He’s a freshman?
That’s what track fans at Burke Stadium had to be asking themselves Friday morning as Ainsworth’s Carter Nelson was winning a Class C state high jump championship with a clear of 6 feet, 8 inches.
So, who is Nelson? The 6-foot-5 195-pound multi-sport athlete grew up in Wisner, Neb., and moved to Ainsworth in the fourth grade when his parents got jobs there.
Nelson has been high jumping for as long as he can remember. It helps that his dad has always been a track coach, too. His personal best in the high jump is 6-8 1/4. He’s cleared 6-8 three times this season.
“It’s always been something I like to do. I’ve always just had the chance to go out and do it,” Nelson said of high jumping.
Once he had the gold medal secured, Nelson attempted 6-9 1/4 three times, but didn’t jump on any of them. He didn’t feel good about it.
But there’s no rush. Again, we’re talking about a freshman here.
“My steps didn’t feel right, and there’s always next year,” he said. “So instead of doing the same thing repeatedly wrong, might as well wait and get it right for next year.”
Nelson played varsity football and basketball at Ainsworth in his first year of high school. While he said he enjoys all the sports he plays and competes in, his passion is on the basketball court. He averaged 12 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3.4 blocks per game for a young Bulldogs team that finished 10-11. The 3.4-swats-per-game stat ranks him sixth in the state according to MaxPreps.com.
Nelson rarely came off the court for Ainsworth, which only had around 11 kids on the team. He started bringing the ball up and initiating the offense, too. His season-high of 23 points came in a tight 69-65 win over Broken Bow. The lanky playmaker also dished out seven assists in three games.
“I don’t know if I have a set position yet, but I love to get everyone the ball,” Nelson said. “Playing team basketball is fun, no matter if you lose or win. That’s what I love about team sports.”
Nelson clearly enjoyed his time competing in front of the Burke crowd in Omaha. It motivates him to keep working. To keep improving.
“Being from a small town, you don’t really get as much acknowledgment as you would being from big schools, so to come here, it’s a showcase, honestly,” Nelson said. “You get to put your talent out there, and it feels good to be acknowledged for something.”
What’s next for Nelson? You can find him working on the family ranch outside of Ainsworth this summer, doing things like branding cattle and calving.
And on the basketball court, of course. He’s playing for three or so teams this summer. The competition is what drives him.
“I just hate losing. Losing is one of the worst feelings in the world,” Nelson said. “It’s just tough to lose and it’s something nobody wants to do.”
Nelson didn’t do any losing on Friday in Omaha.