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State cross country: Hinrichs wins all-class gold; Noecker excels on course and in sportsmanship
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State cross country: Hinrichs wins all-class gold; Noecker excels on course and in sportsmanship

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KEARNEY — The most suspense during Friday's state cross country meet came during the last of the eight races.

That’s when it would be decided who among two of the best boys distance runners in state history would leave the Kearney Country Club as the best in the state this year.

Carson Noecker from Hartington (the only boy to go sub-15 minutes this year), or Gabe Hinrichs of Elkhorn South (undefeated Class A runner)?

Early in the afternoon, Noecker set the mark to beat by running 15 minutes, 19 seconds in the Class C race. A few hours later, Hinrichs knew the time to beat to win the all-class gold medal.

And Hinrichs did that — just barely — by winning the Class A race in 15:18. Hinrichs was able to see his time on the clock while running the final 40 meters and got across the finish line just in time.

When he saw Noecker’s time he thought it was "beatable."

"I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it in the middle part, but I was able to kick hard and do it," Hinrichs said.

Hinrichs had hoped to break the state meet record of 15:04.

“It was a tough course today,” Hinrichs said. “I was going for the record but I was happy to get the all-class gold.”

Lincoln Northeast senior Daniel Romary finished second, giving him top-10 finishes in the past two years.

Fremont had a great race to beat No. 1 Millard West for the Class A team title. Fremont had 66 points, and Millard West 69. Fremont had three runners in the top 10, including a rare freshman medalist for Class A (Juan Gonzales in 11th).

Fremont has three state titles in four years.

In Class C, Noecker still hasn’t been beaten in three trips to the state meet. He improved his Class C state meet record from last season by 3 seconds.

His margin of victory was 1:23. But Noecker stayed near the finish line to shake hands with the second-place runner. In fact, Noecker stayed by the finish line for 9 minutes after his race to greet as many of the 118 finishers as he could.

He’s done the same thing after his previous two wins at state.

“Everyone is giving their God-given best out here, and I wouldn’t want anyone else to think any less of anyone out here, first or last,” Noecker said.

Next year, Noecker will attempt to be the first boy in state history to win four individual state titles. He’s the seventh boy in state history with three wins.

Fort Calhoun won the Class C team title. Lincoln Christian was fourth, led by sophomore Carter Hohlen in seventh place.

In Class B, South Sioux City junior Mesuidi Ejerso won in 16:28. Nathan Nottingham from Seward finished second.

Lexington won a close team race edging runner-up Omaha Skutt 34-38. That ended Skutt’s streak of four straight titles.

In Class D, Tylan Schlueter from Ainsworth won by 15 seconds. Norfolk Catholic won the team title, and McCool Junction was runner-up.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7435 or bwagner@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsWagner.

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Husker volleyball/women's basketball reporter

Brent has worked at the Journal Star for 14 years. His beats include Nebraska volleyball, women's basketball and high school soccer and cross country.

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