Kraig Lofquist accomplished a goal recently that sent him running around the world.
He completed the Australian Outback Marathon on July 27, which marked the seventh continent on which he’d run a marathon.
When the 55-year-old former Educational Service Unit No. 9 administrator thinks about the accomplishment, it’s not the actual marathons that stand out.
“It’s the unbelievable people I meet,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the most incredible people and make lifelong friends.”
For instance, he met a 77-year-old man who worked as a surgeon and was part of the medical team that took care of President Ronald Reagan after he was shot. The man also wrote 20 books.
“The people the I’ve met have just been fascinating, and I’m proud to call them my friends,” he said.
Before Lofquist began seeking out marathons on other continents, he’d run the Boston Marathon five times: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2009.
“The fifth time I thought, ‘I’ve done this. What else can I do?’ ” he said. “I stumbled across this seven continents club. I thought ‘I’m going to try to run the continents.’ ”
His first international marathon was the site of the original marathon, in Athens, Greece, in November 2014.
“You basically run in the footsteps of Pheidippides.” Lofquist said.
Pheidippides is said to have run from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of a military victory against the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. He then collapsed and died.
On that same trip, Lofquist went to Istanbul, Turkey, the next week, where he ran his Asian marathon.
“All of a sudden I had three of them,” he said.
His next international marathon was Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, allowing him to scratch South America off his list.
Around the same time Lofquist began running international marathons, he also began looking into how he could run a marathon on Antarctica.
“I signed up for that right away in 2014,” he said. “I had to put a deposit down, and then I kind of forgot about it.”
There was a three-year waiting list.
According to the race website, right now it is sold out through 2021 and organizers currently are accepting booking forms for 2022 and 2023.
Even though he was scheduled to run Antarctica in 2017, Lofquist received a call from organizers of that race in 2015 that there was a vacancy. He couldn’t go.
He received the same call in 2016 and again could not go.
“Then the next year they called and said ‘OK, your number’s up. Are you going? I said ‘yep,’ and so I went in 2017,” he said. “That was a fantastic trip.”
The trip began with three nights in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, where Antarctica Marathon participants meet and participate in training runs.
The runners then fly to Ushuaia, on the southern tip of Argentina.
From there, they sail over the course of several days, aboard a Russian ice-breaking ship, through the Beagle Channel across the Drake Passage, through the Shetland Islands and along the Antarctic Peninsula until reaching King George’s Island — the location of the Marathon and Half-Marathon.
That race occurs each year in February or March.
When Lofquist ran Antarctica, the area where the race occurred was just coming off record heat. He said it was actually 33 degrees Fahrenheit at the start of the race.
It snowed twice during his race.
“The one thing they talked to you about and told you about was hypothermia,” he said. “So you had layers on.”
Runners were told to wear eye protection from the wind and given a lot of specific instruction about to dress.
“Down to the underwear they told you what to wear,” Lofquist said.
Even though the temperature while running in Antarctica was similar to running in Hastings during the winter, Lofquist said the terrain was quite different.
“I can tell you, the hills were intense,” he said.
There was a pretty significant wind chill, too.
He finished that race in four hours and 41 minutes, which was more than an hour longer longer than his average marathon time then.
“That was the most difficult one as far as getting there and the cost,” he said. “That’s why people were dropping. That one keeps people from being members of the seven continent club.”
When he was in Australia, Loftquist met a woman who had run all seven continents but Antarctica was so difficult she turned around at the half marathon point.
“She said ‘I have unfinished business there. I’m going to have to go back to try to finish it,’ ” he said.
The course is a figure eight, coming into the start and finish line about every four miles. The runners’ water bottles are all kept in one location.
A race organizer drove an all-terrain vehicle, monitoring the course and checking on runners.
As with all of the international marathons Lofquist has run in remote areas, organizers of the Antarctica Marathon were fastidious in making sure the race left as small of a footprint on the area as possible.
Runners were issued boots to wear on land, but they had to scrub the boots with cleaning agent and brushes before getting on and off the boat.
Antarctica was a hard marathon, but not the hardest. Of the 44 marathons Lofquist has run, that designation belongs to the Big Five Marathon at a big-game preserve in South Africa.
“That was an amazing experience,” he said. “That was the hardest marathon I’ve ever done. There was deep sand. I’ve never run up the side of a mountain.”
During the race, participants had to climb about 1,600 feet in less than two miles, running on sand, concrete and dirt roads.
The Australian Outback Marathon was a trail marathon in the vicinity of Uluru, known as Ayers Rock, where Lofquist said he could “feel the silence” while running because it was such a remote area.
While there he was able to climb Uluru the day before the race.
“You don’t typically do things like that before you run, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” he said. “My legs were kind of tired for the marathon, but I just couldn’t pass that up.”
Now that he has completed marathons on all seven continents, Lofquist is working to run a marathon in all 50 states.
“My wife is really thrilled about going to Hawaii,” he said.
Lofquist now is executive director of the Educational Service Unit Coordinating Council, having started that job July 1. He lives in the Omaha area.
“I can honestly tell you moving away (from Hastings) has been bittersweet,” he said. “I think about it every day. The people in Hastings are fantastic. Me and my family, we miss that.”
He especially loved the Hastings Family YMCA.
“They have a good thing going there,” he said. “My kids went to preschool there. I really liked the camaraderie and what Troy (Stickels, Hastings Family YMCA CEO) and the gang do there.”
The Adams Central Public Schools Board of Education held its August meeting Monday night to approve an additional pool of substitute teachers and hear a water update at Adams Central Junior/Senior High School.
All members were present.
The school board approved a motion to expand the pool of substitute teachers the district can call upon to help cover for faculty members when they must miss work. Shawn Scott, Adams Central superintendent, said this is an annual vote.
A normal substitute in the Adams Central pool will have a state teaching certificate. The vote approved a request to the Nebraska Department of Education to allow local teaching certificates to be handed out to applicants.
The applicant for the local teaching certificate must have some teaching education — usually a bachelor’s degree, Scott said. The request expands the pool of available substitute teachers.
“Finding substitute teachers is pretty tough for every school district, and we are no exception there,” Scott said.
The board then heard its yearly water report from Tonya Schriner, district water operator. She said water quality is not an issue, but there are some problems with the the elementary school’s well. She said the well keeps shutting down but they are working to fix it.
“Things are actually running very smooth for most schools right now. As far as water quality tests, we haven’t had any issues,” Schriner said.
The school board also got an update on the bus barn, where the school can store buses for school activities. The bus barn is about 85 percent complete, according to Scott. The building contract was awarded in March, but weather caused some delays in construction.
In other business, the Adams Central Future Business Leaders of America thanked the school board for financially supporting a trip to the National Leadership Conference in San Antonio, Texas, June 29 to July 2.
Drake Vorderstrasse, who is on the Adams Central FBLA team, was elected as the National FBLA Mountain Plains Region vice president during the conference.
“In 12 years or so that I’ve been doing this consecutively, this is probably the year that I enjoyed it more than anything else,” said Shawn Mulligan, an Adams Central business teacher. “They did an excellent job of representing our school and our state.”
Tristan Weston, the student council reporter, gave an update to the board about what is going on at the school. He said athletic conditioning has begun and band camp has started. He also discussed a few upcoming events.
The board also recognized four of its own members for recieving levels of distinction from the Nebraska Association of School Boards. Greg Mucklow received level one, Chris Wahlmeier received level two, and Chad Trausch and Dave Johnson received level three. There are ten possible levels.
The next regular board meeting will be Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m.
The Hastings Free Masons and Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce are looking for nominations for grand marshals to participate in the Nov. 2 Hastings Veterans Recognition Parade.
Phil Odom, Hastings Free Masons Lodge 50 chairman for the veterans parade, said in the past, parade organizers obtained names from different sources and asked veterans if they would serve as marshals.
“We’re of course still going to do that a little bit, but we are looking to put together a larger pool of names to choose from,” he said. “Some of the members of our committee thought maybe if we asked citizens to nominate folks, in particular Coast Guard members, which we have a hard time finding, maybe we would find there were more here in Adams County than we were aware of.”
Any honorably discharged veteran is eligible to serve as a parade marshal.
Aug. 31 is the deadline for nominations.
To nominate a veteran to be a parade grand marshal, call the chamber at 402-461-8400 or the Masonic Center at 462-5813. Those organizations can email the nomination form, or the nominator can come pick up the form at either location — 301 S. Burlington Ave. for the chamber or 411 N. Hastings Ave. for the Masonic Center.
The form asks for the veteran’s name; branch of service; highest rank achieved; date entered; date separated; awards, ribbons and citations received.
If a nominee is not chosen this year, his or her name will be kept for consideration in future parades.
Grand marshals would also participate in the marshal recognition dinner on Oct. 23, which is sponsored by Livingston Butler Volland Funeral Home. The grand marshals will be recognized and given a plaque that night.
The grand marshals will ride in vehicles during the parade on Nov. 2 and then sit on the reviewing stand as other parade entries participate.
Parade organizers provide a car for each marshal during the parade, unless the marshals have a specific vehicle they would like to ride in during the parade.
“It’s pretty simple to be a parade marshal,” Odom said.
This is the 14th year for the Hastings Veterans Recognition Parade. Odom said throughout all the previous parades there have only been seven coast guard marshals and of those veterans, some have come from out of the area or out of state.
“Those folks have kind of been from everywhere,” he said. “There just don’t seem to be very many Coast Guard veterans around here.”
It is preferred that the grand marshals come from Adams County, but that is not a requirement.
“There’s enough Adams County veterans we want to certainly try to use them first; but when it comes to the Coast Guard, anyone that gets nominated, we would love to establish a pool of people we could use,” Odom said.
The property tax levy rate to support the city of Hastings’ budget looks to remain the same for the fourth consecutive year.
As part of his 2019-20 budget presentation during the Hastings City Council meeting Monday, City Administrator Dave Ptak said the city’s proposed property tax levy rate is 44.97 cents per $100 valuation, which is the same rate that has been in place since 2016.
That means for property valued at $100,000, the owner would pay $449.70 in property tax to support the city of Hastings.
Property taxes in Hastings have gone down during the last 10 years, from 47.28 cents in 2009 to 44.97 cents now.
The city’s estimated 2019 valuation is $1.454 billion, which is an increase of more than $75 million from the 2018 value of $1.378 billion. The deadline for certification of taxable valuations by county assessors is Aug. 20.
Valuation for the city of Hastings increased by about $50 million between 2017 and 2018.
Ptak, who had served as city attorney since 2013 and became city administrator in May following the retirement of former City Administrator Joe Patterson, said his first budget preparation went smoothly due to the hard work of other city staff members, especially finance director Roger Nash.
Ptak said Nash made the budget preparation process “almost pleasant.”
“Roger was a Yeoman as far as with the budget efforts he did,” he said.
Ptak discussed several issues and capital items to be addressed in the upcoming budget year.
Officials hope construction of 42nd Street between U.S. Highway 281 and Baltimore Avenue will be bid this fall with construction to take place in the spring.
The city looks to purchase a second quint fire truck and take one of the older ladder trucks out of commission.
Planning for road improvements at Parkview and Mount Sinai cemeteries also will occur. This is something council members discussed during their April work session.
“We’ll get an overall plan and then fund it over probably over three or four years to completely redo the roads of the cemeteries, which I think is an important thing,” Ptak said.
The city should see a possible increase in sales tax revenue due to online collections.
“I imagine that will be a political football in the Legislature,” Ptak said.
Also during Monday’s meeting, Utility Manager Kevin Johnson provided a budget presentation for Hastings Utilities.
HU staff is not proposing rate increases for electric, water and sewer services. There is, however, a 5 percent natural gas rate increase proposed.
That would be the first gas rate increase since 2000.
Using 130 CCF, based on average household monthly gas usage during the winter, a 5 percent rate increase would mean customers pay an extra $3.80 per month — $90.41 to 94.21.
However, Johnson said those projections are based on winter gas consumption. Averaging gas consumption over 12 months, the proposed rate increase would mean customers pay about an extra $1.90 per month.
Distribution, transmission, administrative and general expenses, plus capital replacement costs have exceeded gas revenue.
This has been the case since 2012.
Those extra costs would have meant the gas department has operated in a deficit — or would have if not for credits that have been available.
Johnson said those credits now are exhausted.
No water and sewer rate increases are proposed because Johnson said those departments have amassed ample monetary reserves and because bids for different projects have come in lower than anticipated.
Johnson said there is no electric rate increase proposed because the cost-of-service study that is planned has not yet been undertaken, and because of the potential of the city’s electric service agreement with Breechblock Renewables LLC.
Council members will discuss both budgets during the Aug. 19 City Council work session.
In other business, the council:
Voted 8-0 to approve Ordinance No. 4598 amending the Hastings City Code to add a subsection providing clarification that failure to comply with any provision contained in a conditional use permit constitutes a violation of the Hastings City Code. The council also unanimously suspended the requirement to read the ordinance three times to pass it.
Unanimously approved the preliminary plat for Trail Ridge Subdivision.
Unanimously approved an agreement between the city of Hastings and Jason Soucie for biosolids transport using a city-owned trailer from the Pollution Control Facility to agricultural land used for the application of biosolids.
Unanimously approved Joe Patterson to serve on the Civil Service Commission for term to expire Aug. 12, 2024; and for Anna Baker to serve on the Museum Board for a term to expire Aug. 12, 2023.