On Saturday at the Octoberfest Invitational, Swaak had her breakthrough run. The junior won her first major title with a time of 18 minutes, 43 seconds on the 3.1-mile course at Great Meadows in The Plains.
It was a big day for Madison as fellow Warhawks runner Matthew Calem won the varsity A boys’ race with a time of 15:49, four seconds ahead of Loudoun Valley sophomore Andrew Hunter. Potomac School senior Hale Ross placed third in 15:59. Chantilly’s girls and Battlefield’s boys won the team events.
A year ago, Swaak ran 19:47 at the Great Meadows course. Her desire to improve came after a showing at last year’s outdoor track and field region championship disappointed her.
Over the summer, Swaak ran 250 miles, more than any other Madison teammate — girl or boy — and added core strength training to her workout routine. The only other invitational she’s participated in this season was the Monroe Parker Invitational, where she finished fourth.
“Amanda’s a great runner,” Calem, a senior, said. “She always does incredibly well in the workouts. It’s great to see her having some success on the races as well. It’s a power team, with us finishing first. It’s pretty awesome.”
A year ago, Madison placed both Calem and Laura Sullivan first at the Liberty District championships, which features eight schools. A sweep at the Octoberfest Invitational, with 63 schools participating, is a bit more impressive.
Though he’s seen the potential in Swaak to run a race like she did Saturday, Madison Coach Craig Chasse admitted he was surprised to see her finish first. Megan Wilson (18:55) of Sidwell Friends took second in the girls’ race.
“We knew she would be in the top few,” Chasse said. “We didn’t know she would win with a gap like that.”
Swaak, who said she’s not typically a fast runner, wanted to get off to a quick start on a Great Meadows course that features a downhill stretch for the first half-mile. Strategically, it’s a race where runners want to begin conservatively, due to the risk of tiring out once the course becomes more challenging.
Swaak, however, ran her first mile in the 5:30 range and paced herself to stay ahead of her competition.
“I knew I was better than last year but I didn’t know I could do this,” Swaak said. “I never would have imagined coming in first at an invitational like this. It’s kind of a big shock for me.”