Prep Sports

3 friends from different teams have eyes on Iowa Class 4A boys' state cross country title

Prairie's Jack Pendergast, Kennedy's Jacob Green, Linn-Mar's Dylan Dolezal are among the top contenders

Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Jacob Green leads the pack of boys' runners during the Eastern Iowa Classic cross country meet at Noelridge Park on Sept. 26. Green was sixth among Class 4A boys at the state meet last year. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Jacob Green leads the pack of boys' runners during the Eastern Iowa Classic cross country meet at Noelridge Park on Sept. 26. Green was sixth among Class 4A boys at the state meet last year. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Jacob Green plunged into a group chat earlier this week with Jack Pendergast and Dylan Dolezal.

His question had nothing to do with race strategy or running shoes.

“He asked what he should write about in his group essay at school,” Pendergast said.

Pendergast is a senior at Cedar Rapids Prairie, Green a senior at Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Dolezal a senior at Linn-Mar. They text and group-chat regularly, run together in the offseason when circumstances allow and schedules mesh, and support each other.

“They’re good friends of mine, good sportsmanship between us,” Dolezal said.

Saturday morning, though, it’s each man for himself. They are three guys with their own eyes on the same prize.

The state cross country championships are Saturday at Lakeside Golf Course, Fort Dodge, starting at 11 a.m. with the 4A girls’ race and concluding at 2:30 p.m. with the 1A boys’ competition.

The gun goes off for the 4A boys’ race at 11:30, and the Metro trio are part of a pack of about eight individual title hopefuls.

Iowa state cross country preview: Scouting the team and individual races

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“I think there are going to be about 10 of us out front,” Green said. “I’m just going to see what moves happen, then counter them, I’m not going to get stuck in the pack.”

Pendergast was the runner-up last year. Green finished sixth, Dolezal seventh.

All have taken distinct paths toward this day, this race.

Pendergast was probably the most conventional, developing into the latest star in Prairie’s powerhouse program under Bill Schwarz.

“No matter who you are, how good you are, Coach Schwarz treats everybody the same,” Pendergast said. “I really trust his training regimen.”

Dolezal played football through his freshman year, as a wide receiver and defensive end.

“I started on the freshman team,” he recalled. “I was OK, but not the greatest. Then I had a really good track season that spring, and everybody encouraged me to go out for cross country as a sophomore.”

Dolezal always is in the cluster of contenders, but somewhat remarkably, he has never won a cross country race.

“It’s kind of weird,” he said. “I’ve been ranked in the top three, and I’ve never won a meet. usually because of those guys (Pendergast and Green). I’ve never placed better than third.

“It’s definitely motivation for this weekend. To win my first meet at the highest level, that would be a great way to go out.”

Green’s first running experience came with the Viola Gibson Elementary Running Club. He went out for cross country and track in middle school.

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“In middle school, I flat-out sucked,” he said. “My fastest 2-mile race was 14:14.”

Then, as a freshman in high school, Green ran a 17:11 season-best on a 5,000-meter cross-country course.

“I grew into my body. I developed a solid form that was nice and easy to work with. And I put in a lot of miles,” he said.

Each runner has his own style and strategy. Green likes to set a fast early tempo.

“I want to go out and take everybody else’s legs out early,” he said. “At the end, if they’re faster than me, then they’re faster than me.”

Dolezal, on the other hand, can close fast.

“Usually, I fall off at 1 1/2 or 2 miles,” he said. “If I can hold on until the last 800 or 1,200 (meters), I have a good kick, good track speed.

“And (Saturday), I have motivation.”

So does Pendergast.

“I honestly feel I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been,” he said. “Based on our workouts, I feel fantastic. My mental game is as strong as ever.”

How so?

“Just how nervous I am. I can feel how bad I really want it.”

The cast of contenders also includes Max Murphy of Pleasant Valley, Sam Hall of West Des Moines Dowling and Ryan Winger of Dubuque Hempstead, among others.

All have visualized the race.

“It’s going to come down to the last hill at the very end, who has the most strength,” Green said.

The favorite?

“Probably Murphy or Hall,” Dolezal said.

Pendergast disagrees.

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“I think it’s me,” he said. “I’m going into it thinking, ‘I can win, I want to win, I will win.’”

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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