Saturday was supposed to be an exciting day for the area track and field athletes in the Grand Island Independent coverage area.

That was a day when they find out if they qualified for the Independent’s Central Nebraska Track and Field Championships at Northwest High School on Monday.

I’m sure the athletes are always anxious to see what events they’ve qualified in. The same goes for the coaches, who submit their athletes to Northwest coach Brandon Harrington, to see how many they have competing in the meet.

Then they compete in what some of them call the best meet of the season, other than districts and state.

Unfortunately, as you all know, because of the Covid-19, there is not going to be a CNTC meet this year.

Never in the history of the CNTC, which debuted in 1993, has the meet been canceled entirely. There have been instances where it has gotten canceled during the meet, while there have been a few that have been postponed because of incoming weather.

Harrington said it’s a shame that the meet, yet alone the season, is not taking place this year.

“It’s disappointing because it’s one of the biggest meets every kid looks forward to,” Harrington said. “I think the way we’ve been able to host the meet the last few years, it’s big enough to have a state-meet like atmosphere. But it’s small enough for an all-area meet. Our area is so represented. Our kids respect the meet and know what kind of competition there is from the other schools. It’s just fun to watch to see what the kids can do.”

Aurora’s Kyla Carlson said the CNTC is one of her favorite meets.

“I have friends from different schools that compete in that meet,” she said. “My cousin (former Nebraska Christian athlete) Laura (Carlson) also competed in it. To see and compete against so many athletes that I don’t normally see is so much fun.”

I posted a question on Twitter to current and former athletes about what their experiences at the CNTC were like. Here were a few of their answers:

- Former Grand Island Central Catholic and former Nebraska football player Todd Peterson said. “The qualifying standards and then competing against higher and lower class school athletes created the only meet comparable to state,”

- Former Ansley standout and current Broken Bow volleyball coach Skylar (Rohde) Morris said, “The competition amongst all classes especially coming from a Class D school and by the time the last couple events are going on, it’s under the lights.”

- Former Aurora standout Mya Nachtigal, last year’s most outstandting girls athlete of the meet, said, “Stepping up to the line knowing every girl standing next to me is a great runner. Having good competition is one of the only ways to truly help you reach your potential.”

And as far as checking to see what events she qualified in, Carlson said she would always be waiting for the entries to be released on the Independent website that Saturday afternoon.

“I love checking through that,” she said. “I love seeing what events I’m competing in and who I’m competing against. I also love seeing what my teammates have qualified in as well.”

And with the meet not taking place, Carlson missed a chance to be part of history. She is the three-time winner in the 400. If she would have won that race, the Aurora senior would have been the fourth athlete to win an event four times individually. She also probably would have been on the Huskies 3,200 relay, who have the race the last eight years. She was last year’s winner in the high jump as well.

But wait, there’s more for Carlson. She is currently sitting at seven gold medals won, meaning she could have won possibly a maximum of four more, which would put her at 11. That would put her tied for the top spot with Shelton/Kearney Catholic’s Kalyn Brannagan, while 10 puts her tied for second with Grand Island’s Alex Armes.

Nine golds would have her in a four-way tie for third.

Carlson said she made it a goal to win four after she won the 400 her freshman year.

“That would have been so cool if I could have all that and to continue the legacy in the 3,200 relay but I feel it’s been taken away from me not just as a competitor but it’s not even going to happen,” she said.

Carlson wouldn’t have been the only athlete looking for repeat wins.

- Central Valley junior Jackson McIntyre would have been trying to get his third win in the boys 200 after taking it the past two years.

- Hastings St. Cecilia senior Tori Thomas would have been looking for repeat wins in both the girls shot put and discus.

- Nebraska Christian senior Grace Langemeier was last year’s winner in the girls long jump.

- Aurora junior Cassidy Knust claimed the girls 800 last year.

- Giltner senior Hannah Preissler was the girls pole vault champion.

- Doniphan-Trumbull senior Chris Vincent would be looking for his second-straight win in the boys 100.

- Gibbon senior Nathan Holcomb was last year’s winner in the boys 3,200.

- High Plains senior Dylan Soule was the defending champion in the boys pole vault.

- Shelton senior Marcus Lauber was going for his second-straight victory in the boys high jump.

As far as relays go, the Wood River girls captured both the 400 and 1,600 relays, to go with Aurora’s eighth straight win in the 3,200 relay. On the boys, High Plains took the 400 relay, while Fullerton captured the 1,600 relay and St. Paul claimed the 3,200 relay.

This is a meet where many athletes would set personal records, have a breakout meet and help them gain confidence for the rest of the season. Many of the athletes who perform well at the CNTC are usually ones we see do very well at the state meet at Omaha Burke Stadium in May.

While there is no CNTC meet this year, Harrington said he and others are wondering what might have been.

“I’m sure there would have been some unbelievable performances this year,” Harrington said.

Marc Zavala covers track and field for The Independent.

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