Entering the 2019 season, the boys running for the Malcolm cross country team knew they would have to work hard to uphold tradition that dates back over three decades. For the first time in four years, the Clippers would be starting races with out Devyn Beekman and Noah Twohig, a pair of cousins who were key in leading Malcolm to three state championships.

Defense of the 2018 title began Aug. 30 at Timber Point Lake for the East Butler Invite. The Malcolm boys learned quickly that a 2019 repeat will take hard work. For the first time since the 2016 state championships, Malcolm finished lower than first place as they were edged out by Aquinas for the team title. The Monarchs scored 18 team points while Malcolm finished with 26.

John Swotek led the way for the Clippers. The senior finished second with a time of 18:42.

“John put in the miles this summer he needed to put in to start off the season strong,” Malcolm head coach Brie Pulec said. “He’s willing to focus on pushing himself beyond what’s comfortable.”

Swotek was out in front of his teammates, the rest of whom finished within 55 seconds of each other as Ty Brockhaus finished third with John Boesen and Dillon Beach crossing 10th and 11th, while Jacob Schweitzer grabbed the 12th-place medal.

“Our guys responded positively to getting second,” Pulec said. “The only thing on their minds after the meet was getting stronger and faster.

“They have a lot of work to do, and they’re ready to do that work.”

Things went better for the Malcolm girls as they came away with the meet title for the second straight year. The Clippers had three top 10 runners as they put up a score of just 19 points. Central City placed second with 29.

Logan Thomas picked up where she left off last year as one of the Clippers’ strongest runners. The senior finished third with a time of 24:16. Thomas will get pushed this year by a newcomer. Lillie Beach was just 13 seconds behind Thomas as she placed third.

“Lillie will push Logan and the other girls,” Pulec said. “Having her on our team gives us another true competitor. 

“Lillie brings a focus to the team that we’ve never had before.”

Jasmine Small turned in one of the best performances in her cross country career. The junior recorded a sixth-place finish with a time of 25:52.

“As a second-year competitor, Jasmine came back with a lot more confidence,” Pulec said. “She knows what to expect from each of the courses, so I think her mental focus is a lot stronger this year.”

The harriers travel to Tecumseh this Friday, Sept. 6, for the Johnson County Central Invite. Running begins in the morning at 9:30.

“Tecumseh is always a challenge because of the hills and the uphill finish,” Pulec said. “Every team has to run them, but how they run them is what will make all the difference.”

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