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The event that many high school athletes have been waiting for is finally here: the 2017 State Track and Field Championships. The annual gathering at Burke High School in Omaha signifies the end of the school year as well as the pinnacle of competition. Few, if any, meets have challenged the competitors throughout the season as the state meet.
1. The who and when
A total of 24 Antelope County competitors will take part in the meet that begins on Friday. Neligh-Oakdale sends Tyson Belitz, Alex Kerkman, Kristen Snodgrass, Grant White and Jayden Arehart. Lydia Behnk will represent Elgin Public/Pope John. Nine Clearwater-Orchard tracksters earned a spot as well: Chris Kester, Vanessa Carpenter, Katie Stearns, Skye Schroeder, Kinzly Macke, Kylie Thiele, Jacob Long, JoCee Johnston and Alexis Pokorny. Elkhorn Valley also sent nine competitors to the championships. Austin Miller, Tyler Miller, Amber Miller, Hannah Ollendick, Alyssa Rood, Brayden Effle, Tucker Hecht, Dylan Wilkins and Alison Stineman will all represent the Falcons over the weekend. Everything gets started at 9:00 a.m. on Friday with Belitz in the high jump and goes all the way to the end, with the Cyclone 4x400 meter relay competing in the final event of the day on Saturday at 3:55.
2. How's the weather?
Last year, it was impossible to avoid a sunburn at the state meet. However, this year, fans will have to worry more about keeping dry clothes. The early forecast for the weekend includes lots of rain. For Friday, expect a 90 percent chance of rain with temperatures in the mid-50s. It'll be more of the same on Saturday, with a 60 percent chance of storms in the morning and temperatures in the 60s.
3. Don't sleep on the wildcards
Clearwater-Orchard got big news last Thursday when it was announced that the 4x100 and 4x400 meter relay teams qualified for the state meet as wildcards after being upset at districts. The Cyclone runners will be busy - Thiele and Macke will be competing in four events each - but expect those two competitors to lead the relay teams to a big day on Saturday.
4. Bringing home the hardware
A number of factors, beyond simply the athlete's capabilities, will lead to medals in Omaha. Nerves, experience and focus will all play a role in it. As such, expect the veterans to lead the way at the meet for Antelope County. A number of competitors are in great spots to bring home hardware by the end of the day on Saturday, but here's one from each school to keep an eye on:
Neligh-Oakdale: Grant White, triple jump
Clearwater-Orchard: Kylie Thiele, 800 meter run
Elkhorn Valley: Amber Miller, pole vault
Elgin Public/Pope John: Lydia Behnk, triple jump
5. Neligh-Oakdale seniors are right where they deserve to be
Going back to football season, Neligh-Oakdale's boys have been nothing short of incredible all year. The core of that success was a strong senior class that included White, Kerkman and Belitz. After White and Belitz led the football team to an undefeated season and the trio took N-O to its first state championship game in boys basketball history, it is only fitting that they wrap up their athletic careers in Omaha. They each will have one shot at adding one final accolade to their names, but they are already etched into Neligh-Oakdale history.