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A fast start for defending champ

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Park River/Fordville-Lankin's Elaina Swartz clears a hurdle to edge past Thompson junior Izzy Shirek (right) during the girls hurdles event as part of the May-Port CG Invitational Thursday night at the UND High Performance Center. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald2 / 3
Thompson jumper Izzy Shirek easily clears the high jump bar Thursday night at the May-Port CG Invitational held at the UND High Performance Center. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald3 / 3

The bar already was set high for Elaina Swartz. On Thursday, she raised it a little higher.

Swartz is defending Class B state high school track champion in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles. She ran the 100s for the first time this season. Swartz not only ran a faster time than at last spring's state meet finals; she ran a personal record.

The Park River Area senior set a PR with a time of 15.34 seconds in winning the 100 hurdles at the Mayville-Portland-CG Invitational at UND's High Performance Center. Swartz won state with a time of 16.10 seconds last May.

"I was really nervous because we haven't run the 100s this year,'' said Swartz, who has signed at UND to compete in track. "I expected to run well, but not that well. And I wasn't expecting that kind of time with all the stumbling and the hurdles I hit in the race.

"I was hoping for a good time. I probably wasn't expecting that. But I'll take it.''

Track has been a struggle this season due to the weather. For Park River Area, it was only the second indoor meet in which it has competed this spring and the Aggies have yet to run outdoors.

But, from watching Swartz practice, PRA coach Angie Solseng had high expectations.

"I think Elaina is where she should be,'' Solseng said. "She's hungry for a repeat at state. She's looked sharp.

"It is the first time she's been able to run the 100s this year. But that's not a concern with Elaina. With a lot of kids, it probably would be. But she did a lot of working out in the winter. It's just getting back into technique. She's hurdled for so long, she could probably run those races in her sleep.''

Swartz said she hopes to stay in the sub-16 second range all season. Being a defending state champion is added incentive.

"I want to defend those, especially since it's my senior year,'' Swartz said. "I can't be intimidated by other runners. I know there's a target on my back, but that's probably good. It will push me to work harder.

"When coach told me we would be running the 100 hurdles today, it was like, 'Finally.' I love the 100s because the race is so fast, so competitive.''