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Like so many kids who grew up in the shadows of the University of Nebraska, Levi Gipson could close his eyes and imagine himself being a Cornhusker. The mere thought of competing seemed like a dream. To compete and win a Big Ten Conference championship in the 600 meters is enough to make a 20-year-old sophomore push the pause button and reflect on realizing a boyhood dream.
“It’s great being a Husker. I never thought I’d be running for Nebraska,” Gipson said. “Sometimes, I’ll just be walking around the football stadium or around the Hendricks Training Complex and just stop and think how blessed I am. We’re all truly blessed to be student-athletes here. I love competing here – something I’ve always wanted to do while growing up here. I love the culture that surrounds Nebraska Athletics. I can really tell that people are genuine and hardworking.”
Gipson fits the mold. The Lincoln Christian High School graduate earned first-team NCAA All-America honors as a freshman before reaching his collegiate highlight last weekend at the Big Ten meet in Geneva, Ohio, where his 1:17.07 in the 600 meters edged five other runners who ran under 1:18, including teammate London Hawk, who finished third in the 600 with a time of 1:17.41.
Akinmoladun, Englund, Raedler Also Win Big Ten Titles
Gipson was one of four Huskers who achieved first-team All-Big Ten status for his winning performance. The other three Husker Big Ten champions were Oladapo Akinmoladun, a sophomore from Grandview, Mo., who won the Big Ten 60-meter hurdles in a school-record time of 7.61; Travis Englund, a senior from Grand Island (Neb.) Northwest who won the Big Ten high jump (7-0½, 2.15); and Patrick Raedler, a senior from Germany who repeated as Big Ten champion in the long jump, even though his 25-2½ leap fell short of his 25-10 effort a year earlier.
As pleased as each Husker was to win a gold, all were disappointed that Wisconsin outscored Nebraska, 122.5 to 118 to claim the Big Ten Indoor Championship. “We won the conference Outdoor Championship, and we really worked hard to win the indoor,” Gipson said. In track and field, the difference between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat is often fractions of a second on the track and mere inches in the field.
Less Than a Second Separates Top Six in 400 Meters
Just ask Cody Rush, a sophomore from Grand Island Northwest who had the Big Ten’s second-leading 400-meter time in the preliminaries before finishing sixth in the event’s finals. Get this, Rush was one one-hundredth of a second behind junior teammate Ricco Hall, who was three-hundredths of a second behind the runner ahead of him. The top six runners in the 400 finals were all less than a second of each other in a blanket finish. Jake Bender, Gipson, Drew Wiseman and Rush all earned second-team All-Big Ten status after finishing second in the men’s 4x400 Meter Relay. They were 25 hundredths of a second behind Ohio State.
Seth Wiedel also earned second-team All-Big Ten honors with a 24-7¼ long jump to finish runner-up behind fellow senior teammate Raedler. Christian Sanderfer was the only other male Husker to earn second-team All-Big Ten after tying for second in the pole vault (5.21 m, 17-1).
Five Huskers Earn Second-Team All-Big Ten Status
Nebraska’s third-place Big Ten women’s team did not have any first-team All-Big Ten selections, but had five student-athletes achieve second-team status. Four Huskers – Mara Weekes, Ellie Grooters, Shawnice Williams, and Chantal Duncan – combined to finish second in the 4x400 Meter Relay. Duncan also finished second in the 400-meter finals (54.06). The Huskers’ only other second-team All-Big Ten choice was Ellie Ewere, who finished second in the Triple Jump (42-0½, 12.81).
A nutrition, exercise and health science major, Gipson was disappointed that the Huskers didn’t win another championship to put into an enormous trophy case for legendary coach Gary Pepin last weekend. But at Nebraska, there’s no time to dwell on what didn’t happen. “One of the coolest things about competing here,” Gipson said, “is that they stress the student aspect just as much as the athlete aspect. So we do the very best we can on any given day and then move on to the next challenge.”
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