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State Day 4 musings

Contributor: The Nerd


I said I wasn't going to write a Day 4 recap but there are so many things bouncing around in the Nerd's head so...


It's over...

That's a wrap on one of the best State track meets in history - in terms of broken records, attendance, weather and excitement. Of course, for every athlete that met or exceeded their goals, there are more who fell short of their expectations.


The 'falling short' thing was what Nerd the Third experienced during his first three years of high school cross country, and it's incredibly easy to become discouraged when you don't have your best day on the biggest stage of the season. However, your track and field career is not defined by one meet or one race or one attempt. The skills you have gained through track and field can be used for a lifetime. I say this confidently because, as a 56-year-old, running has been an integral part of my life and my success even though I never came close to qualifying for State. Have your doubts? Read the article we wrote a few years ago about how each of these athletes, regardless of their outcomes, are winners: https://www.preprunningnerd.com/post/the-season-is-over-you-won


... but it's not entirely over

If an athlete wants another chance to perform this year, there are two great options. The first requires a bit of urgency on your part due to a registration deadline later this week. Nebraska Wesleyan is holding the first annual Night of the Stars track meet on the evening of Saturday, June 3rd in Lincoln. The meet is accepting entries from athletes in Nebraska and five surrounding states, and the organizers will select the top 16 (and possibly more) individuals in five running events and six field events. You can follow the NWUTF twitter account at @nwutfxc for updates on the level of competition that has registered, but I suspect there will be a rush of entries this week now that the Iowa and Nebraska State meets are complete. Go to https://nwusports.com/documents/2023/3/27/Midwest_Nigh_of_Stars_-_Meet_Info.pdf for more information on the meet. We'll likely have at least one Nerd on site for photos.


You also have the option of competing in USATF meets that are held pretty much every weekend through June 17. These meets require you to buy a USATF membership but then you can register for any meet. My boys both participated in the Nebraska USATF program, and it's great. You can find more details on the USATF meets at https://nebraskausatf.org/main/youth/.


Four days is a really long time

We discussed the current four-day meet format in our Day 3 wrap-up but here's the gist: we're stuck with the post-pandemic format until a better idea comes along. For major changes to happen at the NSAA, a member school has to develop and present a proposal that can be reviewed and voted upon by the NSAA and Nebraska high schools. I've talked to a number of officials and coaches about the current format, and this is the general feedback:

  • The meet is less rushed under the four-day format. This year the field events were usually completed by the time races started at 1:30, although the second section of pole vaulters often ran until 2:30 or 3:00 and the discus ran past 1:30 at least once.

  • Several officials expressed concern about getting enough volunteers in the future for a four-day meet. The certified officials working the track aren't getting any younger, and it's tough for working-age officials to take three days of vacation to work the meet.

  • Coaches have noted that while there's a good buzz at Burke under the current format, it's nothing like the jam-packed Saturday sessions we had before the pandemic.

  • Class C and D coaches seem to lean in favor of the current format, perhaps because they're still competing on Friday and Saturday. Class A and B coaches, in general, are less positive about the current format.

  • The all-class gold competition is diminished because many of the winners are from Class A and B, and they're not around on Saturday for an awards ceremony.

Last year at this time we said that we would work with a few coaches to help usher along a three-day proposal. That didn't happen, but hopefully by September we'll write an expanded article on the subject.


Jumping into the camera

For those of you wondering... on Saturday the NSAA pushed back the flag ropes separating the long jumpers from the photographers, and they essentially allowed straight-on photos that they said were either distracting or performance-enhancing the first three days. They didn't make this change for the triple jump - perhaps because there is very little room between the end of the pit and the finish line timing system. It's still a very curious only-in-Nebraska rule that limits the ability of photographers to get good shots of athletes competing in an incredible setting, and if you haven't figured out that I'm thinking of a word other than 'curious' every time I type the word 'curious,' well... then bless your heart.


Yellow flags are scary

When a track official raises a yellow flag during a race, a DQ is often just ahead. In the Class C girls' 1600 on Saturday, the yellow flag went up during the last 50 meters while Lilly Kenning of Milford and Jordyn Arens of Crofton were battling for the title. An official gave me the third-hand summary of the incident:

  • Kenning was the leader for much of the race and still held the lead as she entered the final straightaway. However, fatigue caught up with her as it often does with aggressive pacing (2:30 800 split) and she began to drift from lane 1 to 2.

  • A hard-charging Arens saw Lane 1 open as she exited the final curve, so she went for the pass on the inside. An inside pass isn't illegal but it isn't also typical, so the officials had a close eye on the move.

  • Kenning eventually course-corrected and moved back into the first lane, at which point it appeared that the two runners made contact. That led to the yellow flag for potential interference.

  • Our photos never show it, but Arens may have taken a step or two inside the yellow line of Lane 1 to avoid significant contact with Kenning. Under high school rules, three consecutive steps off the track could have been reason for a DQ - but less than three steps could be a reason for a DQ if the inside steps were used to improve upon a position. The flag was for the contact, not for steps inside the yellow line.

  • After a group meeting, the officials determined that the apparent contact had not resulted in a modified gait by either runner, and the result was confirmed with Arens in 1st place and Kenning in 2nd.

Kenning and I traded messages after the meet and she had nothing but compliments to give to Arens, who has now won Class C XC, 3200 and 1600 titles the past three seasons. "She's a great runner and an even better person," Kenning told me, "and now I know I need to work on my kick." Kenning finished with silver medals in the 800, 1600 and 3200, plus a 4th place in the 4x800. She made an incredible improvement from her freshman to sophomore seasons, improving her 1600 PR by 26 seconds (5:39 to 5:13) and her 3200 PR by 37 seconds (12:16 to 11:39). Assuming Milford remains in Class C next year, look for a great rematch between Arens and Kenning in 2024.


Emma Fisher embarrassed us

We cut our teeth on high school distance running, so we get embarrassed when a State championship is captured by someone who wasn't remotely on our radar. Emma Fisher of Sandy Creek made us feel pretty foolish on Friday afternoon when she finished 2nd the Class D 3200 in 12:03, a 31-second PR. On Saturday she finished 4th in the 800 in 2:25, a three-second PR, and then she won the 1600 with an 11-second PR of 5:28 despite rolling her ankle with 600 meters remaining.


I caught up with her coach, former Sandy Creek and UNK distance runner Corbin Hansen, on Sunday afternoon. He gave us a pass for not knowing about Emma, noting that she is a "stud volleyball and basketball player who improved her fitness throughout the track season." Emma wasn't pushed during the season unless Sandy Creek had a meet with Hastings St. Cecilia and the Vargas sisters, so Coach Hansen knew Emma had the potential for much better times. Sandy Creek took fifteen athletes to State, including six or seven who had never been to Burke. He had them walk onto the track on Thursday night after the A/B meet concluded, hoping that it would settle their nerves for Friday. It didn't. The phrase "I want to go home" might have been uttered after several races, and they did eventually go home - with quite a few State medals.


Shot put family

With so many Nerds at State this week, we were trying to rotate positions so everyone could see a mix of field events. However, after the Wilcoxson clan welcomed me into the shot put family on Thursday, I decided to go hang with them again on Friday and Saturday morning. I don't want to be presumptuous, but I'm pretty sure I'll be invited on their family vacations soon.


I already discussed in the Day 3 musings the Class C boys shot put contest that was held on Friday, but the Class C and D girls' events on Saturday were also great. Jessica Stieb of Arcadia-Loup City was the clear favorite coming into the day, and she delivered with a 43-08.50 win while Jaid Wehrle of Battle Creek appears to have improved her PR by 15" to finish in 2nd at 40-00. Jessica was aiming for the All-Class gold and may have been disappointed with the outcome, but she graduates with three gold medals in the shot and a 2022 win in the discus. I talked with her aunt (a former collegiate athlete) during a break in action, and she thinks Jessica's best event at Michigan State may be the weight throw (an indoor-only event). Jessica's low center of gravity and spin velocity is truly impressive.


JessaLynn Hudson of BDS won her third consecutive title in the Class D event in 44-02.75 with Chloe Anderson of Loomis in second in 39-07. JessaLynn also came into the meet as the favorite, with her season best of 44-10 over three feet longer than than the next girl. JessaLynn has the height of a volleyball player and basketball low-post player, but she told me later in the day that T&F is her favorite sport. She reminds me quite a bit of Valarie Allman, the US Olympic discus athlete. Jessalyn also won the discus title on Friday to add to silver in bronze medals in the previous two years. She hopes to walk-on to the track program at Nebraska-Lincoln.


Other impressive performances

Nathan Baldwin of Sutton captured his third consecutive Class C discus title, an impressive feat when you're up against Kade Pieper and Trent Uhlir every year. While Nathan didn't surpass his season-leading heave of 190-05, his 183-10 effort was nearly nine feet better than second place. In an event that is difficult to achieve consistency from meet to meet, Nathan registered throws of 170-00 in at least four meets this year.


Jordan Metzler of Wakefield entered State with one of the top five times this season in Class C at 2:18.3; she left Burke with a new Class C record of 2:14.35 after winning over five previous 800 medalists (Rasby, McNair, Minarik, Fosmer, Nelson) and the last two gold medalists (Laney Kathol in 2022 and Jordyn Arens in 2021). The junior also finished third in the 400 and eighth in the 100, and likely would have placed in the 300H (season-best of 46.00) if not for a false start at Districts. Jordan only qualified for State in 2022 in the 400 and she did not finish that race. I bet she's pretty happy.


Dillon Miller of Brady has been blazing fast in the sprints all season, and we finally got to see the Class D 100 record holder at Burke. He won the 100 and 200 in impressive fashion. He is still deliberating where he'll compete collegiately next year.


Trey Robertson of Wallace continued his Class D distance dominance this year, capping off the distance trifecta (XC, 3200, 1600) when he won the 1600 gold on Saturday in 4:30.50. However, I think the boy in 2nd place, Kyler Mosel of Plainview, was way more excited after he ran 4:32 in what appeared to be a 15-second PR. Even better, his twin brother Jordan finished 3rd in 4:36, which looks like a 14-second PR. Those 14 points were critical in helping Plainview win a State title.


Record were falling at Burke this week... and so were runners

We'll let someone else list all the new Class and meet records that fell last week. Instead of doing that, how about some crazy finish line photos of actual runners falling?


Riverside's Carson Bloom clinches the Class D 4x100

Leyton's Zaili Benish wins the Class D 300H just 0.03 seconds ahead of hurdles legend Macy Richardson of Sterling

Bertrand's Owen Kaps goes down at the end of the Class D 4x400

Stars we missed at State

We saw hundreds of great performances but not all the great athletes were able to compete at Burke. Due to injuries, we missed watching these athletes, to name just a few: Keeli Green (Arlington HS, Concordia commit), Teagon Gonsior (Fullerton, uncommitted), Kade McIntrye (Fremont Bergan, Oklahoma football), Zach Schultz (Milalrd North, South Dakota) and Ben Alberts (GICC).


One month ago we would have handed the Class C girls team title to Kearney Catholic on the strength of their sprinters and jumpers, but the Stars finished in a tie for 2nd, 2.67 points behind Bishop Neumann's 43 points. We expected at least 60 points from Kearney Catholic until freshman Hazel Haarberg was injured during the Centennial Conference 100 finals. Considering all Class C results this season, Hazel had the fastest 200, the second fastest 100, the sixth-longest long jump and was a member of the second fastest 4x100 squad. She somehow qualified for State in the long jump and 4x100 but was unable to compete in either event due to her injury. Kearney Catholic also returns Alyssa Onnen, Margaret Haarberg and Payton Dzingle, to name a few of their studs, so they should be a force in 2024.


The final top-15 leaderboards

We've been collecting on-line and paper results throughout the year to build our Top-15 performance list for the 2023 track season. The State meet results have now been dropped into the spreadsheet so you can see the final results of Nerd the Third's hard work this spring. You can access the track performance leaderboards at https://www.preprunningnerd.com/rankings.


Camps

If you're an underclassman and the 2023 track season left you wanting more, consider checking out one of these camps:


* Cozad High School is hosting a one-day cross country camp on July 11 from 9:00-2:30. Speakers include collegiate coaches Matt Beisel (Concordia), Brad Jenny (Doane), Ryan Mahoney (Hastings), and Brady Bonsall (UNK). The flyer for the camp is linked here.


* David Ramsey is again hosting a Cross Country Running Camp in Pueblo Colorado on July 9-16. I don't have any experience with the camp but a number of Nebraska runners have attended the camp in the pre-COVID era. Here is the link for that camp.


* The Eyes Up camp led by Coach Chris Gannon at Creighton has two two-days sessions: an elite camp on July 17-18 (sold out) and a second camp on July 24-25. You might even have Nerd the Third as a camp counselor. Go to www.eyesup.run for more information.


* Homer High School is hosting a one-day camp on July 13. Speakers include Creighton coaches Chris Gannon and Matthew Fayers and Mount Marty's Dan Fitzsimmons. Click here for more information and the registration form.


* The Fellowship of Christian Athletes hosts a very popular camp June 13-16 in Kearney. A lot of distance running friendships have started here, and we know a few collegiate athletes who have been counselors there. For more info, go to https://search.fcacamps.org/CampDetail.aspx?ID=9389. Another link is https://www.omahafca.org/camp#DistanceCamp.


* Millard South is hosting a track camp June 13-15 and a cross country camp June 19-21 for kids through 8th grade. More info at https://sites.google.com/a/mpsomaha.org/ms-track-field/camps.


* Nebraska Wesleyan is holding a camp on June 2, the day before the Midwest Night of Stars meet. Here's the link: https://www.nebrwesleyan.edu/student-life/athletics/camps/high-school-track-and-field-camp.


* Concordia University in Seward is offering part-day sessions broken down by disciplines for everything except the distance events. Rather than have me summarize it, the best resource is https://www.cune.edu/athletics/teams/track-and-field/camps. We're big fans of the Concordia coaching staff so these should be high-quality sessions.


* Westside Middle School is the location for a K-6 camp every Tuesday and Thursday from May 30th through June 29th. More info at https://www.westvalleytrack.com/?fbclid=IwAR2teWrQGIlQAF_jkVT6ggaMwzTtInhVHhnS5jHfgmcgBxFmf1JWti_Rgj0.


* Anselmo-Merna coach Caleb Franklin is offering a speed camp this June and July. More information is available at https://quantum-athletes.com/


* Terry Glenn at Norfolk Catholic offers a pole vault camp and a youth track camp. Registration at https://register.ryzer.com/camp.cfm?ID=247094&fbclid=IwAR0WeEfkZ4o2Jo3Rip5xY3XHWAnlQaZORgzQHWlHe2e_CNLlvJN12p6-Zhc.


Live the Nerd life

Being a running nerd is not just a frame of mind; it’s also a lifestyle. If you’re a nerd, we don’t think you should hide it, which is why we’ve opened a Nerd store on our website. All of the profits from last year’s sales went to provide t-shirts to OPS schools. The Nerd strategy team hasn’t decided what to do with the profits from this year’s sales, in part because we're $3,000 or $4,000 in the hole right now. Mrs. Nerd is getting pretty concerned about the stack of t-shirts and sweatshirts in our bedroom.

In contrast to previous sales, we have the product in stock so the there is not a deadline for orders. However, once a product is out of stock, it won't be sold. My personal experience is that the shirts run a little small, but we're thrilled with the quality of the gear. Our store can be found here.


That's a wrap

The seventeen Nerds you've seen throughout the year, including the fourteen who were at the State meet, are doing this as a hobby. Aside from the t-shirt sales that are draining our bank account, there is no money attached to what we do. We're not a company or a newspaper or really anything tangible. We don't have an office or an employee manual or a procedure book. We're not trying to grow our social media following so we can sell it to Jeff Bezos. We're simply a group of running nerds who decided that XC and T&F athletes deserved more attention than they were getting, and we decided to do something about it. It's a hobby that's gotten completely out of hand.


Of course, our work isn't done. If you're out of high school and have a good camera and sports lens (70-200mm), you could be the next Nerd. If you have a current high school athlete in your house, 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 jayslagle@hotmail.com.


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Originally published at www.preprunningnerd.com by Jay Slagle on May 23, 2023. If you find an error, please DM or e-mail us at jayslagle@hotmail.com and we'll get it fixed.


Like this coverage of Nebraska high school distance running? There's more of this at www.preprunningnerd.com. Check out the Blog tab for our frequent stories, the Articles tab for long-form articles, the Results tab for every Nebraska high school race we can find, and the Rankings tab for top-15 performances in each event. If you want to see meet photos or just need to kill a few hours on social media, follow us on Twitter and Instagram @PrepRunningNerd or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/preprunningnerd.


Finally, if you think runners, jumpers and throwers are the best things on earth, you'll enjoy our two most popular articles. In 2018 we published "The Runner with the Broken Heart" about a high school boy who finished last in nearly every race he ran. In 2022 we published, "The Fall and Rise of Emmett Hassenstab," a story about a high school triple jumper who became a quadrapalegic after a swimming accident.















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