Photo by Josh Wenger/Nebraska Communications

NU Notebook: Kusche Aiming For Record

By Brian Rosenthal

Not often is a collegiate athlete, especially a freshman, so outspoken about a meeting an individual goal.

What’s more, George Kusche has the full support of his Nebraska track and field coaches as he tries to create a local buzz for his venture.  

Kusche, a freshman distance runner from South Africa, will attempt to become the first Nebraska track and field athlete to break 4 minutes in the mile on a standard-sized track on Saturday, the second and final day of the annual Frank Sevigne Invitational.

“I’m obviously very excited,” Kusche said. “I’m excited to give back to the community and to Nebraska, because since I’ve come here I’ve seen nothing but support and help. So I’m excited to prove my gratitude and run really well.”

Kusche (pictured left above) has broken 4 minutes once before in the mile. His personal best is 3:58.9, a time he ran in South Africa, outdoors. The Nebraska school record is 4:00.64, set by another South African, Jean Verster, in 1986.

The mile event is set for approximately 2:53 p.m. Saturday at the Devaney Sports Center indoor track. Kusche is being up front and outspoken about his goal in part because he knows a large crowd would help him run faster.

And who better than Nebraska fans to turn out in droves when knowing something major is at stake?

“I prefer running in front of big crowds, because it gives you purpose so you just don’t run for the birds, you actually run for something,” Kusche said. “It actually motivates you to run faster.”

Kusche was the Big Ten Cross Country Freshman of the Year, finishing third at the Big Ten Championships and becoming the first Husker since 2010 to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

In the indoor season, he’s already broken a Nebraska top-10 all-time mark with a time of 8:08.89 in the 3,000 meters. That places him fifth on the school charts.

Now, Kusche eyes something bigger.

“I think George has the ability to be the best miler that Nebraska has ever had,” said Nebraska track coach Gary Pepin, in his 39th season with the Huskers.

Wresters ‘Fired Up’ For Iowa

Speaking of big crowds, the last time the Nebraska wrestling team hosted Iowa, it set a program attendance record for a home dual with 3,952 fans.

That was three years ago, and Nebraska coach Mark Manning would like to see another record crowd Sunday, when his sixth-ranked Huskers host No. 3 Iowa at noon at the Devaney Sports Center.

“We sure hope a lot of Husker fans show up, because our guys have really wrestled well, I think,” Manning said. “I know a lot of fans in the arena cheering us on can really be kind of the 11th man for us and make a big difference for our guys.”

It sure did last week for 184-pounder Taylor Venz, who said he fed off the crowd’s roar as he pinned second-ranked and previously undefeated Emery Parker of Illinois. Manning said such a victory can set a tone for the rest of the team.

“Once one guy goes out there like that, it motivates the next guy to not get left behind,” Manning said. “We’re really creating that kind of identity for our team.”

Especially against an opponent like Iowa, which didn’t appear on last year’s dual schedule, meaning this is the first time at least half of the Huskers’ lineup will have faced the Hawkeyes.

“We’d like to make it like any other dual meet, but it’s Iowa,” Manning said. “Iowa’s got a tremendous history in wrestling, and it’s a great challenge for us. They’re a storied program, but we’re trying set a mark for ourselves, our program.”

The Huskers will have little time to rest after returning from Friday night’s dual at Rutgers, but Manning isn’t going to change his weekend lineup.

“It’s just being in the Big Ten,” he said of the quick turnaround. “We’ve just got to keep our guys fresh physically but also mentally.

“Our guys are pretty in-tune. They’re pretty fired up about this. It’s just one match, but it does mean a lot to our team and can really catapult our program to the next level.”

Confidence Building

The last time Nebraska faced Illinois in men’s basketball, the Huskers were coming off a 68-66 road victory over Clemson, then opened Big Ten Conference play by easing past the Illini, 76-60.

A week later, Nebraska ended its Creighton vex by blitzing the Bluejays in Lincoln.

Ah, December. Life was swell.

Exactly two months after that first game against Illinois, the Huskers face the Illini again, on the road, mired in a four-game tailspin and searching for a quick turnaround.

“We’re all searching for confidence. There’s no doubt about it,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “We can all see it in their body language, and when you’re in this league, you can get slapped around really well.”

Miles noted this isn’t mutually exclusive to Nebraska, either. Indiana is on a seven-game losing streak. Penn State has yet to win a Big Ten game. Illinois (6-15, 2-8 Big Ten) has had multiple losing streaks.

“We have to stick with it,” Miles said. “We know our game plan works. We know we’re good enough. … We just have to get on the board.”

Perhaps the Huskers can get another spark from freshman Thorir Thorbjarnarson. He came off the bench in Nebraska’s 62-51 loss Wednesday to Wisconsin and collected a career-high 10 rebounds, nearly doubling his previous season total of 13.

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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