OMAHA -- Kearney Catholic nickeled and dimed its way to a fortune at the Nebraska High School Track and Field Championships in Omaha.
Without a gold medal, the Stars -- both boys and girls -- climbed onto the awards stand to collect their runner-up trophies.
They had to share, not with one another, but with other schools, as both earned the label of co-runner-ups in Class C.
“I’ll take it,” KCHS coach Dwaine Schmitt said as the mathematics worked to their favor.
Norfolk Catholic, led by all-class gold-medal winning sprinter Dylan Kautz, won the boys team title with 53 points. Fullerton and Kearney Catholic tied for second with 29.
In the girls race, Lincoln Lutheran’s 49 points edged the Stars and Chase County by three points.
Throughout the year, the focus had been on the KCHS boys’ chances for a state meet trophy.
“Our team is really, really small, but the girls we do have out are awesome,” said junior Nicole Messbarger, who finished second in the 400 and third in the 200.
Senior Kayla Lee said, “All of us coming into this, we had nothing to lose. We gave absolutely everything we could, all six of us. We just couldn’t have asked for better.”
Lee finished second in the 100 and eighth in the long jump and joined Messbarger on the Stars’ 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams that landed in the “slow” heats after sub-par performances at the district.
“We had high expectations. We knew that we wanted to prove some people wrong. We knew we were better than the times we ran at district,” she said.
They won their heat of the 4x100 and finished fifth overall and they broke the school record in the 4x400 (4:05.50), finishing third overall.
“Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for any better. There’s just no way better to end a senior year. No. way,” Lee said. “Four medals, I couldn’t have asked for better. … Getting a school record is just a bonus.”
Lee and Messbarger ran into an unbeatable force in Hartington Cedar Catholic’s Sara Reifenrath, who swept all three sprints.
“I have to give it to her. She just has so much speed. I had her up to the 50, then she just took off,” Lee said.
Kearney Catholic’s other big scorer was sophomore Grace Oberg, who surged from near the back of the pack to place second in the 1,600 on Saturday after running fourth in the 3,200 on Sunday.
Kearney Catholic’s boys quietly picked up their points here and there.
Trey Colling placed in the shot put and discus and Heinrich Harberg medaled in both sprints.
The Stars’ 4x100 relay also came out of the slow heat to place fifth.
Third-place finishes on Friday by Haarberg in the high jump and Dalton Schmitt in the triple jump were the Stars’ top performances.