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Contributor: The Nerd
Championship season is almost upon us. The cross country season never seems quite real until the UNK meet, and just like that we have a mere 19 days until the State. Most conferences will be holding their championships this week, Districts are held 10/14, and State is 10/22. Hold on folks, the next three weeks are going to fly by.
New to the Nerdsletter?
If you’re just stumbling onto Prep Running Nerd, where the heck have you been the first six weeks of the season? The Nerd staff prides itself on providing the most comprehensive distance running coverage in the State, and we primarily provide it in 4 ways:
- On our website through the results tab (15 meet links for last week), the rankings tab that is updated every Tuesday, and our blog tab that provides longer form articles like this. In addition, we’ll likely post a few interviews in the next few weeks to get you primed for State. We are the home of the only individual rankings in Nebraska.
- On Twitter at @preprunningnerd. With 2400 followers, this is our go-to social media account and the one on which we post most frequently.
- On Facebook at www.facebook.com/preprunningnerd. Nerd Junior and I attend 2-3 meets per week, we takes pictures, and we post those pictures for free as soon as we can. In just the past week, we’ve posted over 2500 photos from the UNK, LPS and Millard West meets.
- On Instagram. Nerd Junior and Nerd the Third run this account and the young hipsters really seem to like it, but Nerd Senior still has no idea how it works.
While the UNK meet featured 70 ranked runners and a lot of great head-to-head matchups, we haven’t strictly followed the UNK results to adjust our rankings. We do look at each athlete’s body of work, and one great race or one rotten race will have minimal impact on our rankings. The high temps at the UNK meet amplified race strategy for good or bad, and a number of highly-ranked runners who went out hard ended up racing poorly or not finishing at all. The State meet weather is never perfect – it’s either 85 degrees and windy or it’s terribly cold – so hats off to the athletes who tested a race strategy on Monday that didn’t work. They’re smarter for the effort, and that new wisdom may pay off at State.
To muddle things a bit more, Ainsworth has a number of ranked runners but didn’t get to compete last week because the West Holt meet was postponed.
Meets we attended
Nerd Senior spent a glorious day at the UNK meet on Monday. Rather than regurgitate the meet here, I’ll just refer you to our huge article on the meet. The results can be found on our Results tab, and just under 2000 photos are posted by race on our Facebook page. It was hot but it was also freaking awesome.
LPS City Meet
Nerd Junior hit the LPS City meet on Friday, 10/1. In the girls race, Lincoln East’s Mia Murray and LSW’s Brianna Rinn went out hard, followed by a pack consisting of Kennedy Bartee of Lincoln High and Izzy Apel, Peyton Svehla and freshman Ella Herzberg of Lincoln East. Murray and Rinn stuck together through 2500 meters before Murray created a gap on the back side of the course. Murray (ranked 3rd in Class A) set a PR and went under 19:00 for the first time in her career with her 18:46 – a huge accomplishment on the difficult Pioneer Park course. Fifth-ranked Rinn finished in 19:07, followed by 12th-ranked Apel in 19:22 and Svehla in 19:29.
On the boys’ side, Daniel Romary (LNE, #2 ranking), Max Myers (LSW, #13) and Grant Wasserman (LNS, watch list) stayed together through 3500 meters before Romary broke away. Joe Volkmer of Lincoln East worked his way back into the mix, moving into 3rd place near the bottom of Choo Choo hill. Romary cruised to a 16:00 win while Volkmer had a blazing finish to catch Wasserman in the last 20 meters. Volkmer was 2nd in 16:24, Wasserman 3rd in 16:26, and Myers 4th in 16:32. While we’re sure that Wasserman was disappointed to give up a spot so late in the race, this marks his third race under 16:30 this season.
Nerd Junior posted approximately 90 pictures from each race at our Facebook page.
Millard West Invite
This is a relatively small meet, with only six boys teams and four girls teams fielding team scores. However, most of the seniors have raced the Walnut Grove course at least five times in their career – and perhaps over ten times if you’re a Millard kid – so the meet is the seniors’ last chance to PR at this historically fast course. As I noted on Twitter a few hours before the meet, this is the meet where Seth Hirsch ran what I believe is the only sub-15:00 high school 5K on Nebraska soil back in 2016. His sub-15:00 attempt was fairly well-known in the days prior to the meet, and it was truly an electric environment with every team’s fans cheering him on to a 14:56.
The girls’ race quickly turned into a duel between Millard West’s Isabelle Hartnett (7th ranked) and Papio South’s Deavion Deleon (6th ranked). Hartnett was coming off a 18:58 PR the previous Saturday at the huge Rim Rock regional meet, while Deleon hadn’t raced in 13 days since her 18:36 at the similarly huge Pella regional meet where she clocked a 18:36 (Hartnett ran a 19:11 at that meet). The two girls were together through 2000 meters but Deleon opened a 40-meter gap by the two-mile mark. She won with a 19:09, followed by Hartnett in 19:41. Papio South’s Olivia Rosenthal ran alone for much of the race and finished 3rd in 20:15, followed by freshman teammate Marissa Garcia in 20:36.
For the boys, 3rd-ranked Sam Kirchner took a quick lead in the first 100 meters and continued to push hard through 3200 meters. Dalton Heller of Millard South and Piercze Marshall of Millard West were about 40 meters behind Kirchner at 1600 meters, but by 3200 meters Heller had broken away from Marshall and cut Kirchner’s lead in half. Heller overtook Kirchner by 4000 and won his first career race in 16:11, a 40-second PR. Marshall was 2nd in 16:23 followed by Kirchner in 16:26, a fraction of a second ahead of hard-closing Denny Chapman of Creighton Prep.
Millard West’s Jack Witte, a regular on their varsity, did not run at the meet. Coach Johnston told me afterwards that they had homecoming festivities last Saturday right after returning from Rim Rock, and then they held morning practices most of last week. We suspect the team will be fresh and ready by the time Districts roll around.
I posted about 450 photos from this meet on our Facebook page.
With the UNK meet essentially the equivalent of four high-quality meets, we had the chance to see a lot of talented runners this week. In addition to Dalton Heller and Deavion Deleon, here are a few who had impressive outings:
- Madison Seiler of Gering is the defending Class B champion, but she broke her foot on July 1 while playing in a basketball tournament. She ran a surprising 21:06 in the Alliance JV race two weeks ago and then posted a 19:47 at Scottsbluff on Friday. It will be interesting to see how fit Madison can get in the next two weeks.
- Grant Lander runs for Homer, which didn’t have an XC program until 2020. He finished 5th at 2020 State and has won three races this year. He also has three 2nd-place finishes – twice behind Carson Noecker and then this past week at UNK, when Trevor Kuncl caught him at the line. Lander had moved through the UNK pack and took the lead around 4000 meters, but the heat just got to him a bit at the end.
- Norfolk doesn’t seem to hit the big meets but Isaac Ochoa is having a big year. He won the Columbus invite on Friday in 16:16, beating GI stud Juan Garcia and the Fremont stable of racers. The week prior, he won the Yankton race in 15:58. We see race results for him for five meets this season, and his slowest time is 16:16. That’s impressive.
- My eastern-Nebraska life doesn’t allow me to see McCook’s Samantha Rodewald run that often, but she was impressive at UNK. She went stride for stride with Kassidy Stuckey of York for over 3000 meters, had 20 meters of separation with 400 meters to go, and held on for a six-second win in 20:03. Samantha is undefeated this year.
- Nolan May of Arlington had himself a day at UNK. The 11th-ranked runner in Class C has had a great two weeks, winning the Fort Calhoun Invite on 9/23 in 17:01 and then finishing 3rd at UNK in 17:36.
- Sophomore Kara Muller of Bellevue West has been putting in the work among the giants in Class A, and she picked up her first career win at Columbus with a 20:11 time.
- Mullen has a limited number of XC runners but they are doing exceedingly well. Trevor Kuncl won the UNK Class D race while Callie Coble and Peyton Paxton took 2nd and 3rd in the girls race. Coble’s time was a 24-second season best, and Paxton finished the week with a title at Bayard.
- Juan Garcia of Grand Island finished 2nd at UNK in 16:19, a great time on a miserable day, just behind Gabe Hinrichs and ahead of four ranked runners.
Class A one-site Districts
In early 2020, a proposal made its way through the NSAA legislative process that ended with the decision to shift Class A XC Districts to a single-site, eight-race event. Because of the quirks in how NSAA legislative proposals are approved, this Class-A-only proposal was passed due to support from Class B, C and D schools who weren’t impacted by it. The great majority of Class A XC coaches were opposed to the move, but very few of them knew about the proposal ahead of the final votes. Back in May 2020 I wrote a long article on the single-site District plan in the hopes that a Class A school would submit a new legislative proposal to move Districts back to two sites. A 2021 proposal has passed the first round of approvals, but it won’t be in effect in time for 2021. Pioneer Park in Lincoln will host the single-site Class A Districts in a few weeks. Get there early, because parking is going to be a *&@#. Pray for the unlucky school whose girls compete in Race #1 while their boys have to wait until Race #8. And please, please don’t let it rain…
We’re selling version #2 of the Nerd t-shirts for a very limited time. They are being sold at cost and I’m told would make a great stocking stuffer for your favorite running nerd. The link is at https://www.customink.com/g/gqd0-00cg-q6qz but the link closes early Tuesday morning.
Late September and early October is the hardest part of the season, with teams often racing more often than once per week. To add to that, club soccer games start picking up, and most XC coaches know that they play second fiddle to club coaching demands. The XC community has some exceptional athletes who also excel at soccer, and you can see that their times are slowing down at this part of the season. With championship season approaching, let’s hope that the soccer coaches soon realize that State XC carries a little more importance than winning a random club game in October.
Showdowns and running solo
With so many ranked runners at UNK, we were hoping for some serious battles, and we got quite a few. Trevor Kuncl and Grant Lander had a fight down to the tape in Class D, Samantha Rodewald and Kassidy Stuckey in Class B, and Riley Boonstra, Nathan Nottingham and Colin Pinneo in Class B. In addition, Elli Dahl held off Jaci Sievers by two seconds in Class A. Elli and Jaci have now faced off three times this season with Dahl winning all three by a sum of 11 seconds, which is an average margin of less than one second per kilometer.
We hoped for a great race between undefeated girls Lindee Henning, Lilly Kenning and Keeli Green in Class C. Unfortunately, Henning didn’t race because she sprained her ankle a few days before the meet, Kenning had a rare bad day at the course, leaving Green to throw down a solo 19:00 in the sweltering heat for an 87-second win.
Racing alone is hard but Keeli Green, Carson Noecker, Hannah Swanson and Gabe Hinrichs made it look fairly easy at UNK. While Swanson has faced some tough competition this year, the other three are undefeated and have been throwing down sub-19:00 and sub-16:00 times despite having little contact with competitors over the last two miles of their races. That’s hard, and that’s impressive.
Lexington rides again
The Lexington boys won the UNK title with 27 points, topping 2nd-ranked Skutt by 47 points. Lexington had boys finish 6th, 7th, 10th, 19th and 20th even though they had already ran out of their minds two days earlier at Rim Rock. Conversely, Skutt was missing one of their top runners and had two others run poorly due to illness. We expect both teams to be in top form at State, and that title race may be as intriguing as the fight between Fremont and Millard West for the Class A boys title.
You like racing? I love racing!
Here’s a few races on my radar over the next few weeks that would be driving distance for any local fans:
- Metro Conference meet, Thursday, 10/7
- HAC meet, Thursday, 10/7
- State Junior High XC meet at Papio South, Saturday, 10/9
- District meets, Thursday, 10/14
- Bradley Pink Classic (huge collegiate meet), Peoria, Friday 10/15
- NCAA Division 1 regionals, Iowa City, Friday, 11/12
With hundreds of former NE high schoolers competing in college, we can’t track them all, but here are a few highlights we found:
- Seth Hirsch (Wisconsin/Millard West) finished 6th in 23:26 at the Louisville Classic 8K on 10/2.
- Drew Snyder (Baylor/LSW) was the second Baylor finisher at the Missouri Gans Creek Classic meet on 10/2, finishing the 8k race in 38th place in 24:53. Other top Nebraska natives were Jake Ralston (KU/Papio South) in 24:59, John Quiqley (Creighton/Millard West) in 25:23 and Jack Larsen (Creighton/Omaha Gross) in 25:45. For the women’s 6K race, the top Nebraska finishers were Dani Rinn (Wichita State/LSW) in 22:03, Jenna Muma (Wichita State/Lincoln East) in 22:49, Mazie Larsen (Baylor/Gretna) in 23:08 and McKenna Paintin (Wichita State/Omaha Central) also in 23:08.
- Hannah Godwin (Nebraska/Kearney) was the top Nebraska native at the Arkansas Chili Pepper meet, finishing the 5K race in 17:37 for 31st place. I may be missing someone, but I believe the first Nebraskan male was Zach Van Brocklin (Nebraska/Norris), finishing the 8k race in 26:06.
Like what you see?
We’re exhausted but there’s only three weeks left, so we think we can power through to State. Mrs. Nerd heads out of town tomorrow, so I’m hoping to set up a series of interviews with some of the best high school runners in the State. Stayed tuned for that, and be sure to tell your friends that no one covers distance running like the Nerds.
For the best Cross Country Coverage in the State of Nebraska: Prep Running Nerd - www.preprunningnerd.com - Follow on Twitter: @PrepRunningNerd | Facebook: PrepRunningNerd and Instagram: PrepRunningNerd!