OMAHA – Normally more than 30,000 fans would converge on Omaha Burke High School on Friday and Saturday to watch the state’s top track and field athletes compete in 17 events.
The stadium will instead be silent after the season was canceled for good on April 2.
Many area athletes were already working out and even practicing for two weeks before the plug was pulled on the season.
Some of those had hopes and aspirations of standing on the podium as a state champion.
Last season, the Wahoo girls 3200-meter relay teams ascended to the top of that podium at the state meet, winning the Class B event with a time of 10:06.9.
Junior Lauren Kavan and seniors Zoe Christenson and Kendal Brigham all ran on the last year’s team and Wahoo Coach Chad Fox thinks they would have been tough to beat this weekend.
“Zoe and Kendal were multiple time state qualifiers and Lauren just got better and better. Lauren was coming off a knee injury, but I was confident that we would have been able to come up with a pretty talented two-mile relay team,” said Fox.
Christenson also medaled in the mile last year and Brigham qualified in the 800-meter run.
“Those two were poised to have really big years for us,” Fox added.
Fox also talked about jumpers Kharissa Eddie, Mya Emerson, Toni Greenfield (5th in triple jump at state last year) and thrower Sara Lindgren. He was hopeful that the quartet would all have a chance at competing and medaling in Omaha.
A trio of seniors, Luke Partridge, Brandon Swahn and Grant Crockett all had hopes of finishing their careers with a state medal around their neck.
Swahn (shot put) and Partridge (discus) medaled last year at the state meet and Crockett qualified for the state meet in the two-mile event as a sophomore.
“I feel bad for all of our athletes, but especially for Luke. Track is his favorite sport and he would have been in a position to finish pretty high in the discus event I think,” Fox added.
Speaking of finishing highly, the Bishop Neumann boy’s track and field team had their sights set on winning a state championship this spring.
Last season, competing in Class B, the Cavaliers took six athletes to the state meet and finished in a tie for fourth with 43 points.
Neumann was scheduled to compete in Class C this season and with the return of a talented senior class, the Cavaliers would have definitely been in the state championship conversation.
“I truly believe we would have been right there contending for a state championship this season,” said Bishop Neumann Coach Tim Rezac.
Senior David Lilly would have returned after being named the All-Area track and field captain a year ago after earning four medals in Omaha in 2019.
Lilly finished second in the 300-meter hurdles, anchored the runner-up Cavalier 1600-meter relay team and added medals in the long jump and 400-meter dash.
This spring Lilly, Rezac and Cavalier graduate Brandon Blum went to Wahoo High School to record a series of long jump attempts.
“I told David that he wasn’t going to have an unlimited number of jumps. We treated it like a real meet. He needed a finals qualifying jump in his first three to get three more,” Rezac said.
With his first jump measuring nearly 21-feet he was granted three more jumps by his head coach.
In what would have been the equivalent to his three finals jumps, Lilly broke the Neumann school record with all three of them, including his final jump which measured 22 feet, 6.5 inches.
“That was incredible to see that. In my mind he is the new Neumann long jump king,” Rezac said.
Rezac is going to meet with the Bishop Neumann administration to see if the jump can actually be counted as a new school record since it didn’t happen at a NSAA sanctioned high school meet.
Like Lilly, senior teammate Taylen Pospisil and sophomore Kamdyn Swartz also competed at the state meet a season ago.
Senior Thomas Haberman and juniors Seth Fairbanks and Spencer Wiese were also poised for breakout season’s according to Rezac.
“Whether we would have been good enough to win a state championship or not is not hardest thing about missing the season, believe it or not. The hardest thing is not being around the guys every day. The practices, the meets, just the day to day stuff is what I miss. That’s what I regret the most,” Rezac added.
The Cavalier girls team would also have benefited from the Class drop.
The Cavaliers finished third in the two-mile relay a season ago in Class B and like Wahoo would have had three of the four runners back this spring.
Seniors Faith Polacek, and Emily Coufal and sophomore Theresa Quinn all would have returned this season after running on the two-mile relay team a year ago.
Polacek (800-meter run, 1600-meter relay) and Quinn (400-meter relay) and fellow sophomores Mary Chvatal (long jump, 400-meter relay) Kali Jurgensmeier (triple jump, high jump and 400-meter dash and 1600-meter relay) would have made the Neumann girl’s formidable in Class C.
Jurgensmeier injured her knee at the end of the volleyball season and her availability this spring would have been in question.
Three record breakers were poised to return for the Ashland-Greenwood Bluejays.
Bryce Kitrell (sprints, throw), Hannah Hatzenbuehler (hurdles) and Jaiden Tweton (800-meter run) all broke school records last season and figured to put themselves into position to add to the their state medal count.
Raymond Central long jumper Grace Mueller was the top long and triple jumper in the area last season as a sophomore. She medaled in the long jump at the state meet a season ago after jumping 17-6.5.
East Butler senior sprinter Matthew Janak was set to return after medaling in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash events his sophomore and junior year’s.
Yutan senior and future Husker Emma Lloyd would have returned this season in an attempt to improve on her fourth place finish in the Class C discus.