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For the Lincoln East girls cross country team, the first 3,000 meters of a race is a team game; but after that, it’s a race.

And Berlyn Schutz can really race.

The East freshman made it 3-for-3 in winning high school cross country races on Thursday at the Harold Scott Invitational, hosted by Lincoln High. She previously won at the Papillion-La Vista South and Millard South meets.

Her winning time for 5,000-meters was 19:00, good for a 28-second victory. The race was on the newly designed course at Pioneers Park, meaning Schutz gained that separation in the final 2,000 meters on a long downhill, a gradual uphill, a steep climb up the sledding hill and a 400-meter loop to the finish.

East wants to keep its top runners together in a pack for the first 3,000 meters of the race, hoping the group will help push the runners to better finishes. In the first race, one of the older East runners could even be heard saying to Schutz not to go yet.

But after that is when the Spartans really compete, even if it’s against their teammates.

On Thursday, the Spartans swept the top four spots. Junior Jenna Muma was second in 19:28, about 2 seconds ahead of her sister, freshman Kylie Muma, in third. Senior Taylor Searcey was fourth.

And East’s fifth and final scoring runner, senior Abi Schmidt, finished eighth. That gave East a school record team score of 18. The next best team score in the 15-team meet was Lincoln Pius X with 104 points.

Fremont and Lincoln Southwest were at the meet but did not run their varsity runners.

“(Eighteen points) is going to be good anytime, but the fact that we had this type of weather conditions, and the kids always have got to be ready for stuff that jumps out in front of them,” said East coach Brian Kabourek. “They had the girl from Hastings (Chelsey Espinosa) who got out to a lead early, but the girls didn’t get rattled at all and they just kept grinding away.”

Espinosa finished in sixth. Hannah Ray from Lincoln Northeast was fifth.

Schutz is a very good runner, Kabourek said, but is also a great teammate.

“We have that mantra of run as one, and we try to stick to that through most of the race and talk to each other and keep each other loose,” Kabourek said. “And then when we cross that road and we got 2,000 meters left it becomes a race, and Beryln is competitive.”

Schutz says she stays patient in the early part of the race, and then just waits for one of her teammates to say she can go ahead.

“It’s relieving,” Schutz said. “Sometimes you’re just so antsy to get ahead, you just can’t wait to get out of it.”

Schutz has had a lot of success in youth track and cross country, but is enjoying being part of a team.

“I think everyone just pushes each other to their limits, and that’s the best part of it,” Schutz said.

Now her goals are to win at the state cross country meet next month both as a team and individual.

It was also a good day for the Lincoln East boys, with the Spartans winning a meet for the first time since the district meet in 2014 before Kabourek was head coach.

“That’s neat for those boys,” Kabourek said.

Thomas Oliver led the Spartans with a third-place finish. The other runners that contributed to the team score were Javier Kenney (seventh), Drew Arduser (13th), Finian Herbert (16th) and Joe Allen (18th).

Felix Cruz from Omaha South won the race in 16:43. Daniel Romary of Lincoln Northeast was second in 16:46.

This is one of the largest regular-season meets of the year with 989 finishers (477 junior varsity boys, 300 JV girls, 109 varsity boys and 103 varsity girls).

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7435 or bwagner@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsWagner.

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