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KEARNEY – Stockton Graham has spent many mornings, afternoons and evenings running on the sidewalks of Plattsmouth during his high school career.

He earned a reward for his hard work on Friday with a state cross country medal.

Graham captured an eighth-place medal in the Class B State Meet. The four-time state qualifier posted the best time of his career at Kearney Country Club. The Plattsmouth senior crossed the finish line of the five-kilometer course in 16:50.54.

“My goal today was to get a time of 16:45 and place seventh, and I ended up getting 16:50 and placing eighth, so I’m pretty happy with how it turned out,” Graham said. “Last year I ended up getting 18th and missing out on a medal, so I was motivated to do better this year and get in the top 15.

“It feels really good knowing I was able to do that. It was a great day for running and it was a lot of fun being able to do well in my last cross country race for the team.”

Graham entered the day with a large amount of state experience. He finished 43rd in 17:53.80 as a freshman, and he followed that with a 23rd-place time of 17:46.75 as a sophomore. He collected 18th place last year in 17:31.10.

Graham said he tried to make the most of the lessons he had learned from his previous state experiences. One of his biggest goals was to move into the top ten spots in the opening section of the race. He finished his first mile in 5:15 and was tenth in the 84-person field.

“I knew it was important to get a good start in the first mile, and I think I was able to do that,” Graham said. “I wanted to make sure I kept up with the lead runners. It was a different race today because everybody seemed to be taking advantage of the downhills instead of making moves on the uphills, so it helped being in the lead group. It was better being in that spot instead of trying to make up ground.”

Graham maintained his pace in the second mile and kept up with a group that included returning medal winners Samuel Lueders of Blair, Jaydon Welsh of Hastings and Blake Manternach of Omaha Skutt. He held off a challenge from Seward’s Nathan Nottingham to cross the finish line in eighth place.

Graham said he was excited when he learned his time after the race. He broke the 17:00 barrier for the fifth time this season and capped a year full of awards. He won nine medals and earned the district championship during the fall.

“Seeing my time when I got done running was really special,” Graham said. “I was able to get a PR and my first state medal, so it was a good day. I can’t ask for much more than that.”

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