The long winter pushed back the start of high school spring sports, but there was a semblance of normalcy at Nebraska Wesleyan’s Knight Fieldhouse on Friday as 14 Lincoln and Omaha schools opened indoor competition for the season at the Nebraska Wesleyan Invitational.
Many teams haven’t been able to practice outside until this week. The situation marks an interesting beginning to Lincoln Pius X coach Bill Rice’s tenure. His team had to practice on the sidewalk until Wednesday, its first time on a track coming two days before the first meet.
Rice has been an assistant for 21 years, and took over for 52-year head coach George O’Boyle this season. O’Boyle remains on staff as an assistant.
Rice coached the Thunderbolts’ girls basketball team for 19 years, but said he was ready to step away from that job, and the position swap with O’Boyle made sense.
“I was ready to move on from basketball, and he was ready to cut back a little,” Rice said.
“I find myself all of the sudden paying a lot more attention to the field events than I used to,” Rice said. “It’s fun because I’ve been getting to know more kids.”
On the track, Lincoln Northeast’s Shadon Shannon seemed more than ready for the new season as he crossed the finish line with a whoop and a fist pump, securing first place in the 800. His time of 2 minutes, 5.25 seconds edged out Creighton Prep’s Michael Buckley by less than a second.
“It felt good, especially the last 60,” Shannon said. “I’ve been working harder than last year and working on a few different races.”
Shannon qualified for state in the 400 and 800 last year, but said he’s been working more on distance running this season. With the weather keeping the team off the track for the most part, he’s said he’s had to rely on different training methods, including running around the school, to build up his stamina.
The junior, who is a dual-threat quarterback for the Rockets football team that enjoyed a breakthrough season last fall, is trying to develop even more athleticism for his arsenal.
"I’ve got the speed, but I feel like I need to build up my stamina a little longer,” he said.
On the girls side, Lincoln East carried the day, cruising to a team win. South Dakota recruit Madi Muma won the 800 with a time of 2:27.62 and added a victory in the 1,600 in 5:30.86. She didn’t compete in the 3,200 relay Friday, a team that set a state record last year. The Spartans still held on to win that race in 10:41.31.
Creighton Prep won the boys team title; Lincoln East was third.