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Six Lopers take home gold at Central Nebraska Invitational


The Lopers hosted the Central Nebraska Challenge at Kearney High on Saturday and the team left the meet with six first-place finishers. Five came on the men’s side and one for the women as well.

The two highlights of the group were middle-distance runner Wes Ferguson and thrower Evan Prohaska.

“Wes Ferguson’s 1:47 in the 800 is a big deal and Evan Prohaska’s 211 (feet) in the javelin is a really, really big deal,” said UNK track and field coach Brady Bonsall. “I’m very excited about those two.”

Ferguson’s time of 1:47.80 was an improvement over his previous best of 1:49.47, which came at the MIAA Indoor Championships in February. This time puts Ferguson in 12th place all-time in the outdoor 800-meter Division II standings. 

“He told me he wanted to run 1:47 earlier this week,” Bonsall said.

Prohaska’s javelin throw of 64.34 meters and was over five meters farther than his 59.06-meter throw almost a year ago at the 2021 Loper Invitational.

Other first-place finishers were Ben Arens in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, Luke Stuckey in the 1,500-meter race, Miles Bach in the 5,000-meter run and Claire Cornell in the women’s long jump.

Runners in the men’s 800 and 1,500-meter races had a pacemaker to help keep them on track for time.

“Brett Meyer, who’s one of the assistant coaches at Fort Hays, an elite runner himself and just missed making the Olympic trials in the 1,500 last year went out and rabbited that race (800-meter) and rabbited the 1,500 for us,” Bonsall said. “It was very helpful that he did that.”

While six Loper athletes won their events, transitioning from the indoor to outdoor season can be challenging for some, as they have to get used to battling through the uncontrollable elements again.

“When you’re in the indoor season you do get perfect weather every time, so the outdoor season can be frustrating at times because there are weeks that you don’t know how much you got out of it,” Bonsall said. “If you just compete and keep training and keep progressing, then it’s all about being pretty good about a month from now.”

The weather didn’t play a major factor at the meet, but it was enough to be an influence on some athletes.

“For some events, it wasn’t warm enough today for them to do well, or for some events it maybe wasn’t windy enough for them to do well, or for some it was a little too windy,” Bonsall said. “We’re not gonna get perfect weather every time.”

While the weather wasn’t perfect, it still proved to be much better than in previous years and the meet ended up being an opportunity for the Lopers to improve in the early stages of the outdoor season.

“This weekend historically has just been rough weather many, many times,” Bonsall said. “So, the fact that it worked out was great. I’m glad that Hastings College was able to work with us in putting this together and so I’m just excited it was a good day of track and field.”

The Lopers will travel to Wichita, Kansas, for the K.T. Woodman Classic on Friday.

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KEVIN BURD, Sports Edior
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