The Northwest girls track team won the big trophy at the Class B, District 5 meet Thursday, but it was Cody Rush who stole the show in the final race of the day.
Northwest’s Rush, a University of Nebraska recruit, got the baton an estimated 20 yards behind Lexington anchor Ryan Reynolds. He slowly began to inch closer to Reynolds down the back stretch and when they reached the final turn it looked like Rush might be able to catch him.
Rush went past Reynolds in the final 20 meters to give the Vikings the win in a season’s best 3 minutes, 23.51 seconds.
“Lexington came out of nowhere, just like we have in the past,” Rush said. “The past four years we’ve both been battling. When they got the baton that far ahead, I just had to give everything I had for my teammates and we came out on top.”
There was some debate among coaches who timed Rush’s leg. One coach said they threw out the low time of 46.3, averaged the others together and came up with 46.5.
In any event, it was fast.
“He stepped up to the challenge and we ran a (3:23.51), but we had to because Gering ran that kind of time out west and Lexington is right there every year, so we know what we have to do,” Northwest coach Dave Gee said.
And it wasn’t like the first three legs for Northwest (Charles Knight, Jared Buller, Anthony Davis) were slow. Lexington was loaded on their first three legs, and one timer said Reynolds ran 49.9 on his anchor leg.
The Vikings didn’t have their best team for that race either.
“Actually, (Alec) Waters has been running on the relay, but he was a little tight after the four-by-one and we went to Jared Buller,” Gee said. “Jared has run it a lot this year, but we think we’re a little bit better with Waters, so hopefully he’ll be ready to go for state.”
Rush will definitely be ready for state, even though several minutes after his 1,600 relay anchor leg he was laying on the ground and a teammate was pulling his shoes off for him.
It wasn’t an easy day for Rush. He won the 400 in a very fast 47.73 time, but that’s not quite as fast as the 47.70 Class B state record he set on Saturday.
“I thought it was a little windier today and short rest, so I’ll take it getting ready for state next week,” Rush said.
Rush also finished second in the 200 in 21.99 behind Cozad sophomore Jake Paulsen (21.79).
“Jake Paulsen is an amazing runner,” Rush said. “It’s great to be able to compete with him and all the amazing times he’s been posting already. He’s been out most of the year, and to be able to come back this fast and this strong is amazing.”
Waters, Rush, Tanner Martin and Davis finished second in the 400 relay behind York to qualify for the state meet. Martin also set a personal-best of 40.74 in winning the 300 hurdles.
“It was a great track meet with great track schools,” Gee said. “You bring in York, you bring in Holdrege, you bring in Lexington, you bring in Aurora, Northwest, Adams Central, those are just teams and schools that love track. Cozad did a nice job too.”
The Northwest girls earned their district title behind the efforts of Tess Merrill who had a personal best of 12-3 to win the pole vault. The senior, who is also headed for the University of Nebraska, also won the triple jump (36-2).
“She’s been working for that 12-0 for her whole career, so that’s a great vault for her,” Gee said. “But we had a lot of really nice team efforts. We didn’t win a lot of events. Tess won the triple jump and the pole vault. I’m not sure we won another event, but we had a lot of seconds and thirds and fourths and we had an awful lot of PRs and that’s what carried us through to a district championship.”
The girls team race came down to the 1,600 relay. The Vikings held a narrow lead over Holdrege going into the final event and finished fifth while the Dusters were sixth. Lexington won the relay to very nearly take the team crown.
But when the points were all added up, the Vikings took the district trophy with 97 points, Lexington was second with 96.33 and Holdrege third with 94.
“That’s the way track meets should end up is that the mile relay decides who takes home the hardware,” Gee said.
The boys team race wasn’t quite as close. York won the title with 119.5 while Aurora was second with 92 and Northwest third with 79.5.
Aurora got wins from Ben McQuiston in the 800 (1:57.94), Seth Schnakenberg in the high jump (6-5) to tie a personal best and A.J. Farrand in the triple jump (42-7 1/2).
“A lot of our field event kids pulled through,” Aurora coach Ron Haden said. “That was probably our strength today. We had a great vault from Trey Allen at 14-0. That’s his PR, and A.J. (Farrand) went 13-8 and went back over and won the triple jump.
“It was a great meet. This meet is one of the tougher ones and it pushes everyone to compete.”