Contributors: Nerd the Third, Nerd Senior
We continue our series of season previews with a look at the Class C boys. Here are the top 10 boys returning from the 2021 State meet:
1) Carson Noecker (1st), Hartington Newcastle, Senior
2) Ely Olberding (4th), Fort Calhoun, Senior
3) Lance Olberding (5th), Fort Calhoun, Senior
4) Dyami Berridge (6th), Winnebago, Senior
5) Carter Hohlen (7th), Lincoln Christian, Junior
6) Nolan May (8th), Arlington, Junior
7) Logan Lebo (13th), Lincoln Lutheran, Junior
8) Ethan Olson (15th), Gothenburg, Junior
9) Kaleb Eickhoff (16th), Milford, Junior
10) Addison Smith (18th), Bloomfield-Wausa, Senior
We suppose it's somehow possible that you haven't heard of Carson Noecker yet. He's arguably one of the most unassuming fellows competing in Nebraska cross country this season, but also one of the most accomplished. In five 5 seasons (2020 T&F lost to COVID) of competition, we believe that Carson has lost an individual race just four times: (a) to Mason Sindelar of Pierce during Carson's freshman XC campaign, (b) to Aquinas' Peyton Davis in the State 1600 final in 2021, (c) to his teammate Carson Arens in an 800, and (d) to Carson Arens and three other boys in the 800 at the 2022 conference meet. Congrats, guys; there are hundreds of other guys who have no hope of beating Carson the rest of his high school career. (We interviewed Carson Noecker as part of our 2021 XC State preview.)
Carson is on the cusp of making history. According to NSAA records, no Nebraska boy has ever won four State XC titles, although six boys have won three titles. Only three girls have won four titles: Shona Jones of Hastings (1982-1985), Amber Fairbanks of Geneva (1993-1996) and Jeralyn Poe of Lincoln North Star (2011-2014). You could even argue that Carson is going for his 5th title - he also won the Junior High State title in 8th grade.
Carson's track PRs are 4:19.61 and 9:11. He already holds the Class C record in the 3200 and he sits 13th all-time among all classes, with all those above him from Class A. At State in May, he took his best shot at the Class C 1600 record of 4:18.6 (Larry Kassebaum, Hebron) but fell one second short. Among current Nebraska competitors, he has the best 1600, 3200 and 5k times, with his closest competition in Class A. Carson could face off against Class A boys if his coach opted to have him run in the Class A division at the UNK meet in September. We're aware of this happening twice: Aidan Wheelock (Minden) jumped from Class C to A for the 2018 meet to finish 2nd behind Jose Gonzalez (Fremont), and Zach Van Brocklin (Norris) finished 3rd in 2019 in Class A behind Adam Murphy (Millard West) and Dillon McNeill (Papio South). It certainly would be entertaining to see Carson and some of the top girls (Green, Henning, Seiler, Arens?) tackle that Class A race this year, but we fans likely care more about these head-to-head matchups than runners and coaches do.
What are Carson's odds for a title this year? Barring injury, he seems to be lock. He won the 2021 XC title by 1:23, and his time was 1:54 better than the second-faster returner this year. This past May, Carson won the Class C 3200 title by a margin of 54 seconds. So yes, everyone else would appear to be racing for second.
Fortunately, the race for second place (and for all the other medals) is going to be pretty exciting. The Olberding twins from Fort Calhoun got off to a relatively slow start last fall, with their State times about one minute faster than their first few races, and we expect that will happen again in 2022. Both wrestle at a high level, including a State title for Ely as a freshman. While I'm not an accomplished web surfer when it comes to wrestling results, it looks like Ely was still wresting in mid-July and Lance has results from early August. While there may be some training crossover, I suspect neither boy considers himself to be in XC shape right now.
Dyami Berridge's 6th-place finish at State 2021 was a huge surprise for us. We had him on our watch list for four weeks late in the season, plus a ranking at #14 two weeks before State, but he was a 17:45-18:00 guy for much of the season. His 17:22 at State, on a tough course in less than ideal conditions, was impressive. He followed that up with times of 4:48 and 10:18 at the State track meet, so he's definitely on our radar now.
Carter Hohlen of Lincoln Christian joined the 2021 rankings after the second meet and never left it, with his 7th-place finish just above his pre-State ranking of 10th. He had a great track season, finishing 4th in the Class B 1600 in 4:33 and 7th in the 4x800. Nolan May of Arlington was a consistent performer during the 2021 XC season, with rankings between 3rd and 15th, before finishing 8th. His 2022 track results suggest he was not at his best for much of the season, but he helped the Arlington 4x800 squad finish 8th at State. If he's healthy, he'll be in the mix for a top 5 spot.
We see quite a few hurdlers and sprinters among the girls fields, but it's unusual to see a high school boy do well in both sprinting and distance. Logan Lebo of Lutheran Lincoln may be that exception. After finishing 13th at State XC, he focused primarily on the 400 and 800 during the spring, running sub-51:00 twice and 2:01 at State to earn two silver medals. His 1600 PR of 4:47 is from his freshman year in 2021, and we suspect he'll be cross country fit by October.
Ethan Olson of Gothenburg appeared in the 2021 rankings at #5 for the last two weeks before finishing 15th; his best performance was a 16:49 at the C5 Districts. He ran 4:47 and 10:31 during track season. Kaleb Eichhoff of Milford was ranked as high at #4 during the 2021 season before having an off day at his first State XC, so look for him to come back hungry this fall. Addison Smith of Bloomfield-Wausa was ranked three weeks during the 2021 season and has placed in the top 25 his previous three years.
Top 5 teams in 2021:
1) Fort Calhoun - 46 points (5 return)
2) Sidney - 58 points (lose top 4)
3) Milford - 70 (3 return)
4) Lincoln Christian - 111 points (return 4)
5) Gothenburg - 119 points (top 5 return)
Defending champ Fort Calhoun appears to be the favorite in 2022. The team didn't hit on all cylinders until right before State, with Jacob Rupp (now graduated) and the Olberding twins recording inconsistent results during the season as they built up fitness. The Pioneers also return juniors Johnathon Schwarte (39th in 18:23 at 2021 XC, 1:02/2:18 during track season) and Lawson Tjardes (2:29, 5:05), plus sophomore Travis Skelton (2;32/11:23), a mid-18:00 guy who was Fort Calhoun's consistent 4th runner until a rough outing at State.
Lincoln Christian, Gothenburg, Broken Bow, Arlington, Lincoln Lutheran, Hartington and DC West bring back their top finisher and at least three other boys from their State 2021 squads. Lincoln Christian returns four juniors, led by Carter Hohlen. Dahton Fischer (27th at 2021 XC, PRs of 53.70 in the 400 and 41.85 in the 300H) had a strong track season, and the Feauto twins Jackson (17:43 and 2:04 PRs) and Joel (18:04 and 4:53 PRs) will contribute. I would expect nearly all of these boys to improve upon on their State times.
Gothenburg brings back three juniors and two sophomores. Ethan Olson showed his potential last year, and Yahriel Gaeta (2:07, 5:01 this spring) just missed out on a medal last fall with his 19th place finish. Nathan Sager (2:12) and Parker Graves (2:08, 4:44, 10:47) had solid spring seasons, and sophomore Alec Graves should also return.
Broken Bow returns all but the #2 runner (Daine Wardyn, a big Nerd follower) from their 6th place squad. Potential returners include Noah Osmond (22nd in 2021, 4:41/10:13 in track), Treyton Hurlburt (50th, 2:20/11:13), State-qualifying hurdler Zane Eggleston, pole vaulter Coy Wardyn (13'3") and Jesse Gallian (2:12/5:13/11:24). Nebraska doesn't offer a team decathlon in the fall, but Broken Bow would be a lock to win that title.
Arlington returns their top five from 2021: Nolan May, Kevin Flesner (28th at State but ranked as high at 12th in 2021, 2:10/4:52 during track), Luke Hammang (56.86, 2:13), Dallin Franzluebbers (58.13/2:14/5:06), and Kolby Tighe. They also add a freshman (see below) who will be vying for a varsity spot.
Lincoln Lutheran lost their #3 and #5 runners to graduation, but they return medalist Logan Lebo, Brady Franzen (32nd at State, 4:53/10:25 in track), Quinn Trutna (5:12) and Jacob Wertz (2:04 for 9th at State).
Sidney's fab four has graduated - Bashtovoi, Brauer, Deer and Johnstone led the team to a runner-up trophy in 2021 plus a 4x800 title in May. Milford returns three of six, headlined by Kaleb Eickhoff, but they lost the #1, #3 and #4 runners to graduation.
Hartington obviously gets a high stick with Carson Noecker, but they have a long way to go to improve on their 12th place finish in 2021. Cole Rosener and Alan Santiago had solid track seasons, but depth will be the key to breaking into the top 5. Similarly, DC West is led by Parker Gaston, but the next four returners need to cut their times by about a minute each to be in contention for that top five finish.
The Class C coaches' poll should come out soon, so we'll see if the coaches think all of this is crazy talk.
Freshman impact potential
We reviewed the results from the Junior High State XC (3000 meters) and T&F meets to identify a few Class C freshmen who could have an impact this fall. While we aren't sure that these boys will run XC, here are a few who stood out:
Drew Miller - Wayne - The State JH open race champ with a 11:07 time, and he ran 2:26 and 5:09 during track season.
John Morrison - Arlington - Placed 2nd in the State JH open race in 11:09 and had track bests of 2:30 and 5:22.
William Dennis - Fort Calhoun - William ran 2:20 and 4:59 during the track season and appears to be a contender for a varsity spot on this strong team.
Seth Waters - Fort Calhoun - Another varsity contender, Seth ran 2:13 and 4:58 during the spring. That's quite a luxury to have two sub-5:00 freshman joining the defending State champions.
Chase Myers - Fillmore Central - Chase ran 2:15 and 5:10 during the spring.
Have you seen our other season previews? They're posted at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/blog.
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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.