2023 State Track: Elle’s Balancing Act


UP THE STAIRS, DOWN THE STAIRS — In the shadows of so many standout performances on Wednesday and Thursday’s Class A and B NSAA State Track Meet at Omaha Burke, was quiet Gretna sophomore Elle Heckenlively.

Sure, you probably didn’t read much about Elle — the defending Class A champion in the high jump — because of a slew of dominating performances from stars like Jaylen Lloyd, Lademi Davis, Jack Gillogly among many others. It was a meet full of records; if you saw the Class B flag pole you’d know.

In the midst of all the excellence, Heckenlively was competing in just two fields events at the meet. It’s just that, by luck of the draw, the Class A shot put and high jump for girls were at the exact same time. And that combo, it’s not the most common.

“When I started track club when I was 10 or so, that’s just what I have wanted to do,” Heckenlively said. “It just started from there. I love both events.”

Gretna jumps coach Scott Swanson said they deal with the juggling during most of the regular season, but it ramps up just a little bit more during the postseason, especially at Burke where the steps up to the top of the stadium are needed to get Heckenlively to the shot put.

“It’s not a common double,” said Swanson, who was an assistant coach at Doane before coming to Gretna. “At most meets, we can ask to get her in the first flight (of shot put) and then she can focus on high jump before finals of the shot put.

“But, obviously, this is a little different stage. Calming yourself down after getting from one spot to the next (at Burke) is probably the biggest thing for her.”

On Thursday, since she was in the third flight of shot put, she jumped first and cleared 4-11, 5-1 and 5-3 on her first attempt. Then, it was up the steps.

On her second shot put, she threw 40-3 inches, which was good enough for a spot in the finals. She had to take her third throw out of order, to get back down to the high jump, which had moved to 5-5 by the time she returned.

After failing at all three attempts at 5-5, her best throw in the finals of the shot put was 38-9. At the end of the day, a tie for third in the high jump because of her clean start (in all, seven jumpers cleared 5-3 in Class A) and a fourth place finish in the shot put.

DETERMINED DRAGON: Gretna’s Elle Heckenlively throws the shot put at the 2023 Class A State Track Meet on Thursday. (nebpreps photo / Tony Chapman)

And, she wasn’t too dizzy.

“I didn’t hit the marks I wanted to hit today,” said Heckenlively, also a standout volleyball player for the Dragons. “But, I don’t really have very much to complain about, it was a good season.”

Swanson, who is only reminded of former York standout and Nebraska football player Aaron Golliday as one who pulled off the rare double so effectively, said Hecklively is a joy to coach because of her passion for each event.

“It’s something we really work together as a staff to keep her fresh,” Swanson said. “Some days she will jump with us first and other days it will be the throws. We try to balance it out and have it in the back of our heads so we don’t run her into the ground.”

It would take a lot, it seems, to run Elle Heckenlively into the ground. Way more than that big flight of stairs at Burke Stadium.

BLAZING FAST: Jackson Roberts (4) edges Jacob Horner (not pictured) and Tyler Carroll (5) in the Class B 300 meter hurdlers. His time of 37.69 was the sixth best in state history. (nebpreps courtesy photo / Prep Running Nerd)

“B” Good

In both the Class B 300 boys hurdles and the 4×400 girls relay, the Class A champion would have finished fourth in the race, not that Jack Dahlgren (Kearney) and the girls from Lincoln Pius are too bothered. They had their Class A gold medals.

But, they don’t make them much like the 300 hurdle race that featured defending champion Jackson Roberts (Boone Central), Jacob Horner (Elkhorn North) and Tyler Carroll (Central City). Roberts final time of 37.69 was the 6th fastest all-time with Horner’s 7th (37.70). Carroll, the Wichita State commit, just behind at 37.89.

About 30 minutes later, Waverly and Elkhorn North BOTH set state and Class B meet records in running 3:56.89 and 3:57.15 in the 4×400 relay. Bennington, in third, would have also won Class A over Pius.

GO, GO, GO: Gering’s Maddie Seiler, the Class B 1,600 meter champion, encourages the Class A field after winning her race on Thursday. (nebpreps photo / Tony Chapman)

Going the distance

Maddie. Riley. Jack. Jaci. Berlyn.

It’s hard to describe in words, the performances from the distance runners in Class A and B over Wednesday and Thursday.

On the hottest day of the season on Wednesday, Maddie Seiler (Gering), Jaci Sievers (Elkhorn South), Riley Boonstra (Norris) and Jack Witte (Millard West) all earned golds in the 3,200. Boonstra closed in 55 seconds (can’t even believe I typed that) while Witte had a ho-hum (apparently) 57-second closing quarter to nip Fremont’s Juan Gonzalez.

All four were back at it again on Thursday with Seiler, Boonstra and Witte all gaining 1,600 golds while Sievers finished second to Nebraska pledge Berlyn Shutz who closed in 1:10 for a Class A meet record of 4:50.09.

If you like distance running (I do, for many reasons), it was amazing to watch.

Rest of the story

We’ll have a recap of the Class C and D on Sunday or Monday, depending on how the rest of the weekend goes. Some basketball calls as well as we dive head first into the summer routine. All of the Class A and B Results

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