CEDAR RAPIDS — This year marks the 110th anniversary of the Drake Relays.
It also marks junior Jack Pendergast’s second trip to the blue oval.
“Drake is coming up pretty soon,” Pendergast said earlier about next week’s three-day track and field meet in Des Moines. “I’m trying to qualify the rest of my events there.”
Pendergast has unofficially qualified in the boys’ 3,200- and 1,600-meter runs. Last year, he placed 10th and 15th in the two races, respectively.
“He’s almost for sure qualified in the 3,200,” said Prairie track and field coach Bill Schwarz before the cutoff date.
Pendergast aims to shatter even more records this spring.
“I’m trying to break the school record for the two mile this year; 9:12 by Mitch Pritts,” he said.
His personal best is 9:39.97.
“At Drake I want to go into 9:20s or 9:10s,” Pendergast said, “For the mile I want to go under 4:20.”
One of Pritts’ records already been broken by Pendergast.
“I did get a new indoor school record for the two mile,” Pendergast said. He shaved five seconds off the previous mark.
Drake is next week, starting Thursday at Drake Stadium. State is next month.
“He works extremely hard. He’s extremely serious about it,” Schwarz said.
All of the hard work doesn’t come easy. Physical fitness and rankings are important, but mental toughness can’t be sidelined.
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“I feel like I’ve been having a mental block,” Pendergast said. “Other than my breathing, I should be going faster. Mentally, I need to get into the race more and leave nothing else.”
Mental blocks are a challenge many athletes overcome. Pendergast is aware of how to manage the pressure, not only what he places on himself but what others place on him.
“To be honest, I feel pressure from the team. That’s manageable, that’s normal,” he said. “I have to perform and do my best, but I put a lot of pressure in myself to do good because I want to achieve my goals.”
Like most high school students, college is one of his long-term goals. However, he’s not too sure where he’ll end up after high school. In the last year, he has visited the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota.
“Whichever (school) has the best program,” he said about making a decision while invitations from Columbia, Cornell, Iowa and Minnesota are rolling in.