O MAHA — Two hours before Hastings High was crowned as the best in Class B, senior Carson Shoemaker sat on a bench near the medal stand thinking about what could have been.
“Just very disappointed,” he said.
Day two of the state track and field meet was supposed to be the day everything fell into place for the Tigers, who trailed by just one point after the first day and had sights set on a number of medals and the ultimate prize.
But May 22 began with a skid.
On the first leg of the 400-meter relay, Shoemaker and Zaide Weidner fumbled the baton.
“His hand was moving and I couldn’t hit it, I guess,” Shoemaker said. “Things happen.”
After accepting the eighth-place medal for the relay and the seventh-place medal for his finish in the 100, Shoemaker could only wish things had happened differently.
“We should have won the 4-by-100 in my mind,” he said. “But we messed up.”
Fortunately, the day quickly turned around for the Tigers, beginning with Zaide Weidner’s fourth-place finish in the 400 (50.00). Prior to that, Landon Eckhardt was sixth in the 800 (1:59.46).
Then Jaydon Welsh, Hastings’ distance extraordinaire, won the 1,600, set a new personal best with a time of 4:30.35, and fist-pumped in excitement.
“The team is still in the hunt for a team championship,” Welsh said following the race. “Zaide’s fourth place helped us a lot and us winning the mile helped with that.”
Welsh, who was done for the meet, had scored 18 points individually. His comeback for the gold in May 21st’s 3,200 relay on the anchor leg was worth another 10 points for the team. “Jaydon is the most talented distance runner I’ve had the opportunity to coach,” HHS head coach Dave Johnson said. “He just has a lot of ability and the right approach. His goal all the time in just to win. He doesn’t worry that much about time, he just wants to win. And he does enough to win.”
One event remained: the 1,600 relay. Hastings needed to finish within one place of Waverly, either way, to hold on for the team victory.
Austin Nauert, Eckhardt, David Smith and Weidner delivered.
The senior foursome was a close second to the Vikings, finishing in 3:25.31.
“We’re all seniors,” said Nauert. “It’s our last race, so why not give everything?”
It was enough: Hastings 47, Waverly 46.
The Tigers, in a 90-year title drought, were state champions once again.
“It’s very gratifying,” Johnson said. “Hastings has a lot of track tradition. If you look at our record board, it’s a very good record board. There have been a lot of good track athletes through Hastings through the years.
“Hastings is a track school. And I think we proved that today.”
Found in the same place near the medal stand as he awaited the team trophy presentation May 22, Shoemaker — who could only watch and cheer his teammates on across the final two hours — was delighted.
“It feels great to see everyone else succeed,” Shoemaker said.
Every point mattered. Even the ones collected via disappointing finishes.
“Honestly, to get eighth in the 400 (relay) was huge, and for me to not get eighth in the 100 and get seventh was huge,” Shoemaker said in retrospect. “Those points actually counted.”
“I think we thought we were going to have a good chance of being (champions), but we were going to need some breaks,” Johnson said. “We got some breaks, but we also made our own breaks, too.”
Rest of Class B
Minden’s Gage Fries continued a streak in the 110 hurdles started by Marshall Chasek in 2018.
Fries tacked on a third straight title for the Whippets in the race, crossing first in 14.75 seconds.
“That was the first thing I thought when I finished,” Fries said. “I’m the third consecutive person (from Minden) to win this race.”
Later on, Fries, visibly tired from his effort in the short sprint, finished eighth in the 300 hurdles (42.34).
Adams Central’s Luke Bonifas was much happier with his 1,600 race following a ninth-place finish in Friday’s 3,200. The junior placed fourth in the mile with a 4:32.75 — a personal best by five seconds, he said.
“I really focused on (the mile) and just made sure I was prepared,” Bonifas said. “I was just trying to medal and I’m so glad I got fourth out of it.”
Bonifas had a countdown in his head of the distances left.
“Just trying to stay mentally tough and remembering everything I’ve worked for,” he said.
Hastings’ Dacey Sealey, one of the few Tigers present from the girls team able to celebrate with the champion boys, secured her own hardware with a seventh-place finish in the 300 hurdles (47.99).
Sealey dropped a place to Adams Central freshman Kaitlyn Mousel, who also crossed with a 47.99 but the tiebreaker to the thousandth gave it to the Patriot. The actual times were Mousel 47.985, Sealey 47.987.
Hastings coach Brian Itzen was pleased to see Sealey recover mentally on Friday between her 100 hurdles race, where she nicked a hurdle and failed to qualify for a final, and the 300 prelim, where she posted the sixth-best time entering Saturday.
“(The 100 hurdles) gave her more fuel, I think, to go out and run her 300 at what she needed to,” Itzen said. “She’s just a competitor. She hadn’t touched the 47s all year and it was one of those moments where she knew she could be faster.”
Girls team scores
1, York 63; 2, Elkhorn North 62 1/2; 3, Blair 46; 4, Sidney 44; 5, Waverly 40; 6, Northwest 37; 7, Arlington 36; 8, McCook 32 1/2; 9, Elkhorn 26; 10, Holdrege 24
Discus — Claire Hemberger, Adams Central, 119-3
400 relay — Hastings 51.21
1,600 — Chelsey Espinosa, Hastings, 5:28.09
300 hurdles — 7, Dacey Sealey, Hastings, 47.99
Boys team scores
1, Hastings 47; 2, Waverly 46; 3, Norris 37; 4, McCook 36; 5, Skutt 33; 5, Aurora 33; 7, Pierce 32; 8, St. Paul 31; 9, Boys Town 28; 10, Seward 27
800 — 6, Landon Eckhardt, Hastings, 1:59.46
400 relay — 8, Hastings 44.11
110 hurdles — 1, Gage Fries, Minden, 14.75
100 — 7, Carson Shoemaker, Hastings, 11.16
400 — 4, Zaide Weidner, Hastings, 50.00
1,600 — 1, Jaydon Welsh, Hastings, 4:30.35; 4, Luke Bonifas, Adams Central, 4:32.75; Carter Harsin, Minden, 4:36.65
300 hurdles — 8, Gage Fries, Minden
1,600 relay — 2, Hastings 3:25.31