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Nebraska Christian's Hannah Swanson dominates at Central City cross country invite
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Nebraska Christian's Hannah Swanson dominates at Central City cross country invite

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CENTRAL CITY — Coming from one of the smaller schools at the Central City Roger Nielsen Invite, Hannah Swanson still had her way.

In a meet that feature a number of rated runners in the upper classes, the Nebraska Christian sophomore took off from the start and didn’t let up as she won the race in 19:40.16 Thursday at Valley View Golf Course.

Swanson is ranked No. 2 in Class D, according to the rankings on preprunningnerd.com.

Minden won the girls meet with 41 points, while Lexington had the top three runners in the boys race to win with 11 points.

Swanson said she was pleased with how she competed against runners from Class B and C, considering it was the first time she ran under 20 minutes.

“It felt good to get a good time as I haven’t ran under 20 minutes yet this season,” she said. “That was No. 1 goal entering the race and I did that. And it did help that there was good competition here.”

Swanson got off to the early lead ahead of Central City’s Ella Buhlke (No. 13 in Class C), Fullerton’s Julianna Maxfield (No. 5 in D) and Minden’s Jessie Hurt and just slowly continued to build on it.

Swanson said she wanted to run even splits during the race, which she felt she did while admitting the heat and wind affected her during the race, as it did with many of the other runners.

“I wanted to go and feel how the race was going to go from the start. I was a little conservative as I went out a little fast, but I wanted to run even splits, which was a goal entering the race,” Swanson said. “I think I did.

“The heat wasn’t as bad as much as the wind was. My mouth was dry throughout the race. It did feel good to get done with it as I was starting to get a little blackish near the end.”

Swanson said she knows there’s a lot left in the season as the Eagles will compete in the Palmer Invite on Tuesday before heading to the UNK Invite on Sept. 27.

Swanson, who finished fourth in the Class D girls race at the state meet last year, said she hopes to get back to the state meet, along with her teammates. Marlie Mundt also medaled for Nebraska Christian by finishing ninth (21:05.58).

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“I just want to compete to the best of my ability the rest of the season and hopefully get back to the state meet and get the team down there too,” Swanson said.

Buhlke came in second behind Swanson. The Bison senior stayed in that position throughout the race as her time was 19:57.79.

The time was something Buhlke said she was proud as it was the first time ever she’s ran under 20 minutes in a meet.

“I’m super excited that I was able to do that as that was one of my goals entering the season. That’s awesome that I did that, especially on the home course,” Buhlke said. “Hopefully I can continue to build from that going forward.”

The Northwest teams had medalists in both the boys and girls, despite missing some runners because of either health issues or other commitments. Both teams finished third in both team standings.

The boys scored 61 points, while the girls scored 59.

The Viking girls were led by Evie Keller (fifth, 20:42.29) and Lexie Lilienthal (eighth, 20:55.78), while the boys, who were without leading runner Caden Keller (No. 2 in B), had two medalists in Ben Sutherland (sixth, 17:14.11) and Kian Botts (15th, 17:57.92).

Northwest coach Joel Hope said he was encouraged with what he saw despite being short-handed.

“We had a lot of personal bests today, especially on the boys side,” Hope said. “For us to come out and just compete really hard, I’m proud of our efforts. The same goes for the girls as both Evie and Lexie were able to get medals against very good runners from different classes today. We’re proud of that.”

Jarit Mejia led the Grand Island Central Catholic boys with a fourth-place finish in 17:03.22. The Crusader senior was in first place during the early portion of the race but Lexington runners Ian Salazar, Garrett Converse and Oscar Aguado all passed him later on. Salazar won the boys race in 16:42.81.

GICC coach Phou Manivong said Mejia is having a great start to his season, which included winning the Arcadia-Loup City Invite last Thursday, and felt he did what he had to do to be successful at the meet Thursday.

“Jarit is locked in right now. He knows what he has to do to get back to state as that is his No. 1 goal. He needs to take it one race at a time but he is working hard,” he said. “He put in a lot of work during the summer and it’s showing coming into the season.

“His starts have been great which is how we want him to run. He maintained his race all the way through the end and I see him just getting better as the season gets going. I’m proud of what he did today.”

Allison Haney led the Crusader girls with a 34th-place finish (24:21.47).

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