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Early mistake can’t keep Cedar from winning 3,200-meter race

OMAHA — In a relay race, the simple goal is for four athletes to carry a baton around an oval track in as little time as possible with each member of the team running an equal distance to cover the specified distance.

Sounds pretty simple, pretty straight forward, right?

Well, don’t tell Grant Arens, Lukas Wortmann, Carson Noecker and Carson Arens it’s simple.

The quartet of Cedar Catholic Trojans lined up to run in the 4x800-meter relay at Omaha’s Burke stadium in the Nebraska Class C State Track and Field Championships May 20 with a good chance of winning the race.

As always this time of year, the competition is stiff, but you don’t get to Omaha by going through the motions and this team of Trojans had done the work.

The 4x800 relay requires each team member to circle the track twice with a baton in tow, handing the baton to the next competitor until someone puts a tape or string in front of the runner to run through and win the event.

“You never know what can happen when you get down here (Omaha),” Cedar Catholic coach Chad Cattau said. “You prepare yourself to be ready, but then something else happens.”

“Something else” is exactly what happened to Cedar Catholic in the event, and although seemingly catastrophic, the Trojans persevered.

Grant Arens took the baton first and did his usual cruise around the track and had the Trojans near the front of the pack, which was a good sign.

At the end of his second lap as he approached the second runner, Wortmann, Arens’ feet became entangled with another runner and he tumbled to the ground.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Cattau said. “We had that happen about five years ago - I was just hoping we could get back in it and get a medal.”

Unexpected obstacles can become a reason for failure or a reason to reach legendary status - depends on the reaction to the obstacle.

Perhaps “legendary” may be a bit overstated, but the end of the story is certainly noteworthy.

Grant Arens popped back up and handed the baton to his teammate Wortmann.

“I was shocked at how fast Grant got back up,” Cattau said. “He gathered himself and handed it off - he was on pace to run his fastest time of the year until he tripped.”

When Wortmann took the baton, the Trojans had fallen back to 12th place.

Wortmann made sure the Trojans still had an outside chance at a medal by running his fastest leg ever in his two trips around the track.

The Trojans were still toward the back of the pack when Wortmann handed off to Noecker.

Noecker would go on to win the 1,600 and 3,200 individual races, but this race meant more — it was for himself and his three teammates.

“Running for other teammates really adds to the pressure,” Cattau said. “You don’t want to be that guy to let the other three down in the end.”

Noecker picked it up and ran his fastest time of the year in the event passing nine runners to put the Trojans in third place when he handed the baton to the “other” Carson and Carson Arens took it from there.

Carson Arens passed the two lead runners, the final one near the tape to edge out South Loup — 8:22.40 to 8:22.79 — and, of course, he ran his fastest leg of the year in the winning effort.

The final two legs were under two minutes which would have placed both the Carsons’ in the open 800. In fact, second and third.

“It really was something to see,” Cattau said. “If that doesn’t exemplify teamwork, I don’t know what does.”