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Harold Scott Invitational, 9.19

Lincoln East's Berlyn Schutz runs to a first-place finish during the Harold Scott Invitational in September at Pioneers Park.

Berlyn Schutz was at all those same races as all the other kids growing up in Lincoln were, like the Mayor’s Run around the state Capitol, and the Pumpkin Run at Pioneers Park.

She was one of the fast kids then, too.

Now Schutz has quickly become one of the well-known distance runners in the state. She’s a freshman at Lincoln East, and has won all seven cross country races this season. The state cross country meet is on Friday in Kearney, and Schutz is the favorite to win there, too.

Her dad, Anthony Schutz, remembers her running the Mayor’s Run when she was about 5 years old.

“She’s just always been this little kid that has this nice little stride and can just run sort of effortlessly,” Anthony Schutz said. “We’ve kind of always known she was a pretty natural runner.”

In middle school Schutz got more serious about running. She’d win at the middle school state meets for track and cross country. The family started going to some national meets.

When she was in seventh grade she finished in the top 20 at a national cross country meet in Florida. And the summer before her freshmen year at a national track meet in California she won the 2,000-meter steeplechase, and finished second in the 1,500 meters.

Anthony Schutz played football and was a wrestler during high school in Elwood, but as an adult he got into distance running, and he’s been running marathons since Berlyn was young. Anthony teaches at the law school at UNL.

Berlyn's mother, the former Cori Arends, was a good athlete in volleyball and basketball, also at Elwood. Cori passed away about five years ago. Cori’s dad, Ed, coached wrestling, and there are several wrestlers in the family.

Berlyn’s sister, Ani, is a senior on the East cross country team.

Berlyn Schutz has been around runners, but didn't have to be pushed.

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“The kid is just, it’s kind of all her,” said Anthony Schutz. “She goes to practice and she figures out what she wants to do. I encourage her and support her, but I don’t have to push her at all. That’s her greatest trait. She just likes it, so that’s kind of the coolest thing about watching her compete. … That’s what you hope for from your kids, that they have that drive and self-motivation.”

East coach Brian Kabourek knew Schutz was good, but going undefeated is really something.

“I knew she’d win some races, but with the quality of runners in Class A it surprised me a little bit,” Kabourek said.

Her two most impressive races came on the same course as the state meet will be at the Kearney Country Club. First, she won the Nebraska-Kearney Invite on a hot day. Then on a cold day she won the conference meet.

While Schutz is serious when it comes time to race, she’s goofy and jokes with her teammates, Kabourek said.

“She’s just fun to be around, and I think the other kids get excited for her and enjoy being teammates with her,” Kabourek said.

East is also the favorite to win the team title, but should be challenged by Fremont. East qualified for state for the 22nd consecutive year.

Schutz has reminded running spectators in Lincoln of Jeralyn Poe, the runner at Lincoln North Star who won 30 of her 34 high school cross country races, including four state titles from 2011 to 2014.

Matt Musiel, who coached Poe at North Star, said Schutz reminds him of Poe.

“It’s just (Berlyn’s) mental toughness, and her passion and love for running,” Musiel said. “And you just hope that all continues these next three years. The thing was Jeralyn always got to the starting line healthy. She never missed a race, and hardly missed a workout.”

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

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Sports reporter

Brent has worked at the Journal Star for 14 years. His beats include Nebraska volleyball, women's basketball and high school soccer and cross country.

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