles on the Nerd website? I know several coaches who would have excellent info on mental training, motivational techniques and other topics that would appeal to our audience. If you're interested, please shoot me an e-mail.

Post-season races

Our high school season is over but yours doesn't have to be. Here are several races that high school athletes may be interested in:

* Nebraska USATF, Walnut Creek, 11/6 - Have you heard about the USATF Nebraska 5k XC Championships? This is just one week before the Nike Regionals. All you need is a USATF Membership, only $25. Sign up online for the USATF Neb XC Open Championship at… USATF membership - Questions? Send a Twitter DM to @NebraskaLDR

* Champs Regionals (previously Footlocker and Eastbay), Kenosha, WI, 11/26 -

College plans

When we're not so exhausted, we'll start building our Class of 2023 commitment list for XC and T&F athletes. If you're a senior who wants to compete in college, you definitely need to be reaching out to coaches now. We have a few resources for you:

Navigating the college selection process - You only get to be a college freshman once, so this primer gives you a lot to think about as you evaluate colleges and college running programs.

Listing of Nebraska (and nearby) collegiate programs - A few listings may have outdated contact info, but this document is a great starting point when you begin reaching out to Nebraska distance programs.

Nerd gear

Being a running nerd is not just a frame of mind; it’s also a lifestyle. If you’re a nerd, we don’t think you should hide it, which is why we’ve opened a Nerd store on our website. All of the profits from last year’s sales went to provide t-shirts to OPS schools. The Nerd strategy team hasn’t decided what to do with the proceeds from this year’s sales; frankly, Mrs. Nerd is more concerned about taking back the bedroom that has turned into inventory storage.

In contrast to previous sales, we have the product in stock so the there is not a deadline for orders. However, once a product is out of stock, it probably won't be re-ordered. My personal experience is that the shirts run a little small, but we're thrilled with the quality of the gear. Our store can be found here.


Originally published at on October 28, 2022.

Do you see any errors, typos or key omissions? It's even more likely this week since we're still typing at midnight. Send an e-mail to and we'll do our best to correct the article. Originally written for and posted at by Jay Slagle. Did you love reading about Nebraska high school running? Visit for rankings, results, photos, long-form articles, frequent updates on our blog page, Nerd gear, and a bunch of other cool stuff that only running nerds would think to do. If you want to see meet photos or just need to kill a few hours on social media, follow @PrepRunningNerd on Twitter and Instagram, or on Facebook at

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