Bob White’s decision to delay his retirement a year ended up being a good one.
His 43-year Lincoln High track and field coaching career finished with his athletes winning three all-class gold medals last week at the state meet: junior sprinter Dajaz DeFrand in the Class A girls 100- and 200-meter dashes and the 400 relay consisting of DeFrand, sophomores Jamiah Patterson and Neryah Hekl and junior Zainab Funnah.
DeFrand still has one more season left, but she’s already created a legacy with her 11.67-second time earlier this season in the 100 (fastest electronic girls time in state history) and the :24.36 she reeled off in the 200 last month (third-fastest electronic time in state history).
A much better way to conclude than having the three letters DNS no track athlete wants to see next to their name in the results — Did Not Start.
Since the canceled 2020 season because of COVID-19 was the scheduled exit, White decided to get back in the blocks and make another run at it in 2021.
“The teaching and coaching career has been great, but I also wanted to have something positive my last season to remember the kids with,” White said in April. “Last year, it was two positive weeks and then COVID ended it. That wasn’t the way I wanted to finish.”
Now White has had three straight seasons of positive finishes. In 2018, the Links boys team gave White his first Class A team championship. Two years ago, it was state champion Darius Luff breaking the state record in the boys 110 high hurdles and a second place finish in the team race that made White want to come back for more.
One could hardly blame White if he had a change of heart and decided to coach DeFrand and the rest of Lincoln High’s young, talented sprinters in 2022. In fact, Omaha Burke Stadium might be a good place to be around state meet time next year, looking to this year’s results.
DeFrand is one of five juniors who will be returning next season as members of the Nebraska all-time charts.
The boys distance duels between Elkhorn South’s Gabe Hinrichs and Lincoln Northeast’s Daniel Romary should be worth the price of admission next year. Hinrichs is eighth all-time in the 800 (1:52.61), fifth all-time in the 1,600 (4:12.40) and third all-time in the 3,200 (8:59.66).
Romary is now fifth all-time in the 800 (1:52.15), fifth all-time in 3,200 (9:04.37) and just outside the all-time top 10 in the 1,600 with the 4:14.28 he ran at state.
The state records in all three events will be in serious jeopardy next season if both runners can stay healthy.
On the girls side, Kailynn Gubbels of Arlington has the state’s eighth-fastest electronic time in the 100 hurdles (:14.52) and is tied for fourth all-time in the high jump (5 feet, 10 inches). Lincoln Southwest’s Brianna Rinn starts next season sixth all-time in the girls 800 with the 2:13.07 she ran at districts earlier this month.
The big question after the COVID-19 adjusted, four-day schedule last week was whether the Nebraska School Activities Association might keep that format, go back to the two-day extravaganza featuring all four classes together for the grand finale on championship Saturday or use a hybrid that incorporates parts of both formats.
Having each class separated into its own session and spreading the meet out over four days attracted more fans than the traditional two-day meet. It also became obvious over the weekend that the Burke facility is too small to handle all four classes at the same time and is a much better fit for the one class per session schedule used this year.
It’s something that will be discussed at length during the NSAA Board of Directors’ summer retreat next month.
Reach the writer at 402-473-7437 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @ronpowell_ljs.