The 9/11 Nerdsletter
Updated: Sep 26, 2021
Contributor: The Nerd
We have the results for 19 meets at our page at www.preprunningnerd.com/results. Each week we try to hit some high points so XC fans - from Class A through D - can stay in touch with outstanding performances and new developments. If you like what we're doing, spread the word to the fans of your cross country team. We're mildly active on Instagram (Nerd the Third is in charge of that but he also has the busiest schedule), Facebook and Twitter. In addition, we do our best to put out individual rankings each Tuesday because... well, rankings help promote an underappreciated sport. We do appreciate the coverage given Brent Wagner at the LJS and Marc Zavala at the GI Independent, but they are the exception in traditional media.
As a reminder, when we go to meets, we usually take pictures and post them for free at www.facebook.com/preprunningnerd. Photo credits are appreciated but not obligatory when you download or share them. Photo editing takes a long time and reduces how much time I can spend writing about XC, so I only took varsity pictures at the meets I attended this week.
So, with that long-winded intro, let's dive into the three meets the Nerd attended, as well as sampling of some other key meets.
Fremont Invite, Thursday, 9/9
Fremont is largely a pancake flat course on a well-trimmed golf course, so Fremont (and other teams) often runs its fastest times on this course. While this wasn't a large meet, it was a good chance to see how Class A #1 Gabe Hinrichs matched up against Fremont's #2 Carter Waters, #7 Braden Taylor, #11 Nolan Miller and #14 Aaron Ladd. As you might expect when competing against the State's best runner, Fremont sat on Hinrichs' heels for the first half mile to let him lead. Gabe told me after the race that he wasn't particularly interested in leading the entire race, so he came to almost a complete stop around 800 meters to get the other leaders abreast of him. The lead pack went through a fairly pedestrian 5:07 split at one mile and stayed together through about 2500 meters. At that point Hinrichs put down a surge that left everyone, including Waters, unable to keep respond. Hinrichs quickly opened a lead of 40-50 meters, and he slowly increased that over the remaining 2500. He finished in 15:26, with Waters (15:48) and Taylor (15:52) following. From my perspective, the most impressive results were Elkhorn South's Luke Johnson, who finished 4th with a 15:59.96 to improve his PR by 48 seconds. Class B #1 Mesuidi Ejerso of South Sioux City finished 5th in 16:02, followed by Nolan Miller and Aaron Ladd, and then Noah Lawrence of Columbus earned a two-second PR with a 16:40.
On the girls side, it was clear that the key matchup was Elli Dahl and Jaci Sievers. I've been following Sievers pretty closely the past three seasons, and she looks different than the spring - she looks like someone who put in serious miles and cross training work this summer. Dahl and Sievers broke away from Fremont's Maris Dahl and Lucy Dillon at roughly a mile, with Elli Dahl pushing the pace. Sievers stayed within a step of her for 4900 meters before Dahl's final push led to a three-second gap, 18:44 to 18:47, at the finish. With this impressive performance, Dahl solidified her #1 ranking, but Sievers will move up on Tuesday from #3 to #2. Behind the two leaders, Class A #14 Lucy Dillon finished in 19:27, #15 Maris Dahl in 19:28, and Class B #3 Gabriella Calderon of Bennington improved her PR by 42 seconds with a 19:31. Also notable was Class B #14 Taylor Grasz of Elkhorn, who finished 7th in 20:32.
In terms of the team race, Fremont swept both titles. For the boys, I'd said it's a toss-up between Fremont and Millard West for the best team in State. Fremont seems to have the order of their high sticks fairly set, while Millard West's top finishers seem to change each race. Elkhorn South finished 2nd and now has three high finishers, but it had a 1:50 gap between its third and fourth finisher.
For the girls, Fremont is very strong, but they did have a minute gap between their 3rd and 4th runners that may need to be fixed to compete with Lincoln East. Elkhorn South had a strong showing with five medalists and should compete well at State. Bennington looked very strong and looks well positioned for Class B State.
Overall, Hinrichs looked like he had more in the tank after his 15:26, and to a lesser degree I would say the same about Dahl's 18:44.
Millard South, Friday, 9/10
This was expected to be the most competitive Class A meet of the week. The top runners clearly came prepared to go hard on a course that, on a cool day, can be the third fastest course in Nebraska behind the Fremont Valley View and the Kearney Meadowlark courses. However, the Walnut Grove course and the weather were unusually cruel to some of the best runners this weekend.
Defending State champ Stella Miner, who is ineligible to compete at varsity level this fall due to transfer rules, had her season debut in the JV race. Coach Priester told me that her race goal was to break 18:00, and she only needed a 3:35 last kilometer (just under a 6:00 mile pace) to hit that mark. Unfortunately, on a day with a feels-like temp of 90, she fainted with about 600 meters to go and did not finish.
In the girls varsity race, Sioux Falls Lincoln's Ali Bainbridge was able to withstand the weather. She went out hard and at one mile led Bri Rinn of LSW by 10 meters, Mia Murray of LE by 40 miles, Isabelle Hartnett by 75 meters, and the rest of the field by at least 100 meters. Bainbridge finished in 17:56 and, according to the timing company, broke the Walnut Grove record by 17 seconds. Bainbridge has limited Athletic.net results but it appears this is a new PR for her, topping the 18:01 she ran at the Augustana Twilight last week.
Rinn was in 3rd behind Murry at 3400 meters and faded to 6th in 19:56, clearly suffering from the attempt to hang with Bainbridge for as long as she could. However, let's give high marks to Bri for an aggressive race strategy. Why not see if someone like Bainbridge can pull you to a great time in an early-season meet that means little? Our guess is that Rinn learned quite a bit about race strategy and conditioning that she'll use wisely in the next six weeks.
Sophomore Mia Murray, the Lincoln East runner who finished 5th in West Virginia's large-class State meet last fall, was 2nd in 19:12 - a 46-second improvement over last Saturday at Walnut Creek (Papio South) when she bested Rinn by 8 seconds. Claire White of Westside finished 3rd in 19:22 but was clearly impacted by the heat; she slowed to a walk at around 4200 and 4700 meters, and YET STILL RAN A 19:22. Hartnett finished well in 19:28, and Papio South's Davion Deleon ran 19:32, just off her Fremont PR from last year. In the team race, Lincoln East was dominant with 45 points, placing athletes 2nd, 8th, 11th, 15th and 17th. Their 5th finisher was a freshman, Ella Herzberg, so the well is still deep at East. Millard West was 2nd with 92, but Papio South, Westside and LSW were all within 20 points of 2nd.
The boys race was also won by an out-of-stater. Ben Shyrock of Lawrence Free State led at one mile and squeaked out a four-second win in 16:17 over hard-closing Piercze Marshall of Millard West. Millard West Seth Fey was 3rd in 16:35 while Lincoln East's Joe Volkmer, LSW sophomore Max Myers and Joey Hartnett all finished in 16:39. Hartnett rebounded nicely from last week when he ran 17:14 at the same course on a cooler day - and was Millard West's 7th runner. Cole Haith (7th, 16:42) and Sam Kirchner (9th, 16:50) were Millard West's final two scorers. Millard West won with just 28 points, and Lincoln East was a surprising 2nd with 109 points.
Piercze Marshall and Seth Fey both said after the race that the heat wasn't much of a factor for them, but the course definitely ran slower than normal. Fey was disappointed with his performance, blaming himself for running the first mile about ten seconds faster than his race plan. Marshall proved again why he was a State medalist last year, and we know that Kirchner will be back at the top of the field soon. Sophomores Jack Witte (fell early) and Porter Bickley (lost a shoe) didn't run as fast as they have the last two weeks, but it's hard to dismiss the depth they add to the Millard West team.
Omaha Central, Saturday, 9/11
Walnut Grove was slightly cooler the next day when varsity races started at 9:40, but it still wasn't pleasant. In the girls race, junior Mary Kate Kramper of Duchesne led through almost two miles in her first varsity race since 2019. Lincoln North Star's Bri Travis caught up with her at the two-mile mark, and the two ladies traded surges through about 4000 meters before Travis took the lead for good. Travis said after the race that her only pre-race goal was to medal, while we're sure Coach Musiel had grander plans. Travis won in 20:29, Kramper was 2nd in 20:39, and Skutt freshman standout Gabi Westfall was third in 20:51. Skutt's Anika Richards and Central's Madeline Hartley both ran 20:59 for 4th and 5th.
In the team race, Norfolk won with 45 points and had some of the most impressive pack running I've seen in recent years. They had five girls in their own pack at 1700 meters, four were still a pack at 3300 meters, and the five finished 7th-11th - with a time gap of a mere five seconds. The race also featured a showdown of RCC foes Duchesne and Skutt, with Duchesne prevailing 60 to 82. Each team had three medalists but Duchesne's 4th and 5th runners were 19th and 20th, while Skutt's 4th and 5th were 27th and 34th. If Kramper and Eva Wentz (6th in 21:17) continue to run well, Duchesne may have the upper hand.
The boys race featured returning Top 10 State medalists Isaac Ochoa of Columbus and Grant Wasserman of Lincoln North Star, and they were together through about 3400 meters. At that point, Ochoa amped up the pace and told Wasserman to go with him. Unfortunately, Wasserman experienced a heat-related issue that forced him to drop out in the next 800 meters. Ochoa finished in 16:10, North Star's Jimmy Nguyen was 2nd in 16:48, and Daniel Yowell of Columbus was 3rd in 17:02.
Despite losing Alex Rice to the ACT test, Skutt easily won the team race with 33 points. Jack Wade, Tommy Rice, Thomas Richter-Egger, McCoy Haussler and Alex Kennedy placed 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9. Norfolk had a strong showing and was 2nd with 53 points. Lincoln North Star finished 3rd despite Wasserman's DNF and not having its #2 and #5 runners due to illness. Columbus and North Star will face off again next week at Norfolk, and it will be interesting to see what the North Star boys can do at full strength.
There were two other meets last week involving Class A teams. At Pius, Gretna's 13th-ranked Colby Erdkamp won a six-team meet in 16:52, leading Gretna to a sweep of the top four spots. Class A #15 Evan Liewer finished in 17:00, Abdul Malik Rahmanzai in 17:30 and Kale Edmonds in 17:42. On the girls side, Norris (discussed below) topped Gretna for the team title. Gretna's Isabella Bricker was 4th overall in 20:46 while teammate Addy Walker was 7th in 21:02.
On Friday at the speedy Meadowlark golf course in Kearney, #6 Daniel Romary, #7 Evan Caudy and #9 Juan faced off. Romary bounced back from a tough outing at Walnut Grove a week earlier to post a 15:52, followed by Caudy in 16:11 and Juana Garcia in 16:17. Lexington (summary below) captured the boys title with Grand Island edging North Platte by 11 points for 2nd. On the girls side, Kearney freshman and Class A #10 Abigail Burger earned her first career victory in 19:24. #11 Zarah Balesi of North Platte continued her solid start with a 19:31, while Kennedy Bartee of Lincoln High set a 42-second PR in 19:33. Marissa Holm of North Platte also broke the 20:00 barrier with a 19:34, a 2:33 improvement over last year's time. North Platte eeked out a one-point victory over Kearney.
Lexington finally got to race after an off week in Week 1 and a weather cancellation in week 2. They raced Tuesday at Lexington and Friday at Kearney. The top two returners from Lexington's 2020 team were Miguel Cruz-Mendoza and Antonio Moro, but Jayden Ureste (17:13 at Lex, 17:38 at Kearney), Ian Salazar-Molina (17:32 at Lex, 17:10 at Kearney) and Oscar Aguado (17:40 at Lex, 17:22 at Kearney) were the team leaders last week. The Minutemen seem to have than enough depth, so they only need consistency to compete well against Skutt.
The Northwest girls won the 8-team Aurora Invite 33-42 over York. Kassidy Stuckey of York won, followed by Class D stud Alayna Vargas of Hastings St. Cecilia and Elena Kuehner of Class C Aurora. Northwest's Lexie Lilienthal and freshman Evie Keller were 4th and 5th, and Northwest's freshman Leah Carlson (11th) and Neelie Dorsey (13th) also medaled. We're inclined to think that the two Northwest freshmen will continue to improve with more racing experience, and that bodes well for the team in late October.
The Skutt boys raced at the Omaha Central meet this week, which I've already covered above. They have a formidable line-up with multiple high sticks, so Lexington will have their hands full. As noted above, the Omaha Duchesne girls beat Skutt 60-82 at the Omaha Central meet.
The Wahoo Invite on Thursday featured mostly Class B teams, with Mt. Michael edging Blair 31-33 in the boys race. AJ Raszler of Platteview won for the 2nd consecutive week, and Dawson Fricke led Blair with placers at 2, 9, 10 and 12. Mt. Michael placed 4, 6, 8 and 13. Blair has impressive depth, putting six in the top 15, so that may be a huge help if one of their top four falters.
The Blair women continue to impress. Chloe Scrick added the Wahoo title to last week's Plattsmouth win while recording a 13-second PR in 20:35. Blair placers were 1, 6, 7 and 8, while second-place Platteview had 2, 3, 5 and 30. Platteview's top runner, Olivia Lawrence, was not ranked in Week 2 but is certainly knocking on the door.
The Fremont Invite featured five Class A teams and three Class B teams. As noted above, Class B #1 Mesuidi Ejerso of Sioux City looked strong, finishing 5th in 16:02. The Bennington boys finished a close 3rd behind Elkhorn South, with Ryan Burton (17:00) and Kai Olbrich (17:08) medaling on this super-fast course. Three other boys finished in 17:57, 18:02 and 18:12.
Bennington also finished 3rd on the girls side. Gabriela Calderon is a legitimate top-10 contender at State, and teammates Samantha Jensen, Calla Wittland and Alexis Hiatt medaled at this competitive meet. With five runners in the top 16 plus and a freshman placing 24th, it seems like Bennington's stock is rising.
Class B #1 Samantha Rodewald of McCook has raced four times, winning twice and finishing as the first Class B girl at her two other meets. On that same vein, the only Class B girl to beat McCook's Sienna Dutton is Samantha. McCook easily won the Broken Bow Invite on Saturday but finished behind Lexington, Grand Island and Northwest at Tuesday's Lexington invite. I believe the Lexington meet was technically an unscored meet, but the Lexington girls squeaked out a four-point win over GI and Northwest on the strength of placers in 5, 11, 12, 13 and 14.
The Norris girls raced well at Pius, and teammates Ellie Thomas (1st, 20:19) and freshman Kendall Zavala (2nd 20:25) are taking turns beating each other. Britt Prince (3rd) and freshman Ella Ford (5th, 20:52) led Elkhorn North to a second-place finish. On the boys side, Elkhorn North faced tougher competition than last week and finished 3rd behind Gretna and Pius. Michael Grigsby (7th, 17:59), Jack Sinnot (9th, 18:04), Ryker Pithan (14th, 18:18) and Jake Sullivan (15th, 18:29) at the Pioneer's Park course.
On Tuesday you'll see a shake-up in the Class B boys individual rankings now that we have three weeks of data, and there will be four new additions on the girls side.
Carson Noecker of Hartington-Newcastle doesn't have any results on Athletic.net but the Nerd's informants keep passing along race results, so we know he ran a 16:34 at his home meet in Week 1 and a 15:37 at Norfolk Catholic on Friday. We're guessing he's a minute better than anyone in Class C. That isn't a knock on Class C; Carson is simply that good. We'd be thrilled to see him move up to the Class A race at the UNK Invite, which is allowed by UNK and the NSAA. Gabe Hinrichs told me last week that he wants to race the best, and Carson is clearly one of the best.
The Sidney boys and girls are both on a roll. Cameron Brauer entered the week ranked #3 in Class C, and he won his third straight meet in 17:48 win at a hot and hilly Chadron meet. Teammates Daniel Bashtovoi and Mitchell Deer were 2nd and 3rd. The Sidney girls edged Class B Gering 23-25, with Talissa Tanquary adding the Chadron title to her Gering Invite win. Gering competed well despite not having defending State champ Madison Seiler, who is still rehabbing from a summer basketball injury.
Adams Central and Aurora faced off at the Aurora meet. Luke Bonifas of Adams Central won his third straight meet and is likely to move up from his current #4 ranking. Aurora had 51 points to Adam Central's 66, and Aurora had five finishers before Adam Central's third finisher.
The Broken Bow boys won their home meet that featured ten boys and girls ranked runners from Class B, C and D. St. Paul's Conner Wells (17:34) suffered his first loss of the season, falling to Ty Schlueter (17:01) of Ainsworth and Jarrett Miles (17:25) of NP St. Pats. This was Well's fourth race in sixteen days and 2nd in three days, so that may have been a factor. Daine Wardyn finished 4th behind Wells, and this is the first time this season that Wardyn has lost to a Class C competitor.
Lindee Henning of Ogallala will move into the #1 ranking this week with word that Alexus Sindelar of Pierce is still rehabbing from a spring ACL injury. Lindee has won all three of her races in sub-20:00 times with no significant challenge from Class C competition. The Ogallala girls have also been the top Class C finisher in all three of their meets.
Lincoln Christian, led by #4 Sadye Daniell, easily won the Fairbury Invite on Thursday after a competitive effort against Class A and B teams at the Thorell invite the previous week.
The Wayne girls are on the cusp of making some waves in Class C. Fresman Kyla Krusemark ran a 21:35 to finish 3rd at Norfolk Catholic after finishing 2nd last week in 21:11. Her twin sister Jala was 4th at Boone Central in Week 2 but was a DNF on Friday due to the heat. Junior Laura Hasemann and sophomore Frantzdie Barner also medaled at Norfolk Catholic, and Wayne beat Pierce 44-49 even without Jala's contributions.
Keeli Green of Arlington captured her second title with an 86-second win at the Arlington meet. Arlington was ranked #2 by the coaches before most had even heard about Keeli. The results through three weeks reflect that the pre-season top 6 in Class C - DC West, Arlington, Chadron, Lincoln Christian, Sidney and Ogallala - all deserved to be ranked high.
Top-ranked Jordyn Arens of Crofton rolled to a large margin at Norfolk Catholic, finishing in 20:00 ahead of Class C competitors Darla Nelson (21:23) of Bloomfield-Wausa and Kyla Krusemark (21:35) of Wayne. #15 Chaney Nelson of Oakland-Craig as the second Class D finisher.
The Chase County and Broken Bow meets last week attracted outstanding Class C and D competition. On Thursday at Chase County, Class D #5 Trevor Kuncl broke out of a mini-slump to win in 17:03, followed by Class D #2 Jarrett Miles of NP St. Pat's in 17:04 and 10th-ranked Colton Pouk of Perkins County in 3rd with 18:07. On the girls side, super-frosh and Class D #4 Peyton Paxton (20:37) of Mullen lost her first race of the year to Ogallala's Lindee Henning (19:51) but that's not an upset; Lindee will become the top-ranked Class C runner on Tuesday. Class D #8 Kate Stienke of NP St. Pat's was third in 21:14 followed by #12 Callie Coble of Mullen in 21:16. #15 Lauren Henning, presumably Lindee's twin, was 5th in 21:44. NP St. Pats won both the boys and girls titles.
NP St. Pat's also competed at Broken Bow on Saturday. Class D #1 Ty Schlueter of Ainsworth won in 17:01, beating Class D #2 Jarret Miles (17:25) of NPSP and Class C #2 Conner Wells (17:34) of St. Paul. On the girls side, Ainsworth was third overall and the first Class D team with 56 points, while Broken Bow had 71. Ainsworth freshman Emma Kennedy (21:00) earns a spot in next week's rankings with another solid performance, while teammate Katherine Kerrigan (21:04) was close behind. Freshman Anna Fitzgerald of Doniphan-Trumbull ran a 21:55 on steamy day and may earn a spot in this week's rankings.
The Shelton boys captured the Centura Invite by placing 3rd, 5th, 6th and 9th. Elijah Schroeder (18::24) of Ravenna was the top Class D finisher behind Connor Wells with Ashton Simmons (18:44) of Shelton in 3rd. Class D #2 Hannah Swanson of Nebraska Christian won in 20:29 followed by Ella Buhlke of Central City in 21:21. Kearney Catholic won the four-team meet with placers at 5, 7, 9 and 15. Nebraska Christian has placers at 1, 3 and 14 but did not have a fourth runner.
1. In what appears to be a budget issue related to COVID, Lincoln Public School teams are restricted from traveling out of state for athletic competitions this fall. This means that LSW won't attend the Pella meet next weekend, and it's why North Star wasn't at the Sioux Falls Nike preview meet this weekend. Apparently the rules allow an LPS team to drive six hours to Scottsbluff, but not 3.5 hours to Pella or Sioux Falls.
2. After a nearly two-year gap, it was great to see so many OPS teams competing on Friday and Saturday. I've written several articles on the positive impact that sports has on OPS students, a good majority of who are either immigrants or from low-income families, and you only had to look at the kids after the races to know that cross country means a great deal to them.
3. We didn't lose any of the 2020 XC girls to graduation, but the podium will look a bit different this year. While defending Class D champ Jordyn Arens is in fine form, Class B champ Madison Seiler of Gering is working back from a serious foot injury sustained during summer basketball. Class C champ Alexus Sindelar of Pierce has just returned to running after a spring ACL injury. Our fourth champ, Class A Stella Miner, is ineligible to compete on the varsity level this fall due to her transfer from Marian to Westside.
4. What is going on with racing shoes this year? In addition to all the one-shoed runners I've seen in the last nine days, yesterday an Omaha Central girl took the prize for the worst luck. She had two shoes at the one-mile mark, no shoes at the two-mile mark, and then was carrying one of her shoes at the finish. Given how dry the Walnut Grove course is, she may have collected a few blisters. I would like to compliment her on the quality of her socks (pictured above).
5. I'm mildly surprised at the number of athletes who have had two races over a three-day period in the opening weeks of the season. I believe a few teams were impacted by postponements or cancellations, but several quick turnarounds appear to be unrelated to the weather. Last fall most of the Omaha metro schools moved to racing every two weeks as a COVID precaution (similar to what most college programs do), and a few observers wondered if less racing led to better race results at the end of the season. Of course, high school kids love to race, so perhaps both approaches are equally good.