Class A boys - Top returners in Fall 2021
Contributor: Nerd the Third
The Class A field returns 10 medalists and quite a bit of star power. Gabe Hinrichs of Elkhorn (1:53, 4:12, 8:59), Daniel Romary of Lincoln Northeast (1:52, 4:14, 9:04) and Liem Chot of Lincoln North Star absolutely shredded the Burke track this spring, and Romary added to his resume with a 1:52 800 and 3:53 1500 (4:10 1600 equivalent) at USATF nationals in late July. Chot is headed off to Temple but the fireworks will continue in 2021/2022. While Romary may not have had his long-distance chops last fall, it appears to us that both he and Hinrichs are running at a different level in 2021 than they did in Fall 2020. Not since 2016, when Seth Hirsch and Milo Greder were seniors, have we had two returnees who were so accomplished after their junior years.
Of course, we're returning seven of the top eight medalists from the 2020 State meet, and those other guys aren't slouches either.
Sam Kirchner of Millard West ran 4:20 and 9:24 at State track. Kirchner was just 8 seconds behind Hinrichs at last fall's State meet.
Fremont returns four of the fastest 15 finishers from 2020. Nolan Miller ran 1:56/4:30 in the spring, Carter Waters ran 4:23/9:19, and Braden Taylor 1:53/4:18. On any given day, these three guys or three other guys could be the fastest on the Fremont team. Depth is rarely an issue in Fremont.
Colby Erdkamp of Gretna was slowed at the end of XC season by a COVID quarantine, but he rebounded with huge PRs of 4:20 and 9:25 during track.
The 5,000-meter distance may be on the low end of where Evan Caudy of North Platte and Juan Garcia of Grand Island thrive, but we expect both of them to have strong senior seasons. Caudy missed out on third place at the 2020 XC meet by just 0.3 seconds had PRs of 4:26/9:48 during track. Garcia had two weeks of 80+ miles in the summer of 2020 - including an impromptu marathon - but he's been sticking around 60 miles per week this summer after PRs of 4:39/9:40 in the spring. The 'lower' mileage may allow him to be fresher at the end of the season.
Isaac Ochoa of Norfolk stuck to the 4x800 and the open 1600 during track season, running a 4:27 at State to just miss a medal. Freshmen often struggle in track, so his 4:27 was very impressive. He medaled at State XC last year as a freshman, and has the rare opportunity to medal four times; by our count, only six Class A boys have accomplished that feat since in the last 25 years.
We're also expecting Grant Wasserman of Lincoln North Star to rebound from what he felt was a disappointing spring season, although his 9:33 3200 PR would have been in the hunt for a state-best mark in other years. He loses Liem Chot as a training partner but still has an outstanding coach, so we expect him to bounce back this fall.
Finally, I would be remiss if we didn't mention Joe Volkmer of Lincoln East and Zach Schultz of Millard North, two of the hardest working runners in Class A. They're not among the top 15 returnees, but we won't rule anything out. If Joe brings back his mullet, there's no telling what could happen.
The top 15 returnees are:
Gabe Hinrichs, Sr, Elkhorn South (2nd, 15:43)
Sam Kirchner, Sr, Millard West (3rd, 15:51)
Evan Caudy, Sr, North Platte (4th, 15:51)
Isaac Ochoa, So, Norfolk (5th, 16:00)
Daniel Romary, Sr, Lincoln Northeast (6th, 16:00)
Juan Garcia, Sr, Grand Island (7th, 16:03)
Grant Wasserman, Sr, Lincoln North Star (8th, 16:04)
Nolan Miller, Sr, Fremont (10th, 16:12)
Carter Waters, Sr, Fremont (13th, 16:18)
Piercze Marshall, Jr, Millard West (15th, 16:22)
Colby Erdkamp, Sr, Gretna (16th, 16:26)
Braden Taylor, Sr, Fremont (17th, 16:29)
Joseph Hartnett, Jr, Millard West (21st, 16:36)
Aaron Ladd, Sr, Fremont (22nd, 16:39)
Noah Lawrence, Jr, Columbus (24th, 16:42)