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BOYS TOWN – Bella Hogue produced a crowning achievement Thursday when she reached the finish line of the District C-1 cross country race.

The Conestoga junior won the district title with a first-place time of 20:30.70. Her championship effort came on a Boys Town course that featured multiple hills and several twists and turns. Hogue said she was happy to claim the honor in a field filled with previous state qualifiers.

“With it being my first year in the sport I wasn’t sure what to expect at a district race,” Hogue said. “I really love the sport and I wanted to do the best I could here against a lot of good runners. It’s definitely a great feeling.”

Conestoga head coach Sean Trampe said he was excited to see Hogue surpass two of the top runners in all of Nebraska. Fort Calhoun senior Taya Skelton finished second in 20:38.50 and Syracuse sophomore Ellie Wilkinson was third in 20:45.50. Skelton has won the past three Class C state championships and Wilkinson placed second at last fall’s state race.

“This is a big win for Bella,” Trampe said. “Those are two darn good runners that she went up against today. To finish ahead of a three-time state champion and the state runner-up from last year is huge. I’m very proud of what she did today.”

Hogue said she was familiar with both Skelton and Wilkinson from her time running against them at track and field meets. The three girls ran neck and neck through the first 1,500 meters before Hogue moved ahead of both opponents. She increased the gap between her and Skelton with a strong finishing kick in front of a large crowd.

“I knew what their running styles were and I wanted to come out and run right with them,” Hogue said. “We’ve always been close when we’ve been running track, so I knew I had to have a good time today in order to get past them.”

Hogue said she was also motivated to run well for her teammates. She helped the Conestoga girls secure a team berth at the upcoming state meet with her time. The Cougars placed second in the district race with 31 points.

Conestoga will compete in the Class C State Meet at Kearney Country Club at 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19. Trampe said he felt Hogue could earn a medal in the premier race of the season.

“She’s the hardest worker I’ve ever been around,” Trampe said. “She’s done everything that’s been asked of her this year and she has a great attitude about everything. I’m looking forward to seeing what she’ll do next week.”

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