OMAHA — Four gold medals and a runner-up finish in the team standings that went down to the wire highlighted Northeast and North Central Nebraska’s day in the final day of the Nebraska Class C boys state track and field meet on Saturday at Burke Stadium.

Battle Creek entered the final race of the day — the 4x400-meter relay — with a 62-58 lead over Grand Island Central Catholic for the top spot in the class. 

Both teams had groups in the race, with the Crusaders going in the first heat and the Braves in the second. 

Central Catholic — the team runners-up in 2021 — won the first heat in 3 minutes, 32.02 seconds. Battle Creek finished in 3:34.09. Hartington Cedar Catholic finished third. 

The Crusaders ended up winning the whole race while the Braves finished seventh. This gave GICC a big enough difference in points to jump the Fightin’ River and win it all.

“It’s not what we wanted. We were really close,” coach Andrew Carlson said. “But it’s still a great accomplishment for all the hard work they’ve put in all season long to be runner-up.”

That hard work resulted in 14 individuals sporting the purple and gold in the River City, including the members of all three relay teams. Once there, the team had 10 total medalists, including three second-place finishes and a gold medal.

The latter came in the boys 4x100, where the team of Caleb Brauer, Landon Olson, Baron Buckendahl and Rich Brauer won in 43.99 seconds.

The finish was a bit of closure for Olson, who not long before the race started, failed to defend his long jump title from a year ago. He finished second to Beau Lee of Nebraska City Lourdes. 

“It was obviously really disappointing, but I knew the 4x100 was coming up,” he said. “So I had to be resilient, clear my head and it helped motivate me to run a little faster.”

Finishing right behind Battle Creek to place third in the team standings was Hartington Cedar Catholic, whose top long-distance runner checked off yet another box on his increasingly impressive resume.

Carson Noecker won his first state championship in the 1,600-meter run, posting a mark and new personal-record of 4:19.61, the fastest time of anyone in Class C in 2022. 

“I guess I wanted to start out fast and get out fast.” he said. “That’s what I try doing and just keep a good, consistent pace every lap and just trust in whatever God gave me today.”

Noecker has now won a gold medal in every event he’s participated in this meet. He won the 3,200 the day before and ran third on Cedar Catholic’s winning 4x800 team. 

“I worked hard this year and that’s something we all should be proud of,” Noecker said of his team’s effort. “Not just our team, but every team that competed in track.”

Right behind Noecker was Norfolk Catholic senior Ben Hammond, who — like the 3,200 on Friday — set a new PR and finished second. This time, his mark was 4:36.14.

The key to Hammond’s performances in Omaha has been largely the result of a shift in thinking. 

“I’ve been running a lot of 800’s, so I kind of broke it down into 800’s this year,” he said. “So I kind of got to see that 800 speed that I normally didn’t have before and then working on that finishing one last 50 (meters) was big for me.”

Hammond leaves Norfolk Catholic having set new personal marks and finishing higher in either long distance race than he had his entire career at state. 

“It’s crazy it’s over,” he said. “But I’m so thankful for it to happen like this.”

Deagan Puppe ran most of his races in the 110-hurdles alongside his brother Daniel, with the two taking the top spots in almost all of the races they ran. 

On Saturday, the two found themselves on the biggest stage in Nebraska, with Deagan ready to defend his state title and Daniel looking to take it all in for his first time in the finals.

While Daniel ended up finishing eighth, Deagan was able to defend his state title in the race, finishing in 14.66. The mark was two hundredths of a second slower than his personal-best and school record of 14.64.

“I really had to push those last five hurdles,” Deagan said. “I hit hurdles three and hurdle five so I really had to close on in the last couple of hurdles.”

Having Daniel in the race alongside him helped him relax a little more at the start of the race, a luxury he didn’t have in 2021.

“I remember last year I was so nervous getting in the blocks,” Deagan said. “I was the fastest qualifying time and I didn’t want to mess up, but I think this year he gave me a little more encouragement.”

Baron Buckendahl of Battle Creek finished fifth and Lance Brester of Howells-Dodge finished sixth.

Beau Ruskamp of Wisner-Pilger knew that it would take the best race he’s ever run to win the 300-meter hurdles.

He got that and then some, winning the race in 39.83 seconds, a personal-record and school record.

“I had to work on tucking those hurdles,” he said. “Going into lane six, I wasn’t really expecting that, but it’s how it went and winning the race just felt amazing.”

The senior went into the race with the fastest qualifying time among competitors, but had the second-best preliminary time. As a result, he was put in a different lane than he usually is for races. He felt that, unlike in preliminaries, he could really be pushed to finish his best. 

“In prelims yesterday I kind of got past that lane 5 and nobody was around me to really push me and I just don’t think I could’ve finished the race as hard as I possibly could have,” he said. “That’s mainly the reason I got that lane 6 today. 

Going into today, I knew I couldn’t stutter very much and I had to lean into all those hurdles.”

Buckendahl finished fifth in the race while Caleb Allen of Ainsworth finished eighth. 

Caid McCart of Atkinson West Holt, Trevor Thomsen of Summerland and Mitchell Hupp of Stanton found themselves in the finals for both the 100- and 200-meter dashes. 

In the 100, McCart took third, Thomson fourth and Hupp fifth. In the 200, McCart finished third, Thomson sixth and Hupp seventh. 

Carter Nelson finished fourth in the 200 and fifth in the pole vault. Jordan Settles of North Bend Central took sixth and Mayson Ostermeyer of Crofton seventh.

Abraham Larson of Stanton won bronze in the 800 with August Scholting of Wisner OPilger going third. Scholting and Ruskamp finished eighth and fifth, respectively, in the 400 with Alex Kuehn of Hartington Cedar Catholic taking fourth. 

Trent Uhlir and Jacob Ottis of Battle Creek went second and fourth in the boys discus, respectively. Jaxson Bernecker of Hartington Cedar Catholic finished sixth and Kade Pieper of Norfolk Catholic went eighth. 


Team scoring: Grand Island CC 68, Battle Creek 64, Hartington CC 44, Bishop Neumann 35.5, Stanton 34, Ainsworth 30.5, Norfolk Catholic 27, Superior 23, Lincoln Lutheran 21, Archbishop Bergan 20, Lourdes Central Catholic 20, Louisville 19, Elmwood-Murdock 18, South Loup 17, Wisner-Pilger 16, Sutton 16, Wilber-Clatonia 13, West Holt 12, Perkins County 12, Hastings St. Cecilia 11, Laurel-Concord-Coleridge 11, Doniphan-Trumbull 10.5, David City 10, Sutherland 10, Ord 10, Summerland 8, Centura 8, Twin River 7, Freeman 6.5, Sandy Creek 6, Chase County 6, Aquinas Catholic 6, Homer 6, Howells-Dodge 5.5, Mitchell 5, Oakland-Craig 5, Centennial 4, Yutan 4, North Bend Central 3.5, North Central 3, Amherst 2, Bayard 1, Arcadia-Loup City 1, Crofton 1, Cornerstone Christian 1, Wood River 1.

100: 1, Koa McIntyre, Archbishop Bergan, 10.83. 2, Harrison Klein, Louisville, 11.05. 3, Caid McCart, West Holt, 11.14. 4, Trevor Thomson, Summerland, 11.18. 5, Mitchell Hupp, Stanton, 11.31. 6, Cade Hosier, Elmwood-Murdock, 11.42. 7, Jenson Anderson, St. Cecilia, 11.43. 8, Gage Steinke, Grand Island Central Catholic, 12.16.

200: 1, Koa McIntyre, Archbishop Bergan, 21.89. 2, Caden Denker, David City, 22.28. 3, Caid McCart, West Holt, 22.62. 4, Carter Nelson, Ainsworth, 22.66. 5, Brayton Johnson, Grand Island Central Catholic, 22.66. 6, Trevor Thomson, Summerland, 22.67. 7, Mitchell Hupp, Stanton, 22.76. 8, Logan Turek, Wood River, 22.98.

400: 1, Brayton Johnson, Grand Island Central Catholic, 50.46. 2, Logan Lebo, Lincoln Lutheran, 50.58. 3, Cache Gracey, South Loup, 51.14. 4, Alex Kuehn, Cedar Catholic, 51.42. 5, Beau Ruskamp, Wisner-Pilger, 51.98. 6, Ben Alberts, Grand Island Central Catholic, 52.22. 7, Caden Denker, David City, 52.70. 8, August Scholting, Wisner-Pilger, 53.86.

800: 1, Ben Alberts, Grand Island Central Catholic, 1:58.31. 2, Logan Lebo, Lincoln Lutheran, 2:01.11. 3, Abraham Larson, Stanton, 2:02.57. 4, Eric Heard, Louisville, 2:02.79. 5, John DeRiso, Ord, 2:03.64. 6, Cache Gracey, South Loup, 2:03.95. 7, Luke Meis, Bishop Neumann, 2:04.02. 8, August Scholting, Wisner-Pilger, 2:04.07.

1600: 1, Carson Noecker, Cedar Catholic, 4:19.61. 2, Ben Hammond, Norfolk Catholic, 4:36.13. 3, Ty Schlueter, Ainsworth, 4:37.48. 4, Abraham Larson, Stanton, 4:37.59. 5, Jackson Strain, Twin River, 4:38.69. 6, Grant Lander, Homer, 4:38.71. 7, Mason McGreer, Perkins County, 4:39.84. 8, Kolter Van Pelt, Stanton, 4:39.99.

400 relay: 1, Battle Creek (Caleb Brauer, Landon Olson, Baron Buckendahl, Rich Brauer), 43.99. 2, Grand Island Central Catholic, 44.21. 3, Louisville, 44.26. 4, Centura, 44.57. 5, Yutan, 44.76. 6, North Central, 44.88. 7, Superior, 45.31. 8, St. Cecilia, 45.32.

1600 relay: 1, Grand Island Central Catholic (Ben Alberts, Ishmael Nadir, Isaac Herbek, Brayton Johnson), 3:32.02. 2, Bishop Neumann, 3:32.08. 3, Cedar Catholic, 3:32.72. 4, Wilber-Clatonia, 3:33.18. 5, Freeman, 3:33.38. 6, Louisville, 3:33.81. 7, Battle Creek, 3:34.09. 8, Centura, 3:34.65.

110 hurdles: 1, Deagan Puppe, Laurel-CC, 14.66. 2, Kamdyn Swartz, Bishop Neumann, 14.75. 3, Dane Miller, Superior, 14.88. 4, Baron Buckendahl, Battle Creek, 15.01. 5, Easton Fries, Chase County, 15.39. 6, Lance Brester, Howells-Dodge, 15.49. 7, Riley Wilson, Elmwood-Murdock, 15.5. 7, Daniel Puppe, Laurel-CC, 18.14.

300 hurdles: 1, Beau Ruskamp, Wisner-Pilger, 39.83. 2, Kamdyn Swartz, Bishop Neumann, 39.98. 3, Dane Miller, Superior, 40.58. 4, Riley Wilson, Elmwood-Murdock, 40.68. 5, Baron Buckendahl, Battle Creek, 40.97. 6, John Prochaska, Aquinas Catholic, 41.67. 7, Easton Fries, Chase County, 41.91. 8, Caleb Allen, Ainsworth, 42.16.

Discus: 1, Nathan Baldwin, Sutton, 179-0. 2, Trent Uhlir, Battle Creek, 167-1. 3, Seth Schnakenberg, Superior, 156-10. 4, Jacob Ottis, Battle Creek, 149-8. 5, Carson Fehlhafer, Centennial, 148-4. 6, Jaxson Bernecker, Cedar Catholic, 148-1. 7, Sam Boettcher, Ord, 148-1. 8, Kade Pieper, Norfolk Catholic, 144-5.

Long jump: 1, Beau Lee, Lourdes Central Catholic, 22-2¾. 2, Landon Olson, Battle Creek, 21-7. 3, Myles Sadd, Doniphan-Trumbulll, 21-5¼. 4, Isaac Herbek, Grand Island Central Catholic, 20-11¾. 5, Casey Hanson, Perkins County, 20-4. 6, Caleb Thege, Aquinas Catholic, 20-3½. 7, Nolan Eloe, Amherst, 20-3. 8, Spencer Ramaekers, Twin River, 20-1.

Pole vault: 1, Jon Peterka, Sutherland, 14-3. 2, Gage Steinke, Grand Island Central Catholic, 14-0. 3, Ashton Pulliam, Wilber-Clatonia, 14-0. 4, Bryce Hodsden, Mitchell, 13-6. 5, Carter Nelson, Ainsworth, 13-6. 5, Jordan Settles, North Bend Central, 13-6. 7, Mayson Ostermeyer, Crofton, 13-0. 7, Kaden Reeves, Arcadia-Loup City, 13-0. 7, Kolby Houchin, Bayard, 13-0.


In other news

Our family recently spent a weekend at a unique Nebraska bed and Breakfast on a boat in southeast Nebraska just off Interstate 29 about halfway between Omaha and Kansas City right outside the town of Brownville.