Contributor: The Nerd
Due to travel commitments and Grandpa Nerd's birthday party following today's action, we will not be writing a State Day 4 recap. If you want really insightful comments with a bunch of misspellings (sorry, Wausa), follow us on our Twitter for the last day of Class C and D events.
Results from Friday's Class C/D events as well as live results from today's events are posted at https://results.blacksquirreltiming.com/meets/16422.
Yes, Virginia, we have photos. In fact, over the four days of State, our three cameras will combine for about 50,000 photos. Our success rate isn't real high, but we'll have a good amount of photos that will eventually be posted to our Facebook page, and a limited number of ones will be on the PrepRunningNerd Instagram account. Again, due to travel commitments, look for the bulk of those to start dropping in two weeks.
We can't thank Jaden Gebeke enough for his help the last two weeks. The Nerd gang has been a family affair, but Jaden stepped up to help us shoot the State weight events when I had too much going on at my real job. Jaden will be our unpaid intern for all four days, and the only thing he got in return was the chance to use one of our track passes.
Let's get this controversy out of the way now
I saw a Twitter thread last night where someone absolutely blasted the NSAA for a money-grab for holding a four-day meet instead of a two-day meet. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and everyone has an opinion on Twitter, but I think that's a bad take. Prior to COVID, State was a two-day affair, with two two-Class sessions on Friday and then all four Classes merged on Saturday. Were there more fans and more recovery time under a two-day event? Absolutely. During the 9:30 morning field events this week, there were days when the main grandstand was pretty empty. Conversely, the field events run more quickly under the current schedule because kids aren't getting pulled away for an early running event.
But let's be clear - the decision to stay with four days was not based on money. As I understand it, the coaches were polled by the NSAA and given the following options: a two-day meet, a four-day meet or 'other.' A majority of coaches voted for four days. Is there an 'other' that would be an improvement? We think there is but, in the world of the NSAA, someone among the member high schools has to propose the 'other' and then let it make its way through the NSAA legislative proposal process.
We also have to be honest that a lot of people associated with the meet don't like a four-day format. Look around at the race officials when you're at the meet today. Hardly any of them are under 60 years old. One day at State is exhausting, and many of these volunteers are spending four long days in the sun and on their feet.
We think a three-day meet would be an improvement. Separate the three distance events, perhaps have some sprint finals on Day 2 and Day 3, maybe add the distance medley relay and the javelin, and use the four Classes to have a bit more separation between running events. Jon Preister (Westside) and Parker Schoen (former LSW coach) are collaborating to get a formal proposal in motion.
Do I miss 16 consecutive 4x400 heats to finish the day or, for that matter, 24 consecutive heats of any 8-laned event? Not a bit.
The big fall
I can’t put into words how hard it is to take a hard fall and then race an 800. In the first race of the day on Friday, Karley Heimes of Wynot went down after 50 meters at the start of the 4x800; the race was stopped. It restarted a minute or so later and Karley split a 2:35, the second best on her team. She’s a beast.
Sprinters and hurdlers are... wow
Amid the dozens of sprint and hurdle heats on opening day, it's easy to lose track of great performances and great athletes. Let's be honest - there are some incredible athletes, maybe the best within one hundred miles of their towns, that won't qualify for the sprint and hurdle finals. Top qualifiers on Friday included Koa McIntyre (Bergan) in the Class C 100 and 200, Isaiah Zelasney (Osceola) in three D events (100, 200 and 400), Adrianna Rodencal (Lincoln Lutheran, above) in four C events (100, 100H, 200 and 300H), Hayley Miles (NP St. Pats) in the D 100, Deagan Puppe (Laurel-Concord-Coleridge) in the C 110H, Tony Berger (Riverside) in the D 110H, Macy Richardson (Sterling) in the D 100H and 300H, Alexandra Eisenhauer (Bloomfield) in the D 200, Kamdyn Swartz (Neumann) in the C 300H, Clayton Moore (Mullen) in the D 300H, Brayton Johnson (GICC) in the C 400, Story Rasby (Sutherland) in the C 400, and Carli Bailey (Ansley Litchfield) in the D 400.
One of the more surprising things we saw yesterday was Alexandra Eisenhauer's (Bloomfield) starting stance for the Class D 100, 200 and 400. She used a standing start (see above) for all three events: she won her 100 heat and qualified 2nd overall, was the fastest qualifier in the 200, and did not make the finals in the 400. We haven't seen a lot of success in sprints with that starting approach, but she's well positioned for today's finals.
Isaiah Zelasney (Osceola) is looking for a three-peat in the Class D sprint events and we wouldn't bet against him. He was dominant in 2021 and had a healthy margin over the 2nd-fastest qualifiers on Friday.
There's a fair amount of downtime between each heat, so I try to kill the time by chatting up the volunteers. Donald Softley, a retired banker from Grant, has been one of my favorite track officials the past two years at State, and I even ran into him at a collegiate event at Devaney in February. He's been a track official for 45 years, including 14 years at the State meet, but he's going to hang up his flag and gun after this season. He's worked 43 meets this season and has decided that his grandkids and volunteer fire department deserve more of his time. I saw a Twitter post yesterday from another state where coaches were complaining about officiating their own District meets when so much was on the line; in general, Nebraska seems to do a good job of having impartial officials at District and State meets, a luxury we may not have in the future if we don't recruit younger folks into those roles.
Because these officials work so many meets during the season, you hear chatter like this: "That kid in lane one - he's either a bull rider or calf wrestler - well, he's something in the rodeo. Did you know that some colleges give scholarships in rodeo?"
Be the first
In last Sunday's Nerdsletter, we began with a "Be the First" section. One of our examples was a friend who became the first from his family to graduate from high school, and now he has 18 sons, nieces and nephews who have graduated from college or are currently in college.
Another example is Molly Paxton of Mullen. We wrote about her several years ago when she took the initiative to speak to the Mullen school board to ask that they start a cross country program. After a decades-long absence, Mullen rebooted their XC program in August 2018. While small, it's mighty: Molly medaled in 2018 and 2019, Callie Coble and Trevor Kuncl medaled in 2020 and 2021, and Molly's younger sister Peyton finished 3rd last fall as a freshman.
Trevor Kuncl moved to Mullen in the summer of 2018 before his freshman year, and Mullen's new cross country coach was... his mother, Janie Kuncl. I've seen her fly over the Kearney XC course following Trevor, so I have to imagine she was going nuts on Friday when she was stuck outside the perimeter fence. Trevor won the Class D 3200 on Friday with a killer kick over the last 600 meters. Peyton Paxton finished 2nd in her race after leading for most of it. Four year ago Molly Paxton decided to be the first, and she's left quite a legacy at Mullen.
The dastardly 800
We've often said that the 800 is the hardest event in track, although a 3200 on a 90-degree day may be worse. We don't keep statistics, but the body count on the track after an 800 is only slightly less than what you see after jacked decathletes run the 1500 after nine other events over two days.
We observed last week that a few stud distance athletes with good chances to medal in the 800 had chosen not to compete in the 800 at Districts. Most of those decisions were heat related; I was told that Jaci Sievers (Elkhorn South) and Carson Noecker (Cedar Catholic) both opted out of the Districts 800 because they were concerned the 90-degree temps wouldn't allow a reasonable recovery for their 1600 a few hours later. I assumed the same situation applied to Jordyn Arens (Crofton), but that wasn't the case. After qualifying at Districts in the 4x800 and 3200, her coach told me yesterday that Jordyn had to drop out of the 800 midway through the race. However, she got a lucky break before the 1600. Like many District sites on Thursday, a storm came through that delayed the meet and led to a 20-degree drop in temps. After the extended break, Jordyn ran her second-best 1600 of the season.
While Jordyn won't defend all three distance titles she won last year as a freshman, she successfully defended her Class C 3200 title on Friday. A few hours after running a leg on the 5th-place 4x800 squad, Jordyn led the entire 3200 and finished in 11:28. She's the favorite in the 1600 later today.
An all class kind of a guy
Carson Noecker is a junior at Hartington Cedar Catholic, and he makes a habit of breaking records. He already owns the Class C 3200 record at 9:11 (breaking his own record), and he was hoping to break it again on Friday with the weather cooperating so well. He ran a 9:16.05, breaking the Class C state record and winning the all-class gold over Gabe Hinrichs, who had run a 9:16.14 on Wednesday in much warmer conditions.
Like pretty much every other race he's ran in XC and T&F, Carson waited at the finish line to congratulate every other runner. Race officials are supposed to clear the finish line once a runner finishes, but they allowed Carson to do his thing. It was a role reversal from 15 minutes earlier, when much of the Class C field shook Carson's hand while they were waiting for the Class D race to finish.
I talked to Carson immediately after the last athlete finished to ask him what he thought about his race. He responded that he had hoped to go faster, but then he immediately started talking about his 4x800 team that had a dramatic win at the tape a few hours earlier. Their first runner fell just before the baton exchange, and they didn't get back in the title chase until Carson split a 1:59 on the third leg. Cedar Catholic clinched the win when Carson Arens ran a 1:59 in his anchor leg. The team title was important to him: “There aren’t a lot of kids in C and D schools. If the guys do three or four sports, I want to help them be successful when they come out for track. They work so hard.”
Carson has now won three Class C XC titles, two 3200 titles and the 4x800 title. To our knowledge, he's lost just three races in his high school career: to Mason Sindelar (Pierce/USD) in his freshman XC campaign, to Payton Davis (DC Aquinas/UNK) in the 2021 1600 final, and to teammate Carson Arens in an 800 earlier this year. He's gracious in defeat; after he lost to Davis last year, he told me "that was fun!" - perhaps it wasn't surprising he liked the competition since he runs most of his races alone.
Some observers who don't know distance running well may snipe that Gabe Hinrichs deserved the all-class gold if not for the weather differences between Wednesday and Friday. In some ways, I think this is a fitting outcome. For the past two years, Gabe and Carson have been the definition of excellence while living in parallel (Class A and C) worlds. Gabe will likely earn the 800 and 1600 all-class golds (depending on today's outcomes), and Carson will take home the 3200 medal.
Carter Nelson is a gamer
Nerd the Third had the high jump assignment yesterday, and he got to see an epic duel between Carter Nelson of Ainsworth and Landon Olsen of Battle Creek. Both set a new Class C record at 6-10, but Nelson took the win based on fewer misses. Nelson has been an absolute beast this year while competing in the high jump, pole vault, discus, sprints and relays. He qualified for State in the HJ, PV and 200, and just missed out on the discus berth despite a 143-foot heave.
We were told earlier in the week that Carter had a bad knee, and he did the bare minimum (6-03) at Districts to qualify for State. The 200 was the last event of the day, and Carter was clearly hurting after the race (he qualified for finals). Despite the injury, we have no doubt that he'll be a gamer in the PV and 200 today.
Odds and ends
In one of the more curious scenes of the day, Carson Noecker did not take the lead in the 3200 until about 350 meters.
I'm not making character judgements, but there were far fewer untied shoelaces on Friday than we saw in the Class A and B races.
COVID is apparently over. Fist bumps have been standard at track meets the past two years, but I've had about a dozen awkward encounters this week where I went for the fist bump and the other guy went for the handshake.
I've been to national healthcare meetings where networking events are specifically held so that attendees can start looking for their next great job. I much prefer the networking at the State meet, where volunteers and fans just tell great stories about athletes and past meets. I even got to see Tony Smith, a coach/teacher at David City Aquinas; we worked at the same accounting firm in Houston back in 1992, which was the last time I had seen him.
The Nerd team has a text group that we use during meets; sometimes we bet on the winner and sometimes we just insult each other. Nerd the Third had the best text on Friday while watch Carson Noecker in the 4x800: "Carson is good at running."
Once we catch our breath, we'll have another t-shirt sale before XC season. Like all of our other sales, any profits will go either to XC programs at low-income schools or to the Burke scoreboard fund.
We missed seeing Brynn Hirschfeld of York compete at State this year. She would have been among the favorites in the three Class B distance events, but she fractured her femur during the Districts 800 race. She'll join the UNK distance team this fall.
We don't write many long-form articles but we've had some high points over the past three years. If you're a track nerd but new to our website, we'd suggest you take the time to read these articles:
Sorry folks, that's it for blog posts this week
I got some shade in my e-mail box for not giving love to a specific Class A event winner in yesterday's update. Let's be honest - there are hundreds of awesome athletes competing each day, and no one is going to read an article that covers every one of them. We're doing our best, just as we've been doing all year.
Why we do this...
Today will be the 39th meet of the year where we've taken photos and posted in-meet Twitter updates. We won't catch Donald Softley's mark of 43, but we gave it a good try. Maybe we'll hit a 40th meet during the USATF season but probably not; doesn't everyone want to be 39 forever?
We started Prep Running Nerd five years ago because XC and T&F are largely ignored by metro newspapers until the State meet. Our goal was never to tweet the the most or give outlandish takes. Our goal has always been to create original content - photos, articles, videos and data - that few others take the time to do on this scale. In our opinion, XC and T&F are the two best high school sports, and also among the least covered. We're not here to make a buck; we just love running like you do.
A huge thank you goes out to the owners of Midwest Eye Care, who have never stood in the way while I have pursued this time-consuming hobby. An even bigger thank you goes out to Jack (Nerd Junior) and Henry (Nerd the Third), who completely bought into the Nerd life over the past year and have easily tripled what we do in terms of photos, rankings, databases and the website. Finally, Mrs. Nerd gets the most gratitude; we're empty nesters now but she's allowed me to Nerd for well over one hundred hours each month that could be spent with her. She's never been a runner, but she's definitely a running Nerd.
Today is the last day of the State meet. Some careers may end today, but hopefully this is just the start of a lifelong love of the sport.
Get over yourself. You've already won and you don't even know it.
If it's the last day of the season, it must be time for our semi-annual post of this great article. It's been viewed thousands of times on our website. I wrote it before State XC one year when I was worried that Nerd the Third was going to focus on his result so much that he'd overlook all the wonderful things that distance running had done for him. (He didn't need it; he ran incredibly well.) Here's the article.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, thank you for all of your gentle corrections. Errors of omission don't mean that we hate your kid; we simply don't have the bandwidth to cover all of these awesome athletes.
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, 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.