Contributors: Nerd the Third, Nerd Senior
We continue our series of season previews with a look at Class B. Here are the returning medalists from the 2021 State meet:
1) Mesuidi Ejerso (1st), South Sioux City, Senior
2) Riley Boonstra (4th), Norris, Junior
3) Caden Keller (5th), Northwest, Senior
4) McCoy Haussler (6th), Omaha Skutt, Junior
5) Oscar Aguado-Mendez (7th), Lexington, Senior
6) Ian Salazar-Molina (8th), Lexington, Junior
7) Dawson Fricke (9th), Blair, Senior
8) Jayden Ureste (10th), Lexington, Senior
9) Colin Pinneo (11th), York, Senior
10) Miguel Cruz-Mendoza (13th), Lexington, Junior
11) Kai Olbrich (14th), Bennington, Senior
Only 4 of the 15 medalists last fall were seniors, so it's going to be tough for newcomers to break into the Top 10 this year. Here's a few of the top returners:
Mesuidi Ejerso aims to repeat as state champion. He did not lose to a class B opponent last fall, and he ran 4:35 (6th) and 9:38 (2nd) at the State track meet after being somewhat of a surprise 3200 winner in 2020. We wrote about Mesuidi in our pre-State article last fall.
Ian Salazar-Molina of Lexington won both of those State races (4:26/9:36) with incredible kicks after finishing 8th at State XC. The competition within the Lexington team was exceptional last year, so we wouldn't be surprised if someone else on the team steps up this year. However, if Salazar-Molina is within striking distance with under a mile to go in a 5k, he will be a tough guy to beat.
Oscar Aguado-Mendez of Lexington is more of a speed guy, running 2:02 and 4:39 last spring. We didn't have Oscar ranked in the top 15 until week 5 in 2021, so his 7th-place finish in Kearney was a surprise.
Due to a late spring injury, Riley Boonstra of Norris wasn't cleared to run until early August 2021, didn't race until mid-September, and ascended to a #2 ranking before finishing 4th at State XC. He ran 4:35 (5th) and 9:52 (4th) at 2022 State track and, more importantly, comes into this season in good health. Riley was also included in the 2021 pre-State article.
Dawson Fricke of Blair has dropped his 5k PR by almost a minute each year and had some solid track times (4:48/10:09).
Caden Keller of Northwest only runs cross country but has the chance to become a three-time state medalist. McCoy Haussler of Skutt is in the same boat, but perhaps has more to prove since he is only a junior and could put himself in the rare position to medal all four years. Haussler has the benefit of training with a group of runners who are just as accomplished as he is, but that only puts him on equal footing with the Lexington boys.
Jayden Ureste was Lexington's top runner in at least three meets last season, but he appeared to only race at one meet during the track season. Jayden and Miguel Cruz-Mendoza will be crucial in helping Lexington defend the team title, and we believe they are up to the task.
Colin Pinneo looks to end his cross country career with a bang and be a strong leader for the York squad. He's captured two 11th place medals at State XC to go along with a 3200 medal in 2022 (10:05), plus 1600 (4:34) and 3200 (10:05) medals in 2021.
The top 5 teams in 2021 were:
1) Lexington - 34 points (6 returners)
2) Omaha Skutt - 38 points (4 returners)
3) Norris - 81 points (2 returners)
4) Mount Michael - 103 points (5 returners)
5) Bennington - 118 points (3 returners)
The team race between Lexington and Omaha Skutt Catholic last year had us on the edge of our seat (Lex won 34 to 38). Nerd the Third thinks that Lexington may have a clearer advantage this year, but Nerd Senior remembers that the Skutt boys were banged up for much of the 2021 season. Lexington conceivably brings back five boys from the State champ team, but the team is so deep that we wouldn't be surprised if others stepped up. In addition to the four we listed above, they also return Lazaro Adame-Lopez, who ran a 4:36 PR during the spring. While freshman boys rarely make a big splash, Lexington swept the open and championship races at the 2021 Junior High State XC meet.
Given the depth of Omaha Skutt, we were shocked that only Haussler was on the list of top 10 returners. McCoy will be joined by Tommy Rice (2:00/4:37 in the spring), Alex Rice (1:59/4:36) and Jack Wade (1:56). Michael Baumert, a senior, may be in the hunt for a varsity spot after running 10:18 at Districts. Skutt also adds a few freshmen that could make a late-season push for a District spot.
Mt. Michael returns four boys from the 2021 State team as well as its alternate. Jude Storch is expected to lead the team again this year, but senior Max McCoy may see the biggest jump in performance at running 10:26 in May. Look for Leon Zhu, Finn Murphy and Aiden Brink to run well, and the team has five solid JV runners from 2021 who will also be hunting for a varsity spot. Mt. Michael requires all freshman to participate in a fall sport, and that process often uncovers athletes who never knew they were meant to be distance runners.
Blair returns the top 4 runners from its 7th place team. Dawson Fricke should be a high stick, and Nolan Slominski may be ready to join him after running 1:59 (6th place) at the State meet. Zachary Keeling, Blair's #2 runner from the 2021 State meet, spent most of the track season running the 100, 4x100 and 4x400, so it will be interesting to see if he can convert back to distance running. Finally, Calin O'Grady ran 18:46 at State XC but then followed it up with a 4:39 PR this spring, so look for him to make a bigger impact.
Gering returns five of six boys from last year's 8th place team when they raced three freshmen. This year they add freshman Axton Stone, who placed 9th at JH State XC and then ran 2:20/4:58 during the spring. Bennington returns its two fastest finishers - Kai Olbrich and Ryan Burton - from its 5th place team. Northwest placed 6th last year and returns four, with Caden Keller, Ben Sutherland and Kian Botts likely the top three on the squad. York returns four of six, including Colin Pinneo and Gabriel Zarraga.
We've scoured the Junior High State XC and T&F results to identify incoming freshman who may have an impact this season. A few may not be running XC, so let us know if we've made an error.
Jonathon Rico of Nebraska placed 5th at JH State XC and then ran 4:48 during the spring. He joins a Nebraska City team that returns four of six boys from their 12th place team.
Jared Schroeder of Waverly - who hopefully will rock the mullet like his older brother Conrad - ran 2:13/4:58 this spring.
Riley Peters joins a deep Omaha Skutt squad after running 2:15 and 5:01 this past May. We chatted with Riley shortly after his 5:06 at the PAL Super Meet, and he was stoked to begin his high school career.
Do you have any more freshman studs to add? Send an e-mail to email@example.com and I'll do some research.
Originally written for and posted at www.preprunningnerd.com by Jay Slagle. Did you love reading about Nebraska high school running? Visit www.preprunningnerd.com 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 www.facebook.com/preprunningnerd.