Contributor: The Nerd
The Class A/B competition is a a distant memory as we digested a full day of Class C/D action. Despite a chilly start fueled by a north wind, Friday turned out about as good as you could expect in Nebraska. While the wind was generally above 2.0 m/s, and thus invalidated a number of marks that would have otherwise been State or meet records, it was still a great day for spectators and athletes. Here my best shot at today's action, in 90 minutes or less.
Best action of the day
There's generally only one Nerd at a meet until State. Since most meets feature six field events going on at the same time - Columbus can even run eight field events at a time - we rarely shoot all of the field events. That's particularly true for the throws if the venues are outside of the track. Consequently, with six Nerds at Burke this morning, it was an absolute luxury for me to spend four uninterrupted hours at the shot put arena.
The time was well spent. The bleachers surrounding the shot pit venue were full for the Class C competition, with a few hundred more people standing. Why? Because some of the best throwers in the State are in Class C. Kade Pieper of Norfolk Catholic has the longest all-class throw of the season at 65-03.75, and he broke the Class C record on April 29, May 4 and three times at Districts on May 11. Trent Uhlir of Battle Creek entered the meet with a season-best 60-10.5 and has been a consistent performer all season. JT Brands of Oakland-Craig, Barrett Wilke of Stanton and Nathan Baldwin of Sutton also had season bests over 57 feet.
While Wilke appeared to throw in excess of 60 feet on a scratch, Pieper and Uhlir were the main attractions today. Pieper took the lead on the first throw of the competition with a 58-08.75, and then Uhlir grabbed it back with his fourth throw of 58-08.75. Pieper threw 61-05 in the 5th round and then Uhlir topped that with a 61-11 Class C State meet record on his sixth and final throw. Because it was a State record, the director of the event (Dale Wilcoxson) spent a few minutes verifying Uhlir's measurement, which only added to the suspense. Pieper had one final throw before the competition; would he rise to the occasion?
By now you know the answer is 'yes.' Turn up your device's volume to hear the crowd roar in the video above. After another elongated period where Wilcoxson verified the measurement, Pieper's throw was announced as 63-07.50, breaking Uhlir's meet record that was just a few minutes old. A moment later, a whoop came from Sam Cappos (Lincoln East), who was sitting in the bleachers. By a mere 2.25 inches, he kept the All-Class lead in the shot put - and he clinched it a few hours later when the Class D competition was completed.
The throwers and their families already know this, but they reside within a subculture of the T&F community that's pretty cool. The volunteers who work the State shot put event are pretty much the same every year; the coaches know officials, the officials know the throwers, and the fans treat the throwers like rock stars. If you've got a few free hours on Saturday morning, head up the hill to the shot put arena. It will be worth your time.
Our biggest fan
We have a lot of followers, but basketball coach Tim Miles is the one with the most Twitter followers (160,000). It was a head-scratcher when he started following last year, but then we connected that his son Gabe Miles was a sprinter at Lincoln East. When Coach Miles took the head coaching position at San Jose State, the Miles family agreed that Gabe could finish high school in Lincoln. This week Gabe won the 400, placed 3rd in the 200 and 5th in the 4x100. He's off to North Dakota State this fall, while we're hoping Coach Miles continues to follow Nebraska track and field.
I left early today...
I'll admit it. I left Burke tonight before the boys ran the 200 prelims. Why, you ask? Because there were three other Nerds still shooting AND I had a cute puppy to go see.
Exactly one year ago, during the Class C/D meet, we met a young lady (CW Nerd) who seemed like the perfect addition to what was mostly a family Nerd team. Then Shelby Bracker reached out to say that her dad, Dr. Nerd, needed a spot on the Nerd team; she was retiring from competitive racing but her dad loved T&F too much to also retire from the sport. We kept adding and adding, which is how we've covered over 100 track meets in 2023. It's a great team and a great group of humans. We hope you enjoy their work.
Rookie of the year
We watched Kearney Catholic's Alyssa Onnen win the Class C pole vault today with a jump of 12-04. She then attempted 12-09.25, which would have surpassed Josie Puelz's Class C record of 12-09. If you haven't heard of Josie, she's earned several national NAIA championships vaulting for Concordia. Alyssa had three solid attempts at the record, and she barely missed on the final attempt. Fortunately, she's got three more years to break the record; she's only a freshman.
We noted in a previous Nerdsletter that Alyssa was a competitive gymnast until last summer when an accident left her with a serious concussion that knocked her out of serious activity for six months. Six months is a lifetime in gymnastics, so she decided it was time to move on from the sport. She had participated in track in junior high, so going out for track this spring was a no-brainer.
I caught up with after the competition and asked her about her vaulting background. Last April she visited a family friend/vault coach who gave her a one-hour crash course on how to pole vault. She returned to her school, they gave her a pole, and her mom (who has never vaulted) became her junior high pole vault coach. Thanks to a lot of YouTube videos and a crazy amount of athleticism, Alyssa excelled last year, winning the event at the State JH meet, and this year she got a real pole vault coach (no offense, Mom). She's also a really good long jumper (2nd today) and triple jumper (tomorrow). The sky is the limit for Alyssa Onnen.
There were only two finals today for running events, the 4x800 and the 3200. A quick rundown of the 3200 races:
After being so close (four top-5 medals) to a State gold medal for 2.5 years in XC and the 3200, Nebraska Christian's Hannah Swanson got the Class D gold today, going stride for stride with Peyton Paxton of Mullen for much of the race. She didn't celebrate at the finish line; it was all she could do to stay on her feet. About thirty minutes later, her freshman brother Jacob finished 5th in the boy's race.
By our count, Jordyn Arens of Crofton is nine-for-nine in State individual races in her three years of high school. She's won three XC titles and today's 3200 was her sixth T&F gold. It won't be easy to get two more golds tomorrow; the 800 is stacked with - among many greats - Laney Kathol, Story Rasby, Brynn McNair and Lilly Kenning. Kenning also comes in with the Class C season-best 1600 of 5:13, so Arens will have to have to be on point to maintain her streak of State perfection.
Trey Robertson of Wallace dominated the Class D XC scene last fall, and he was clearly the best today with his 9:59. Trey also won the event in 2021 as a sophomore before missing most of the 2022 track season due to a blood clot. In part due to the blood clot, he hung up his football cleats and joined the XC team last fall. He'll run for Concordia beginning this fall.
Aside from the Class C shot put, the event we were most anticipating today was the Class C 3200. Not because Carson Noecker was going to be challenged by his competitors, but because he would be challenging himself. Despite a 10-15 mph breeze out of the north, he cruised to a new Class C record of 9:07, breaking his previous mark. That time also earns him the All-Class gold. Here are his final 100 meters:
Among his many great feats, Carson Noecker pulled off a comeback for a second consecutive year to help his team win the 4x800 title. He ran the second leg and inherited the baton in 11th place, 12 seconds behind the leader. By the end of his 800, Cedar Catholic was in second place and just one second off the lead. The team of Loecker, Noecker, Becker and Arens won in 8:16. No offense to Carson Arens, who had the fastest split at 1:58, but were Hecker or Recker to busy to run on the all-rhyming State squad?
Time to up your sign game
Signs are more prevalent at State XC than at Burke, but we had a DM this morning telling us that Kerstyn Chapek of Bishop Neumann would have a great sign in her cheering section. Here it is:
Nerdka also found another sign that was a bit more questionable:
Nerd the Third was at the finish line for five hours yesterday among the gaggle of other photographers. For whatever reason, the topic came up of having a photographers' 4x400 relay. Sadly, the other photographers quickly decided that the Nerd team couldn't take part; we have too many young Nerds that appear to be fit. Just when we thought we could win something...
We went viral... kind of
Sometimes we think that our posts will explode and they don't, and sometimes we're right. As of 10:30 pm on Friday night, our post about the Class B girls praying before the 1600 has a reach 140,000 Facebook users, while the post of RaeAnn Thompson's resilience in walking the 200 final has a reach of 175,000 users and 1800 likes. If you haven't figured us out yet, these are two of our big themes - faith in God and the resilience that is developed through sports.
Pictures we really like
Gratuitous picture of the C/D starters
We really like track officials. Without them, the dang meet wouldn't happen. Athletes, if you happen to encounter one of the officials on the track, including those with the white and yellow flags, give them a big 'thank you.' They're probably volunteering their time and they're probably pretty cool.
Last day, best day
Ignoring the obvious fatigue that the four-day volunteers and staff are experiencing right now, Saturday at Burke is a great thing. We're expecting great competition in the field events, sprints and distance. Will Carson Noecker break his own 1600 record? Will Dillon Miller of Brady sweep the 100 and 200, or will one of the other studs get the titles? Will Jessica Stieb secure another shot put gold before heading off to Michigan State? Will Nerd Junior show up this year? So many questions...
And here's another question... the four-day meet was created in response to the COVID pandemic. The pandemic is over but the four-day format remains. Will an NSAA member school come up with a cogent proposal to return to a two-day meet or give a three-day meet a shot? The NSAA generally doesn't come up with its own rules (except that horizontal jump line-of-sight rule); it relies on member schools to submit proposals for consideration and votes.
Midwest Night of Stars
The local track scene is not over after State. In addition to the normal USATF summer schedule, Nebraska Wesleyan is hosting its inaugural Midwest Night of Stars meet on Saturday, June 3. It's intended to attract top talent from Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Colorado and South Dakota. The top 16 applicants for each event will be accepted for this unique evening event at Wesleyan's track. Here's the link for more info: https://nwusports.com/documents/2023/3/27/Midwest_Nigh_of_Stars_-_Meet_Info.pdf. Here's the registration link: https://www.directathletics.com/meets/track/75344.html.
We don't plan our lives more than seven days in advance, but I'm guessing that a Nerd will be on hand to take some sweet pictures.
Thanks for following our coverage
If you've just stumbled upon the Nerd this spring or this week, you may think we're just another media company trying to hit it big. That's not the case. We're a group of about fifteen volunteers who are current or former runners, parents of current athletes, or are simply fans of T&F/XC. We covered over 80 cross country meets in Fall 2022 and over 100 track meets in 2023. We have Nerds in Omaha, Lincoln, Wood River, North Platte, O'Neill, Dalton, Homer, Fremont and York, but we could cover the high school scene even better if we have more Nerds.
If you're out of high school and have a good camera and sports lens (70-200mm), you might be the next Nerd. If you have a current high school athlete, even better, because you're already going to a bunch of meets. We're particularly short on Nerds around Grand Island and Kearney. The biggest perk is that you get a free t-shirt, which is totally not worth all of the time you'll invest in editing photos. If you're interested, drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The season is over. You won.
The high school track season ends today.
You didn't PR.
You didn't make varsity.
You didn't qualify for State.
You didn't medal at State.
You didn't win State.
Get over yourself. You've already won and you don't even know it.
Check out one of our most popular articles, a little piece we publish at the end of each season:
This story is deeply personal and I wrote it in October 2020 just before Nerd the Third's final State cross country meet. He had qualified individually for the previous three State meets but late-season training and puberty fatigue had led to finishes that were well below his expectations. As a parent, I was worried that another bad ending would have him questioning why he was a distance runner, and I wanted him to know that it was all worth it.
Spread the word: track and field is almost always worth it even when you fall short of your goals.
Live the Nerd life
We had to purchase more gear because our Nerd team has expanded so quickly, and that means that we've added sweatshirts and more black t-shirts to our inventory. Our store is at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/shop. Do we do this to make a profit? Heck no. Mrs. Nerd has seen the books and she's not happy. Please help us clear out our spare bedroom.
This is definitely it...
There will not be a fourth day of musings to be posted on Saturday night. Mrs. Nerd has been more than patient this week with my late nights and my season-long trackstache, but we're headed to a friend's house on Saturday night for some much needed relaxation. You'll have to come up with your own musings.
We'll have five or six Nerds at Burke on Saturday. Give us a howdy; if we're not shooting, we'd love to talk to you before we take the summer off. And yes, we'll be back for cross country, because running nerds love cross country.
Originally published at www.preprunningnerd.com by Jay Slagle on 5/19/23.