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By JAMES A. McCRAY III

Staff writer

When the St. Mary’s College of Maryland Seahawks cross country program began four years ago, senior Dan Swain was there.

When the Seahawks battled through the seasons with less than 10 runners, Swain was there.

Each year the program entered new heights, Swain was there.

And after Saturday’s history-setting run, Swain was there.

Swain won his first-ever collegiate race through his four-year career on Saturday at the Washington & Lee University Cross Country Invitational in Lexington, Va., and in turn helped deliver the Seahawks men its first-ever first-place finish in program history, besting seven other competing teams.

“It felt awesome,” Swain said of his win. “This is the first college race that I have come in first place. It was definitely a big milestone for me and for the team in general.”

Swain completed the 8K course in 28 minutes 57 seconds and later found out that he was running for more than just a career-best individual finish.

Sophomore Nick Gay, Swain’s teammate, was able to finish eighth individually (30:49) to help the Seahawks earn the team title by one point over Roanoke College (Va.), 44-45.

“The second-place guy [Roanoke’s Tim Smith], if he would have beaten me, we would have lost the meet all together,” Swain said. Smith finished 13 seconds behind Swain. “That’s how much was on the line. It was a lot there on from an individual perspective and from a team perspective.”

Swain admitted that the high of winning lasted through Saturday and into Sunday, but coming back to practice on Monday, that win was quickly put behind him.

“Coming back into practice Monday, our coach [Lynn O’Dell] said, “I know it feels great to win, but the winning comes from hard work, so let’s get on this hill workout,’” Swain admitted with a laugh.

Swain has been there since the start of the program, so he has been able to see the course the program has run.

“It is so different,” Swain said. “We started with seven guys and seven girls. Now, we have 18 guys, maybe. For the team to more than double and almost triple while I have been here is just crazy to see. … This has become more of a big team rather than just a group of guys and that’s a good thing. I like it a lot.”

Swain also admitted that his first collegiate win tied in with the program’s first-ever win was a feather in the cap of his four-year journey, but added that another feat could trump that of his first win.

“Every season is about conference championships and every year we have been coming in fourth or fifth place,” Swain said. “To be able to [improve] upon that and step up on that and move to third or even second, that’s our real goal. We want to be a top-three team.”

For his efforts, Swain was also named the Capital Athletic Conference cross country runner of the week.

The Seahawks women’s team participated in the same meet, placing fifth of six teams with 107 points. Host Washington & Lee claimed the team title with 17 points.

The first St. Mary’s woman to cross the finish line was freshman Emily Plum in 23:42 to place 21st overall. Four seconds behind her was senior teammate Margaret Lillie, placing 22nd overall.

jmccray@somdnews.com