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Our History

Updated 2/14/2019.

Purpose and Vision

Welcome to Nighthawk Athletics! The Northwest Homeschool Athletic Cooperative was formed to provide junior and senior high homeschooled students the opportunity to participate together in interscholastic athletics, giving these athletes a true competitive team experience while fostering relationships among participants, their families, and the local community. 


Kirk and Jennifer Swanson ran track and cross country in high school and met on the St. Olaf College team. After graduation, they continued running in road races of various distances, improving their performances and broadening their experience. They also volunteered as assistant coaches for a local school’s cross country team. Fast forward to 2014, when their own home schooled children reached competitive running ages. In an effort to introduce their kids to running while engaging their local home schooled friends, Kirk founded the Northwest Nighthawks cross country team and served as the head coach. Jennifer served as assistant coach and athletic director, and practices were hosted at the Swansons’ 17-acre hobby farm. 

Meanwhile, Mary Stahl had been mulling over a similar vision for her own kids and quickly jumped into the running world as an assistant coach. She provided invaluable insight as a new-to-the-sport parent and kept the coaching staff grounded during the startup process and beyond. 

The inaugural season drew 25 runners who participated in seven racing events (fun runs, homeschool championship, etc.) over the course of a nine-week season. These first athletes also helped blaze a trail through the woods on the farm (the first annual Mega Fun Day) to complete the now famous and formidable one-mile loop. 

In 2015, the Northwest Nighthawks became the first-ever all-homeschool cooperative team to join our state's high school league. It was a lengthy process, but it brought us the respect and privileges of a "traditional" school team and opened many opportunities for competition and coaches' training. We competed with local public and private schools in a full season of interscholastic cross country meets, including the Section 5A Championships. 9th grader Erika Swanson qualified for the State Championship--something we didn't expect our team to experience until much later--and both our boys' and our girls' Varsity teams received Team Academic Excellence Recognition (Gold Level) through the Minnesota State High School Coaches' Association.

With all the enthusiasm surrounding cross country, and by request of the athletes, the Track & Field program was born in 2016. With Mary's out-of-state move in the works, April Lee (the sister-in-law of one of our runners) rose up and joined the track & field coaching staff, and we continued to grow and improve as a team, both in athleticism and character. We've added several additional coaches to the staff, and each year brings more growth and opportunity as we grow in our sports and develop relationships with our competitors.

Our Locations/The Farm

Most cross country practices are held on or based at the Swansons’ home, a vintage farmstead established in the mid-late 1800s. The Swansons operate it as a historic hobby farm with horses, free-roaming poultry, and other animals. We have rules to keep everyone safe, making it a fun place to meet, run, and party. (A team favorite is watching movies projected on the big screen in the barn.)

Track & field practice locations vary. Spring is a very different season on the farm: wet! Our locations rotate among a park, a church, and a school track. See schedule for details.


Our story is a work in progress. If there's something you'd like to know about our staff or programs, let us know and we'll consider adding it. Thanks for reading!