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5/15/22 Nerdsletter

Contributor: The Nerd

Be the first

Nerd Junior graduated from UNL yesterday, and we joined about 20,000 others at Memorial Stadium to celebrate 3,000 newly-minted graduates. College degrees have been the norm in our family for three generations, but that's not the case in many families. I grew up with Andy, who was the 5th of 6th kids. No one worked harder or had better hearts than his parents, but his four older brothers were absolute hellions in high school. The brothers settled down later in life and are all great guys, but that wasn't necessarily the case back in 1981 when Andy entered high school. During his first day of classes, he told several teachers, "My name is Andy, I'm going to be different than my brothers, so please give me a chance to prove it."

He did prove it. Using teammates and coaches in football, basketball and track as his mentors, he walked the straight path and was the first in his family to earn a high school diploma. He parlayed his height and his basketball skills to earn a college scholarship, and he was the first in his family to graduate from college. Once he was married and settled into teaching, he became the first in his family to earn a masters degree. Once Andy did it, earning a college degree became the new family expectation. His little sister went into teaching, and 18 of his children, nieces and nephews have either graduated from college or are in college. Andy is nearing retirement but he's had the same teaching philosophy his entire career: "give every student a chance to succeed no matter their circumstances."

A related but different story that a co-worker told me 30 years ago and still sticks with me -- although I might be fuzzy on the details. His dad was in his mid-30s when he decided to return to night school for an MBA. One of the seminars he wanted to take was extremely popular, with demand many multiples of the 20 available spots. This was in the 1970's, before Internet and student-friendly policies, and the only directive was to show up for the first night of class and hope for the best.

By the time Jerry arrived 15 minutes before the class started, there were a few dozen students milling in the hallway. He entered the door at the back of the classroom and saw that every seat was filled and at least twenty more students were standing in the back. After pausing for a few moments, he strode confidently to the front of the classroom and picked up a piece of chalk. He reached for the top of the chalkboard and slowly wrote, "1. Jerry Hietpas." He put the chalk down and walked back to his spot in the back of the room. Once he walked away, the classroom erupted as the younger students queued up to add their name to the chalkboard. A few minutes later, the bearded professor walked into the room, scanned the crowd and the student list on the chalkboard, and quickly said, "Excellent. The first twenty students on the board can stay. The rest of you... please leave and try again next semester."

There are countless ways to be the first - the first in your family to graduate from college, the first at your school to medal at State, the first person to bring order to a chaotic situation, the first at work to establish a new standard of excellence. Being first takes confidence and commitment -- being the first to have success is never a sure thing -- but the rewards are immense.

And that concludes my commencement speech. Good day.

Being a military kid ain't easy

We receive a few dozen DMs every week, and here's one we wanted to share. Paula Deboer Allen describes herself as a 'crazy grandma' and an avid follower of the Nerd. Her grandson Jameson Allen is a sophomore sprinter at Papio South. Jameson's dad has been in the Marines for 23 years, and this is the 2nd of a 3-year stint that marks the only time that the family has lived anywhere near Nebraska. Jameson qualified in the 400 and was part of the 4x400 team that advanced, so Paula gets to be a crazy track grandma for another week.

Flashbacks to prior articles

A few updates about athletes we've covered in previous articles:

  • We were at Platteview in early April when Mya Emerson of Wahoo competed in the high jump (see the introduction of our 4/6/22 Nerdsletter). Mya was a state qualifier in high jump in 2019 and 2021, but on August 27, 2021 she was diagnosed with cancer in her sinus cavity. She endured six rounds of chemotherapy and thirty-four rounds of Proton Radiation Therapy, with her last session on January 24th of this year. She competed hard all season but did not qualify for this year's State meet; four months was not enough time to build back her strength. We don't care. She's still a hero in our eyes.

  • We published a long-form article about Emmett Hassenstab of Omaha Skutt in early April, and that's been our most popular article this spring. If you haven't heard of Emmett, here's the recap: he finished 2nd in the Class B triple jump last May, and became completely paralyzed six days later. Not much has changed for Emmett since we published the article except Emmett's college plans; he's going to attend Creighton. We're pretty sure we haven't heard the last amazing story about Emmett.

  • Brandon Schutt of Bellevue East was in the national spotlight last fall after he stopped at the District XC race and helped Omaha Burke's Blake Cerveny cross the finish line. Our tweet and Facebook posts about that moment generated 2.5 million social media impressions, and we followed up with this long-form article that has been viewed almost 12,000 times. Brandon and Blake were subsequently featured on NBC Nightly News and Good Morning America. Last Tuesday at Districts, Brandon ran a three-second PR in the 800, finishing in 2:00.24 and earning an automatic qualifying spot for State.

  • Tommy Vasquez of Omaha Burke continues his transformation from a 13:00 3200 guy as an 8th grader; on Tuesday he qualified for State in both the 1600 (4:34) and 3200 (10:14). If you think you're going to be the most bonkers parent at Omaha Burke this week, you are underestimating Tim Vasquez...

  • Prior to Districts, Lincoln East's Malachi Coleman hadn't competed in the triple jump since finishing 4th at last year's State meet. The junior jumped 46-04.5 at Districts, the third-best qualifying mark behind super-jumpers Jaylen Lloyd (Omaha Central) and Reece Grosserode (Pius). Malachi also qualified in the 100, 200 and 4x100, and he's a D-1 football recruit. Malachi and Jaylen are juniors, while Reece is just a sophomore.

Quick hits

A few more college transfer moves: Millard West alum John Quigley (14:44 5k/31:19 10k) graduates from Creighton this month and will be a grad transfer for Minnesota.

Nebraska's Dais Malabena (3:59 indoor mile in 2022, 2021 outdoor nationals in 1500, center in picture above) is transferring to Adams State, as is his teammate Papay Glaywulu, who has a TJ PR of 53-00.75 and qualified for outdoor nationals in 2018 and 2019.

We may be overlooking a race result that isn't on, but we don't believe Gabe Hinrichs of Elkhorn South has lost an individual event this season. He swept the 800, 1600 and 3200 at Metros and Districts, and he also helped his 4x400 team earn one of the four extra qualifier spots for State.

Speaking of first, in 2021 RaeAnn Thompson of Falls City was the first FCHS girl to qualify for State in fourteen years. She swept the 100 and 200 titles in 2021, and has qualified for Burke this year in the 100, 200, LJ and 4x100. She's the first FCHS girl to qualify in four events since 1982.

Eli Alaga hasn't competed much this season due to a stress fracture, but at A-3 Districts he finished 2nd in the 100 and helped Millard South qualify in the 4x100. I ran into him after the 100 when he was wearing a boot. He ran 10.78 and 10.79 last Tuesday in wind-legal conditions.

The Class A girls horizontal jump competition will be fascinating. Lilee Kaasch of Millard South leads the TJ qualifiers at 38-11 (tied for 15th on the all-time list per our records), while two athletes new to the TJ this season qualified 2nd and 3rd - Sara Iburg (38-7.25) of Pius and Lademi Davies (36-11) of Westside - and all three have PRs over 38-00. Lademi led the LJ qualifying with a state-leading 19-07.50, followed by Lilee (18-00.75) and Sara (17-11.50).

Andrew Brown of Omaha Central had an epic fall at Metros last week on the last hurdle of the 300H, but he bounced back to run his first-ever sub-40 result at Districts to qualify for State. T&F has no shortage of comeback stories.

Conner Wells of St. Paul is an exceptionally speedy 400/800 guy - he's the defending Class B champ in both events. After winning 400 and 800 (and anchoring the winning 4x800) at Districts in Broken Bow, he left his arm sleeve. I'm sure the Broken Boys will return it to Conner at Burke, but until then they are trying to collect from the sleeve whatever superpowers they can. Daine Wardyn posted the photo above on his Twitter account last week. There is no shortage of personalities in T&F.

Carson Staehr of Aurora had a productive B-5 District, winning the long jump (22-01) and triple jump (47-05, 2nd in Class B), placing 3rd in the 400, and taking the first extra qualifier spot in the 200 with his 4th place finish. Chayton Bynes of Chadron had an even better day, jumping 23-01.75 and 47-05.75 to win the B-6 titles; his 4x100 team also nabbed the last extra qualifier spot for Burke.

I've been to Kearney quite a few times, and I do not recommend that fans hang at the top of an 8-foot fence to have a better view/yelling perspective. However, that's what Claire White's superfan mom did, and it apparently paid off: Claire (the Omaha Westside school record holder in the 3200) qualified for State in the 1600, 3200 and 4x800.

Like pretty much any parent, I burst with pride when my kids do well, and my sons' performances at the State meet hold a special place in my heart. There are likely dozens of coaches who have kids competing at State this week, but it's been especially enjoyable to talk to (and follow on Twitter) Coach Musiel of Lincoln North Star as his daughter Keatyn tackles her first season of T&F at Lincoln East. Just a sophomore, Keaton comes into State with five long jump wins, a District title and a PR of 17-07. Lincoln North Star and Lincoln East were assigned to different Districts, so I'm sure Coach Musiel was a nervous wreck last Tuesday.

If that wasn't rough enough on Coach, Keatyn competed at Districts with a 102 degree temp and a painful stomach. It wasn't clear why she felt so bad until three days later, when she had to undergo an emergent appendectomy. Because teenagers can do practically anything, Keatyn has not ruled out jumping at Burke on Wednesday. If she competes, this very unbiased Nerd team will be, um not be, silently cheering for her in accordance with NSAA media rules.

Empty spots at Districts

Coach Haselhorst of Papio South shared some disappointing data about how many athletes were entered for each of the 17 events at Class A Districts. A-1, A-2 and A-3 each had eight schools, so there was a maximum of 24 entries for each individual event and 8 entries for each relay. Throw in the 7-team A-4 District and the max entries for all of Class A is 93 athletes in individual events and 31 teams in relays (per gender). It was far less than that.

In the 4x800, there were just 20 teams entered for both boys and girls, and 16 of those 20 qualified for State. In the 4x400, there were 25 girls teams and 28 boys teams. In the 3200, only 41 of 93 spots were filled for the girls and 62 spots for the boys. In the A-4 pole vault, there were only 9 girls and 9 boys entered, while A-1 had 19 and 15, respectively. Among all Districts, the only individual events with every spot taken was the A-1 shot put (boys and girls), A-1 1600 (boys), A-1 discus (boys), A-3 discus (girls), and A-3 shot put (boys) - that's 6 events out of 112. For relay events, only 3 of 24 races were fully entered.

All-time top-10 marks

Westside's Lademi Davies joins the LJ list at 6th with her jump of 19-07.5. Ella Gardner of Superior (pictured below in the athlete-of-the-week graphic) is now 8th on the list with her 19-06.75 from Districts; she entered Tuesday with a PR of 18-05. Ella also becomes the Class C state record holder, surpassing Bethany DeLong of Laurel-Concord, who jumped 19-01.50 in 2009. LaQue Moen-Davis of Omaha North set the all-time record in 2010 with a leap of 20-02.75. LaQue also holds the TJ record at 42-04.

Jaylen Lloyd of Omaha Central had a productive Districts, joining the LJ top-ten list with two separate jumps that were good enough for #5 all-time: he jumped 24-05 and then 24-06. The all-time leader is Robert Sands of Bellevue East at 25-00.25. Jaylen pushed Omaha Central's Ted Lampkin (2010) down to #6; #2 on the list is Omaha Central's Gale Sayers, who jumped 24-10.5 in 1961 before going on to star for the Chicago Bears. Think the 24-06 is impressive? He also had a scratch at Districts that measured 25-03 according to Nerd the Third, who watched a non-official measure the jump.

Roughly three weeks ago, our sources tell us that Maria Kimpson was not planning to compete in the pole vault in college. She then jumped 12-05 at Metros, good for #6 on the all-time list. On Tuesday at Districts, she cleared 12-08 to tie for #5, easily made 13-00 to move into #4, and was oh-so-close to clearing 13-05 to best the State record of 13-04 set by Jaidyn Garrett of Columbus in 2019. Maria has now decided to attend Colorado State where... she will be pole vaulting.

NATW for the week ended May 7

Speaking of Ella Gardner... you may have missed the announcements during our 120 tweets on Tuesday during Districts, but these were our Nerd Athletes of the Week:

  • A Girls: Kate Campos, Pius, 14.19 (100H) and 43.10 (300H)

  • A Boys: Dash Bauman, Lincoln East, 15.31 (110HH), 39.42 (300H)

  • B Girls: Brynn Hirschfeld, York, 5:17.54 (1600)

  • B Boys: Cole Murray, Waverly, 1:54.36 (800)

  • C Girls: Ella Gardner, Superior, 13.04 (100), 26.40 (200), 18-02.5 (LJ)

  • C Boys: Beau Ruskamp, Wisner-Pilger, 11.64 (100), 40.34 (300H)

  • D Girls: Kiley Hejtmanek, Maywood-Hayes, 12.97 (100), 26.50 (200), 1:02.09 (400)

  • D Boys: Trevor Kuncl, Mullen, 4:43.2 (1600), 10:29.6 (3200)

In addition to these two pictures, Nerd Junior has posted sweet graphics for each award winner this year at our Instagram page @preprunningnerd. We're over 2500 followers on Insta, so Junior and Third must be killing it.

Junior high studs, Part 2

The Nebraska junior high championship was held on Saturday in Gothenburg, and it did not disappoint. Full results are available at (Because of some formatting issues with the placement order of results, I made several errors which I believe I have corrected now.) A few highlights:

  • Landon Fye of Crete won the 200, 200H and LJ (19-11) and finished second in the 100.

  • Brady Johnson of Oakland-Craig won the discus in 162-10, a 10-foot PR, and finished second in the shot put a week after establishing his PR of 51-01.75.

  • Drew Steich of Norfolk and Ethan Latta of Dundy County Stratton both jumped 6-00 in the high jump.

  • Eli Murillo of Marrs Magnet in Omaha won the 1600 in 4:40 and finished fourth in the 800 in 2:10.

  • Alyssa Onnen of Kearney Catholic won the horizontal jumps in 16-07 and 35-02.25.

  • Hazel Haarberg won the 100 and 200; Katie Shafer of Cornerstone Christian was 2nd in the 100 and 200 and won the 400 in 58.01. A 58.01 would have placed 4th in the 2021 Class A State meet.

  • Halle Dolliver of Malcolm finished 2nd in the 400 in a blazing 59.63. Her dad runs several championship events for the NSAA, including the State XC meet.

  • Emma Steffensen of Waverly flew to a meet record 2:19.12 in the 800 just seven months after dislocating her knee and tearing her meniscus. She broke Story Rasby's (Sutherland) record from last year; a Class C athlete, Story is a freshman this year and has all-class top-10 marks in the 200, 400 and 800 this season. Emma was also on the Waverly 4x400 team that set a new meet record in 4:17.

  • Grace Volzke, a 7th grader at Elkhorn Ridge and likely a future Elkhorn South athlete, finished 2nd in the 800 in 2:29.11 and won the 1600 in 5:23.92.

  • Paighton Erb of Columbus and Claire Hellbusch (Gothenburg) both cleared 5-03 in the high jump. That mark would have been a 5th place finish at Class A State in 2021.


With a big assist from honorary Nerd Jaden Gebeke, a former distance guy at Elkhorn High, we were able to cover all four Class A Districts on Tuesday. We've posted about 1800 photos from the four sites; you can find links to all of our Facebook albums here.

We'll also be taking photos at State but don't expect a quick turnaround. Nerd vacation begins the day after State. Be patient. We take cool pictures and we share them for free.

Top marks

With many top athletes doing the bare minimum to get one of the autoQ spots, the Districts results don't provide much guidance on how State will shake out. Nerd the Third continues to update our rankings and, to our knowledge, it represents the most comprehensive database of season-best marks - particularly for Class C and D, for which many meet results are not uploaded to Go to the Rankings tab on our website for a link to the top marks.

The most heroic thing we've seen this year

We often talk about heroic sports performances, but on Friday evening I witnessed something that goes well beyond that. Just after a UNL business school event ended, 40 students and their families were milling about outside the Alumni Center when an older gentleman collapsed. It's now clear that a business school event is not the best place to have a medical emergency, but a middle-aged man and a graduate's sibling rushed over to perform CPR and a third person retrieved a defibrillator. For five minutes while 200 stunned and helpless bystanders could do nothing but cry and pray, those two individuals knelt on a sidewalk and brought a man back to life.

Strategic decisions

Whether it's competing for a State berth or a team championship, T&F coaches and athletes are constantly evaluating which athletes should compete in which events. For example, Elli Dahl (Fremont/UNL) and Jaci Sievers (Elkhorn South junior) sat out the District 800 to focus on the 1600 and 3200, Stella Miner (Westside sophmore) will likely be in the 800, 1600, 4x800 and 4x400 despite having Class A's 5th fastest 400 time, and Brianna Rinn (LSW/Utah) qualified in the 800, 1600, 3200 and 4x400.

Jordyn Arens of Crofton opted for and advanced in the 1600, 3200 and 4x800 at Districts despite also being the defending champion in the 800. Hannah Swanson of Nebraska Christian, who finished 2nd behind Arens at thee Class D XC State meet, won the District titles in the 1600 and 3200 but did not run the 800. Conversely, several athletes whom we expected to see in the State 3200 did not qualify after spending too much mojo during the District 4x800.

Several weeks ago we pondered who will be the four athletes on Fremont's 4x800 team at State. Waters, Baker, Miller and Taylor set the State record three weeks ago, but Miller was the only one of those four boys to run a leg at Districts. We're guessing we'll see all but Waters on the State relay team, but we also know that Coach McMahon is way smarter than we are.

Not qualifying is not a failure

I've mentioned this before, but I wasn't anywhere near qualifying for State in my less-than-stellar career at Falls City High. However, my journey as a distance runner was more important than the goal, and it has made be a better student, employee, husband and father. The lessons I've learned from failing have been far more important than what I've learned from success.

I hope Sean Dart has the same experience I had. Daniel Romary told us about his teammate at Lincoln Northeast, who was hoping to qualify for State in the 800. Sean was a 28:00 5k guy as a freshman (sub-17:00 is generally need to qualify for Class A State XC), and he improved his PR to a 18:28 by his senior season. This spring he raced the 800 for the first time, setting a PR of 2:01.66 last month. Unfortunately, he was the 25th fastest boy in Districts, missing the extra qualifier spot by one place. We were rooting for him.

Connor Bradley of Southern won the Class C 100, 200 and 400 in 2021 as a junior, but he will not be able to defend his title. Based on reports from bystanders as well as a video we saw, he went into Districts with a significant injury. He gave it a go but was unable to qualify in any of the events. We hope to see him healthy again and competing in college in at least one sport.

Running/track camps

I think we've only scratched the surface, but here's a listing of summer camps we've discovered thus far:

  • Concordia - - Offers a series of 90-minute to two-hour camps from June 6-29 to high school students in a variety of track disciplines. It also offers full-day pole vault camps on June 13 and 20.

  • Creighton University - - Creighton is offering a day XC camp on July 11, as well as a two-day 'elite camp' for rising juniors and seniors on July 18-19 that is limited to the first 16 registrants (two spots remain for the elite camp as I'm typing this).

  • FCA running camp - - Hosted at UNK, this camp runs June 14-17 is designed for high school XC athletes.

  • Midland University - - Midland is hosting three one-day camps for high school athletes at Ashland Greenwood (6/6), Gering (6/8) and Fremont (6/10). There are three different 90-minute sessions at each camp, divided by T&F disciplines.

  • Nike - - This camp is not cheap but likely offers some Nike swag. It runs July 13-16 in Colorado Springs and the website suggests it will sell out. It doesn't list age eligibility but seems to be geared towards high school athletes.

  • Smarter Training for Faster Running CC Camp - - Led by Coach David Ramsey, this camp was a popular destination for some of Nebraska's top runners prior to COVID. It runs July 10-17 in Fort Collins, CO.

  • Wesleyan University - - offering two half-day clinics in T&F disciplines on June 3 for grades 9-12.

  • Wisconsin - - Creighton Prep athletes attended this large XC camp in Madison for many years prior to the pandemic. With Seth Hirsch transferring to Colorado, the camp staff has one less celebrity, but the Prep boys met a number of future Olympians during camp.

  • West Valley Track - - This is the only camp we have found thus far that is explicitly for the younger set - Kindergarten through 6th grade. Starts May 31 and runs through June 30th every Tuesday and Thursday from 6:00pm-7:00pm at the Omaha Westside track.

High school and college coaches, if you're aware of other camps, please e-mail me at and I'll keep updating the list.

Coming up this week

We've taken photos at 35 junior high, high school and collegiate track meets since January, so we might as well knock out a few more. Nerd Junior and Nerd the Third will be on-site for pretty much all four days, while I'm trying to accomplish something at my real job. We may also enlist some fellow Nerds to help us get through the week. If you see someone with a Nerd shirt and a large camera inside the restricted area, it's probably one of us; we love to talk to athletes if you have time.

We're usually not a tweet-heavy crew, although we made an exception last Tuesday because of the high interest in Class A Districts. However, the State meet offers live online results, online video ( if you pay the monthly subscription fee of $10.99, and it's the one track meet each year that is swimming in media types. For that reason, we're not going to be tweeting the results of every race; you can get that from the Internet.

For many of our fans, it's annoying to be subjected to 90-100 tweets per day, so we'll do our best to give you meaningful tweets. We'll be posting great performances, cool pictures, athlete interactions, general observations and our normal quirky stuff each day on Twitter. As time allows, we'll try to post on Facebook and Instagram, but State is pretty hectic.

State information page

The NSAA does a nice job of providing State meet info. Bookmark their State HQ page at to stay on top of things.

Our State kinda-hype video

We dropped this video on the first day of the track season, so it seems fitting to post it again during the final week of the season. Click here to see the video, which includes a January workout by some Creighton University boys and a lot of photos from last year's meet.

One last radio interview with Rich Barnett

Rich Barnett, sports director at High Plains Radio in McCook, caught me for a final pre-State interview. We covered TJ studs, the Class A 1600 girls showdown, Rasby/McNair, record threats, appendectomies (which I can't pronounce) and so much more.

Still no room for fear or doubt

It's State week. You've worked hard all season, and the last thing we want is for your State performance to be diminished by fear or doubt. Need to get your mind straight? Click here to read one of the most popular articles we've ever posted.

Take the time to thank someone at State

T&F is a low-profile sport, but it's incredibly time-consuming for the people who support it. Coaches often care more about an athlete's success than the athlete does, and they sacrifice hundreds of hours of family time every season. The State meet officials (the start line officials, the folks carrying flags, the ticket takers) are almost exclusively volunteers. Western Nebraska reporters could easily stay behind their desks and ask parents to send photos, but instead they hang out a Burke for two or four days. In short, a significant number of adults do selfless things so that high school kids can have a great experience.

Athletes, do your part. Give your coach a handwritten thank you at the end of the season. Make a point to thank the meet officials. And perhaps, most importantly, go sit on the infield for a few minutes before or after your event to just soak in the experience. The fans are there for you. Feel their love.

Yes, we make mistakes

Did you find any errors in this article? We do this as a hobby, so we don't have editors looking over our shoulder. If you find an error, shoot us a DM on Twitter or Facebook, or e-mail us at As always, thank you for all of your gentle corrections. **************************************** 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, 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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