It was a site to behold during the 3,000-meter run at the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational. Sophomore George Kusche crossed the finish line with his arms out and his eyes closed as he made school history once again. In the span of a week, Kusche broke two school records for track and field: the mile and the 3,000-meter run.
The journey began one week after the 2019 cross country season ended, where Kusche and Nebraska cross country head coach Dave Harris sat down and planned out the 2020 indoor track season.
“I talked about the Washington [Invitational] race,” Harris said. “The priority was getting Kusche to Nationals. He broke the 4-minute mark in the mile last year, but he didn’t make it to Nationals indoors. Two months prior to Washington, we circled it on our calendar and head coach Gary Pepin approved it.”
Prior to the Washington Invitational, Kusche’s fastest mile time was 3:59.61, which he set at the 2019 Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational, where he placed first. This time was also the school record. Exactly one year later, Kusche took third in the mile at the Washington Invitational, but he broke his own record with a time of 3:57.93. This time qualified Kusche for the NCAA Indoor Nationals, but he didn’t want to stop there. In fact, Kusche was ready to return and run the 3,000-meter run at the Frank Sevigne Invitational.
"Although I enjoyed the level of competition tonight, I much prefer running at home in front of Husker fans," Kusche said after the Washington Invitational in a huskers.com article.
“George was always going to run the 3,000-meter run at the Frank Sevigne Invitational,” Harris said. “We knew he could break the record, he ran under eight minutes last year, so it was just run and get a good time. His performance at Washington was our record for the hard work we put into December and January. Then, he’s ready to go the next week.”
Kusche also held the school record for the 3,000-meter run with a time of 7:57.16, but he broke it outside of Nebraska, much like the mile. The record at the Devaney Center for the event was 7:58.20.
However, Kusche had competition that helped him break the record: No. 1-ranked 3,000-meter junior college star Wesley Banguria from Colby Community College, who won the 3,000-meter race at the Graduate Classic with a time of 8:00.16.
"I knew he was a strong athlete because a couple of weeks ago he ran 8-flat on his own here at Devaney," Kusche said in a huskers.com article.
Of course, even with the competition and the expectation that Kusche was going to run under eight minutes, nobody could have foreseen Kusche destroying his own record by over six seconds.
“I was surprised,” Harris said. “I was expecting a 7:55. The school record was about 7:58, so I was expecting something just under that. When he crossed the line, and the scoreboard said 7:50, I was like George at that moment: Just amazed at what had occurred.”
Kusche’s official time in the race was 7:50.93, which puts Kusche at the top of the board for the meet record, school record and Devaney record. It also qualified him for the NCAA Indoor Nationals.
"I'm thankful Banguria pushed the pace,” Kusche said. “If he didn't, it would've been a slower race. However, it's really hard predicting a time like that.”
Throughout the race, Kusche and Banguria were in a constant battle for the lead. Each and every lap on the track had a fast, consistent pace.
“After the rabbits ran through the first 14 laps, Banguria and George just took over,” Harris said. “I was shouting out Kusche’s lap times and they were all 31 seconds. They weren’t slowing down.”
“I was confident,” Kusche said. “But, you know, before a race, I always get nervous. It doesn’t matter how confident I am, you always get nervous.”
With the Big Ten Championship under two weeks away, Kusche has his eyes set on winning his races, and then competing in Nationals.
“I know George is going to run hard at the Big Ten Championships, but not to break a record but to just win,” Harris said. “He’s determined to gain more strength in these races. We made it to Nationals, but it’s not here yet, so we need to train.”