I primarily follow Class A distance running, so I’ve compiled a few observations from the State meet.
Liem Chot and Tyler Boyle had an incredible dual, running within a few strides of each other for most of the race. On the backside of the course where there was minimal crowd noise, it was refreshing to hear the LSW and LNS coaches giving encouragement to both boys.
Lincoln Southwest won its first boys State title in convincing fashion, with three top-10 medalists and their 4th and 5th runners at 19th and 35th. A series of bad breaks thwarted potential State titles in 2017 and 2018, but they won by a comfortable margin this year. I particularly enjoyed seeing Jack Nolley place 10th after missing most of the 2018 season.
While only 5 of the girls’ Class A medalists were seniors, 10 of the 15 Class A boys were seniors in 2019, matching the tally from 2017. LSW was powered by 5 seniors, but their 4th and 5th placers were juniors. Grand Island graduates 3 of their top 5, Lincoln East 4 of their top 7, and Elkhorn South 4 of their top 6.
There are a few State teams featuring mostly underclassmen, led by Millard West’s 2nd place finish. Adam Murphy (3rd) and Tony Miller (23rd) graduate, but the other five return, including 2 sophomores and 2 freshman. Omaha South will have 6 of 7 return, led by Felix Cruz, and they’ll also have Nick Abdalla. Fremont returns 6 including 5 sophomores, and Gretna returns 5, including 2 sophomores and 2 freshman. If someone was ambitious enough to generate a way-too-early poll for 2020, I’d put those four teams near the top.
Lincoln North Star also returns 5 of their 7 State participants, including Liem Chot. LNS has finished 7th, 7th and 3rd their last three years, you'd expect Coach Musiel to keep riding that momentum. In 2020, Liem will have a chance to become the first 3x Class A State boys champ since Colby Wissel of Kearney accomplished that in 2001-2003.
The NETC blog at www.nebraskaelitetc.org features interviews on a wide variety of Nebraska high school distance runners, including Liem Chot, Tyler Boyle, Jack Nolley, Trevor Acton and Jacob Kosmicki. I’ve made a mental note to chase down Adam Murphy and Thomas Oliver in the spring.
Returning medalists in 2020 will include Liem Chot, Evan Caudy (North Platte), Juan Garcia (Grand Island), Gabe Hinrichs (Elkhorn South) and Logan Hauschild (Burke). In addition, 2017 medalist Nick Abdalla (Omaha South) will be eligible after sitting out this year due to his transfer from Bryan.
Over the past 23 years, 39 Class A boys have medaled at three or four State XC meets. The club did not grow this year. Last week’s meet featured three sophomore medalists – Evan Caudy, Juan Garcia and Gabe Hinrichs – who are still in the running. Gavin Skorupa of Pius earned his third State medal this year, but his 2018 medal was earned when Pius had a short-lived stay in Class B.
Among the top 10 boys, Adam Murphy and Dillon McNeill (Papio South) showed the most growth from two years ago. Adam didn’t compete at State as a freshman, placed 26th as a soph and 19th as a junior. He essentially went off in the State 1600 last May, placed 2nd in 4:20 with a 10-second PR, and he carried that momentum through this entire XC season. Dillon placed 56th, 24th, 13th and 6th in his four State meet, a poster boy for hard work and incremental gains.
Dustin Llewellyn might have a career in sports betting. Of the top 11 Class A boys in his pre-season poll, 9 placed in the top 12 at State. He also had Liem Chot and Tyler Boyle ranked 1st and 2nd, respectively. The mid-year polls were less accurate, in part because so many runners were injured or sick during the season.
Starting slow at the Kearney Course is often a good decision. Medalists Jacob Kosmicki (11th), Gabe Hinricks (13th) and Daniel Pierce (14th) were 47th, 46th and 43rd at the one-mile mark.
It’s a poorly-kept secret that my interest in high school distance running stems in part from having two sons compete for Creighton Prep (one now running at UNL, one a junior at Prep). Despite being linked to a specific team, Class A coaches and athletes have been incredibly receptive to my requests for interviews, information and access to their athletes. I have nothing but respect for the time and energy that high school coaches devote to their athletes, and I hope that my volunteer work as the Nerd helps shine a light on the incredible sport of distance running. Finally, I can't say enough about Dustin Lewellyn's dedication to growing the profile of Nebraska distance running, and I appreciate his willingness to let me tag along. Until next spring, stay healthy and happy.
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