116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Whether Kingston Stadium, Drake Stadium or wherever, it's always a must-see minute.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy. Linn-Mar. The boys' shuttle hurdle relay.
'It's always competitive,” Kennedy senior Drew Bartels said. 'You have two good teams going at it all year, every year. It makes everybody better.”
From 2015 through 2019 - there was no 2020 season, of course - the Cougars and the Lions each finished in the top four at state on three occasions. Linn-Mar was a Class 4A runner-up in 2015 and 2017, Kennedy in 2016.
'I can't speak for the kids, but one of my big goals is, how do we compare to Kennedy (in the shuttle)?” Linn-Mar Coach Kyle Hoffman said. 'It's a natural Cedar Rapids rivalry. It's always fun.
'When we make it to Des Moines, we're always two of the top few teams.”
They like to beat each other, of course. That's the way competition works. But it's a rivalry, according to this year's cast of characters, rooted in respect.
'I respect anybody that's good at anything, and Linn-Mar is good at this,” Kennedy Coach Curt Pakkebier said. 'They're always one of those top teams.”
The shuttle is a relatively new event in the boys' schedule in Iowa, beginning in 2007. Hurdles were 30 inches for the first two years, raised to 33 inches in 2009, to 36 inches in 2019.
And through it all, the Cougars and the Lions have been pacesetters in Eastern Iowa.
It is an event fraught with risk. Kennedy was disqualified in the state finals in 2017 and 2018 for exchange violations; the 2018 team was top-seeded.
'I try to forget about that,” Pakkebier said. 'There are 40 barriers and four starts. That's 44 things that could go wrong. But when it does go right, it's beautiful.”
A beautiful thing to watch, and to experience.
'I don't even see the hurdles when I run,” Linn-Mar senior Abass Kemokai said. 'I just focus on my strength.”
So what makes a hurdler?
'You don't have to be the quickest person in the world to be great. So much of it is technique,” Hoffman said. 'When I look for a hurdler, it's like I look for a middle-distance guy. A little lankier. Quick turnover, some spring in his step. Very aggressive. They can't be afraid.”
Fear is bad. Patience is good.
'When they're freshmen, the biggest thing I look at is their ability to learn and to stick with something,” Pakkebier said. 'It's going to be a frustrating, slow process. Very rarely do you have a freshman that's good at it.
'Some kids get frustrated at it and quit. Others are willing to put in the time. If you put in the time, you could be good at it.”
Kennedy returns two seniors - Bartels and Brody Lovell - from its fourth-place 2019 shuttle team. Bartels and Reid Pakkebier (Curt's son) went 1-2 in the 60-meter highs at the Dickinson Relays earlier this month, and Coach Pakkebier anticipates Max White to be the fourth member.
'This could be our best group ever,” Pakkebier said.
Linn-Mar was third in 2019, and Kemokai is the lone returner of that foursome. Another senior, Greg Gerst, appears to have a spot, and sophomore Nick Gorsich 'looks like he has the makings,” according to Hoffman, with a couple of others pushing for the final slot.
The outdoor season is about to begin. The Cougars and the Lions will compete, and will keep an eye on each other's results online.
'Sure, I go look at their times,” Bartels said. 'I think, ‘If we can drop this much time, we'll be ahead of them.'”
Kemokai said, 'We know Kennedy will always be ready for battle, and so will we.”
Comments: (319) 368-8857; firstname.lastname@example.org