As a young athlete, Adam Swanson said he gained speed from playing football and stamina from swimming.
But when he got to Dundee-Crown High School, Swanson put both of those traits to work.
“I was a sprinter my first two years,” he said. “I decided to do cross country as a junior and that’s when they switched me over to doing the mile and the 800 (meters).”
Now a sophomore at Eastern Illinois, Swanson has blossomed into one of the nation’s top 800 runners while competing in his first outdoor track season for the Panthers.
Last weekend, he won the event at the 93rd running of the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in Austin with a time of 1 minute, 47.66 seconds, the third-fastest time in NCAA Division I this season.
“This is something I watched when I was in high school,” Swanson said. “It’s one of the biggest meets ever. Even with 10 meters to go, I thought, ‘Wow, I just won Texas Relays.’ A big race like that means so much. It allows me to experience what it’s like to win at the national level. It gives me all the confidence.”
Swanson used his strong finishing kick to outlast his closest competitor, second-place finisher Butare Rugenerwa of West Texas A&M by 0.67 of a second.
After running cross country last fall, Swanson and the Panthers lost the entire 2020 indoor season to COVID-19. The time off allowed Swanson to increase his off-season mileage and sharpen his skills.
“Adam is just really talented in terms of having natural, great foot speed,” said Erin Howarth, EIU’s head cross country coach and distance coach. “But he didn’t necessarily have a lot of strength when he came in. We really focused on that part of his development, and he’s put together that strength and speed in an incredible way now.”
While winning back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference Male Track Athlete of the Week honors the past two weeks, Swanson has put up two of the top five times in school history. The only 800 time better than Swanson’s effort at Texas is a 1:46.90 posted in 1987 by All-American Jim Maton.
“Every year his name comes up somehow,” Howarth said of Maton and his nearly 35-year-old record. “Everybody says, ‘Oh, it’s never going down.’ That might be going down. It’s great to know that Adam is knocking on that door.”
Swanson said his goals include surpassing Maton’s record and hopefully earning a spot at outdoor nationals.
The week before winning at Texas, he won the 800 title in 1:49.66 at Southern Illinois with his closest competitor nearly 6 seconds behind.
“I want to run maybe in the 1:45s,” Swanson said. “A 1:46 would be amazing. It’s going to come down to the competition. In order for me to run super fast, I’m going to need competition.”
That means traveling to some bigger meets this spring to find top-notch 800 runners to run against.
“We both kind of knew that after (the SIU) race when he broke 1:50 by himself,” Howarth said. “He had way more in the tank. I know he’s never been this strong. He’s showed that he can hang with anybody in the country. He’s hungry to compete against people that are going to give him a great race.”
Giese shines in Green Bay: Huntley grad Tiffany Giese, a sophomore outfielder for the Wisconsin Green Bay softball team, was honored Tuesday as the Horizon League Player of the Week.
Giese batted .500 last week (10-for-20) over a six-game span that included four multi-hit games. She also scored seven runs and drove in four for the Phoenix, who won a series from UIC last week for the first time since 2014.
Judson pitcher honored: Senior pitcher Evan Liebau (Jacobs) won the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference and National Christian College Athletic Association Pitcher of the Week honors Tuesday. The baseball player from NAIA Judson University was recognized for his complete-game 6-0 shutout of Roosevelt University March 26, during which he struck out 11 and walked one in nine innings.
Augustana golf ranked: Rylie Schurter, a junior, and her Augustana College women’s golf teammates were ranked No. 22 this week in the Golfstat national D-III team rankings.
The Vikings were ranked fourth in Region 4 after placing second in their first competition, the Millikin University Big Blue Spring Opener last month.
Schurter, a Crystal Lake Central grad, placed sixth at Millikin with back-to-back rounds of 81. She earned the No. 18 individual ranking in the region and No. 105 nationally.
Making saves at Concordia: Jacobs grad Kassie Silenzi, a sophomore women’s soccer goalkeeper at D-III Concordia Chicago, earned Northern Collegiate Athletics Conference South Division defensive player of the week honors March 24.
Silenzi compiled 21 saves in Concordia’s first four games of the spring season, including a 1-0 shutout March 17 against Benedictine.
· Barry Bottino writes about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at email@example.com and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.
Source: The Daily Chronicle