Bulldogs' Pierce to run track, cross country for Midland University
     2014-03-06      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen Gering senior Aaron Pierce, left, speaks to media after signing his letter of intent March 24 at Gering High School to run cross country and track at Midland University. Pierce was joined by his father, Rusty (not pictured) mother, Tami and sister, Robyn. 
Gering High School senior Aaron Pierce likes to run.

As a three-time state cross country participant and two-time qualifier for the state track and field meet, Pierce has achieved enough success that he has allured the attention of a cross-state collegiate program.

So on Monday, in front of family, friends and coaches from both Gering and Midland University, Pierce signed his national letter of intent to compete in both cross country and track at the private college in Fremont. The ceremony took place in the Gering High School Media Center and Library.
“I think it will be nice because I will be able to experience not being so close to home, but also close enough that if there is a shorter break, I can still come home and still see my family and friends, ” Pierce said. “I will have friends that will be close enough to me that I can still have the chance to see them, as well as make new friends while I am there.”

Pierce said Midland allured to him because of its academic offerings that interested him.

“They are one of the few schools that were going to help with an athletic training degree, which is what I’m looking for, and it also provided the chance for me to run with a good academic school as well,” he said.

Pierce said he considered not running and attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln or Chadron State College.

“I like Midland better. They reached out to me a little bit earlier and they just made me feel welcome,” he said. “I decided there, when I went for the visit, I just felt welcome. It was a smaller school and smaller class sizes, which is more what I was looking for.

"When I got to practice with the team that day, it reminded me of exactly how our team is here. Everybody is so close together and they act as a family and so much as a team. Everybody does things for each other and not their own personal selfishness. They were very much like a team and a family, and it was just a good atmosphere that I really liked."

Mark Kostek, Midland’s track and field and cross country coach, said Pierce should be a strength to the Warriors’ programs both athletically and academically.

“We feel like Aaron is the type of guy who can really come in and help our program not only athletically, but from an academic standpoint as well,” Kostek said.

“We’re looking for young men and young women who are going to be committed to academic success as well as being good athletes. It’s all about helping them to be the best they can possibly be athletically, but primarily it’s about preparing them for life after.
“Aaron epitomizes the type of individual that we try to get to come through our institution. He will have a good group of guys to train with, and hopefully he will be able to get into the top seven,” Kostek said. “I think he will and I think that he has that ability. It’s just a matter of making certain that he has the training base that he needs."

Pierce was 50th at the Class B state cross country meet in October, completing the 5,000-meter course in 18:07.3 as part of Gering's 10th-place team finish. The Bulldogs finished third in district competition, with Pierce running in 17:23.8, missing top 15 by 9.6 seconds.

“So far this year, I was able to take my cross country team to state for, a third time for me, but it was nice to take some of those guys who had never been,” Pierce said. “I was the only one who had been there before and I got to take five new guys who had never been.”

As a junior, Pierce placed 12th in districts to qualify for the Class B state cross country meet as an individual. He placed 63rd with a time of (18:16.3. Pierce also ran on Gering’s state-qualifying cross country team as a sophomore.

Pierce has been to the state track meet the past two years as a relay team member. The Bulldogs’ 1,600-meter relay placed fifth at state last year after placing second at districts. Gering’s state-qualifying 3,200 relay that qualified as a wild card after placing fifth in districts.

As a sophomore, Pierce had a leg on the Bulldogs’ state-qualifying 3,200 relay, which finished third in the district meet.

This spring, Pierce said he hopes to achieve success on the track by running against some of the best athletes that Class B has to offer statewide.

“We’re going to run against these guys every week.” said Pierce, whose track specialties are the 400- and 800-meter runs. “When you see the best in the district and the state out here, we’re used to it.

“I feel like I’ve been more prepared going into district and state meets that I already know what most of those guys are capable of and are going to do, so there are not really many surprises.”

After his career as a Bulldog is finished, then Pierce will begin the transition in becoming a Midland Warrior.

“Once he gets done with his high school career, we will help him with getting a training program in place and see how he can develop over the summer come out there,” Kostek said. “The distance goes from 5K to 8K, from 3.1 miles to 5 miles, so it’s different and it’s kind of a shock to the system for those freshmen, but hopefully he will be able to adapt to it nicely.

“We’re excited that Aaron is going to be with us. He’s a neat kid who comes from a great family, and obviously the tradition from Gering High School, as far as the number of athletes who have been produced from Gering, is great, and we are glad to have an athlete from Gering to join our program.”

Pierce will trade in his blue and gold of Gering for the blue and orange of Midland, but he said he will miss the hometown pride that Gering offers.

“I’ve always been a Bulldog, I’ve always got to compete for the Bulldogs, I’ve always felt welcome and like I can help a team and also be led by some great people,” Pierce said.

“It’s going to be a little sad, but it will be kind of nice to take my athletic ability and running and go on at the next level, which was the goal from the get-go.”

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