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How Nebraska dominated Big Ten track without best athletes

That’s an appropriate reaction when considering the Nebraska men won the Big Ten outdoor championships by 50 points earlier this month.

That’s tied for the widest margin of victory in the past 19 Big Ten outdoor meets. Nebraska had 136 points, and runner-up Iowa had 86.

Dig deeper into the results — and say geez again. Nebraska won by 50 without getting any points from one of its best athletes, Till Steinforth. Last year, he earned 20 team points by winning both the decathlon and the long jump. The junior from Germany is not competing in the outdoor season while using a redshirt season.

Winning by 50 without him shows how talented and deep the program is.

Nebraska racked up 43 points combined in the four throwing events.

The Huskers also made a move in the triple jump and long jump, with an assist from a couple of players from the Nebraska football team.

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Nebraska won the Big Ten outdoor championship last year, too, but was just 29 points ahead of runner-up Minnesota.

This time, Nebraska got performances that matched what had been done earlier in the season across the board, along with some spectacular showings, and celebrated a championship after the meet ended on May 12 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Head coach Justin St. Clair celebrates after the Nebraska men’s outdoor track team won the Big Ten Championships by 50 points on May 12 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

For coach Justin St. Clair, it was a thrill to watch the athletes celebrate a championship.

“That’s why we do what we do — to bring joy to these student-athletes, and put them in a position to showcase the work that they put in,” St. Clair said. “And they were able to do that, and the reward was a big celebration and a trophy, and back-to-back Big Ten titles.”

It represented just the third Big Ten championship across all sports so far this academic year, joining the volleyball team and women’s soccer team that each won regular-season Big Ten championships.

Winning a conference championship is a big deal at Nebraska. There are championship rings. The team is introduced at a football game, and thousands of fans stand and applaud, no matter the sport.

In the Big Ten era, the men’s outdoor track team has been one of Nebraska’s most successful teams with four Big Ten titles. In 2022-23, the only conference championship for Nebraska athletics was the men’s outdoor track team.

Big Ten track champions 2024

Nebraska senior and Lincoln High graduate Darius Luff won the 110-meter hurdles at the Big Ten Championships on May 12 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His time of 13.25 seconds in that race ranks second in the NCAA this season.

Nebraska’s win this year got a major boost from two individual titles — 10 team points each. Darius Luff was the champion in the 110 hurdles, and Tyus Wilson in the high jump. Wilson was remarkable, clearing an NCAA-leading 7 feet, 6 inches.

Nebraska scored in seven of the eight field events and also had an improved showing on the track.

In the 200 meters, Garrett Kaalund placed fourth while competing for the first time during the outdoor season due to a hamstring injury. The 4×100 relay exceeded projections by placing second.

“I thought we did pretty well on the track,” St. Clair said.

Nebraska’s most productive event was the triple jump with a 2-3-6 finish and 17 team points.

The Huskers got some help from their part-timers from the Nebraska football team. Jaylen Lloyd was fourth in the long jump, and Jeremiah Charles was sixth in the triple jump.

“Neither of those boys have been doing a whole lot of training,” St. Clair said. “They’re literally just coming out of spring football. They’re talented enough, with enough skills, that they can just do it.”

What’s wild about Nebraska’s 50-point win is how much better it could have been if some athletes had been in the lineup.

Joining Steinforth on the sidelines was Maxwell Otterdahl, who didn’t compete in the meet as he recovers from an injury. Last year at this meet, he scored 18 points by winning the discus and taking second in the shot put.

And Arthur Petersen redshirted after winning the javelin last year. There were others who didn’t compete this spring.

“I would say we probably realistically left 50 points at home,” St. Clair said.

It’s a balancing act for track coaches, with the option to stagger redshirt seasons in the two seasons. Also, for the elite athletes from other countries, you have to balance what they may be doing in summer meets for their home countries.

Next season, Steinforth will probably redshirt the indoor season and compete outdoors.

Otterdahl had offseason hip surgery, and then suffered another setback with an ankle injury. He kept training and may have been asked to compete if needed.

Otterdahl should compete both indoors and outdoors next year.

“It sets us up better for next year in the grand scheme of things,” St. Clair said.

Petersen was also a planned redshirt season, as he prepares to try to make the Olympics for Denmark this summer.

For the Big Ten meet,, the men’s team has a roster limit of 34 athletes. Some years it’s hard to decide the lineup, but this time, the selections were pretty obvious.

Luff was one of five Nebraska natives who contributed points for the team title.

While Nebraska still has the NCAA championship meets, what comes later is a bigger challenge to keep winning conference championships when the Big Ten expands with the addition of USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington. Those are some schools that attract some track talent.

At the recent Pac-12 men’s meet, Washington finished first and USC was second.

Nebraska should still have an advantage in the throwing events. After the Big Ten meet, St. Clair combined the results from the Pac-12 meet with the Big Ten meet and scored the meet.

Nebraska won on paper but by a small margin.

“We just need a little bit more on the track,” St. Clair. “We need to keep utilizing our resources and continue to bring in some talent on the track.”

Nebraska will benefit from the athletes coming back from redshirt years. And they’ll add some athletes from both high school recruiting and transfers.

“We have a hurdler from Estonia that’s coming in,” St. Clair said. “We have a distance runner from South Africa that’s coming in. We have several in-state athletes that are middle distance and long distance, and it’s going to be fun to watch them develop. We have a (high school) javelin thrower from Arizona who is coming in. But we’re not done. We still have recruiting to do.”

Two years from now, Nebraska may be in line to host the Big Ten outdoor meet in Lincoln. The Huskers have a new outdoor track near the Devaney Sports Center, but it can only be used for practice as it is still in need of seating and restrooms. New Athletic Director Troy Dannen has completing the track stadium on his list.

“If our facility is not completed, then we cannot host, plain and simple,” St. Clair said. “But it sounds like there is the support for that to take place and interest in that happening. We have a little work to do, but I want to believe that we’re going to be in position to host.”

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