A week after his historic victory in the Class C boys’ race of the Nebraska State Cross Country Meet, Hartington’s Carson Noecker is still the same young man he was before the win:
Noecker beat Pierce junior Mason Sindelar for the title on Oct. 25, torching the Kearney Country Club course in 16:02.96, the fastest Class C championship time since Nebraska went to 5,000 meters for cross country in 1980.
Only two other Class C runners had previously broken 16:10 on the hilly KCC course in a state meet. Norfolk Catholic’s Jarren Heng did it twice, in 2008 (16:09.9) and 2009 (16:05.5). Orleans’ Juha Joutsenlahti ran 16:04 in 1982.
“To be honest, he’s run that fast a couple of times, but it was on flat courses,” said Hartington head cross country coach Mandy Hochstein. The Hartington cross country team is a co-op of Hartington-Newcastle and Hartington Cedar Catholic. “Our biggest concern for him was nerves. We knew he would run his race as long as he was not flustered.”
Noecker typically has a “patient” approach to his races, something that doesn’t necessarily work well with a large field and a tight course, like at Kearney.
“I started out knowing I would have to stay up there. I wanted to be patient,” he said. “At the one mile mark, that’s when I got out front. After that, I had to keep going.
“I was going to give it everything I had. I wasn’t sure what I was going to have,” he added. “But I felt pretty good.”
One thing that helped Noecker prepare for state was the team’s annual trip to Kearney for a regular season meet.
“Having run that course was definitely to his advantage,” Hochstein said.
While many runners celebrate their victories — either as they cross the finish line or, in some cases, well before — Noecker kept things pretty low-key as he completed his victory.
“He responded the same way he did when he got his medal. He was just very quiet,” Hochstein said. “Even at the awards ceremony he was humble.”
And that response has continued, even as schoolmates and others have congratulated him in the week since the race.
“I’m truly thankful for everyone that’s made sacrifices for me so that I could run,” he said. “It’s truly a great honor, and I couldn’t do it without all of them.
“I’ve been blessed greatly.”
While Hartington, which finished eighth as a team, had three seniors on its state meet roster, a group of young runners was right on the varsity squad’s heal.
“We have a good group of young kids coming up, and Carson, as a freshman, is a leader,” Hochstein said. “The biggest thing for us is to help him continue to grow.
“We’re looking for a few more years of success. Hopefully those things happen.”
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