Pedersen hoping to bridge the gap for Bobcat harriers

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Marshalltown senior Luke Pedersen approaches the finish line at the Marshalltown Community College cross country course during Thursday’s Class 4A State Qualifying meet. Pedersen was the top finisher for the Bobcats, taking 29th in the meet.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Marshalltown senior Luke Pedersen approaches the finish line at the Marshalltown Community College cross country course during Thursday’s Class 4A State Qualifying meet. Pedersen was the top finisher for the Bobcats, taking 29th in the meet.

An era of Marshalltown boys cross country came to a close on Thursday night in the Class 4A state-qualifying meet at the Marshalltown Community College course, as senior Luke Pedersen ran his final cross country race as a Bobcat.

He finished as the top MHS placer, taking 29th with a time of 17 minutes, 46 seconds, a tie for his fastest time of his career at the MCC course.

Last week at the CIML Iowa Conference meet, Pedersen didn’t have his best time, but he was able to shake that off and run essentially his best meet just a week later on the same course, something he said came down to a more laid-back approach.

“Last week I kind of had a stomach bug and I was tensing up a lot too, so I tried to focus on relaxing a little more and focusing on what I needed to do, not what’s hurting,” Pedersen said. “That kind of helped me to stay focused and get faster.”

Pedersen wasn’t the only one who was faster, as almost every Bobcat runner either met their personal best on the MCC course or great exceeded it. Marshalltown head coach Chad Pietig said in practice leading up to the qualifier he just reinforced the idea of the team giving this final race their best shot, and he was happy with the results.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Marshalltown freshman Eli Thiesen, right, exerts the last of his energy as he nears the finish line during the Class 4A state-qualifying meet at the Marshalltown Community College cross country course on Thursday.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Marshalltown freshman Eli Thiesen, right, exerts the last of his energy as he nears the finish line during the Class 4A state-qualifying meet at the Marshalltown Community College cross country course on Thursday.

“Our talk this week was about having no regrets,” Pietig said. “Go out and have the best race of the season, don’t walk away saying ‘I wish I would have, I should have,’ as long as you do that I’ll be happy has a coach and you will be happy was an athlete. I really feel like that’s what they did, they went after it and were aggressive. Every guy dropped 20 or 30 seconds or they tied their season best here.”

Freshman Javier Rodriguez, who dethroned Pedersen last week at the conference meet as the top Bobcat finisher, took second on the team with a 35th-place time of 18:10, while fellow freshman Eli Thiesen finished in 42nd with a time of 18:41.

Pedersen the whole team did a good job coming into the race with the right mentality, which translated to the times on the course.

“Our team made sure we were focused on racing, and that was kind of a problem all year, but we were really focused today,” he said. “Personally, I just went out there and raced because really that’s all I can do. I can maybe take some tactics from other races and stuff, but at the end of the day you just have to go out there and race and just do your best and give it your all.”

Marshalltown finished in eighth place as a team with a score of 214, almost 60 points higher than ninth-place finisher Newton. Ames was the top team with a score of 47, followed by Linn-Mar and Cedar Rapids Kennedy in second and third to round out the team state qualifiers.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

Considering the Bobcats ran a host of freshmen alongside Pedersen, Pietig said he is alright with that placing, though it isn’t quite at the level that Marshalltown cross country was in the mid-2000s.

“I am pretty sure we are the only team that ran four freshmen today. Hopefully they understand that it has been done here before, it can be again, you just have to work,” Pietig said. “Distance running is not something you can just pick up in August and expect to be better, you don’t run faster because you’re a year older.”

Pedersen did his part heading into this season, working all summer to make sure he was in the best shape possible when practice started in August. He said one thing he hopes the younger guys on the team picked up from him was a good work ethic and a desire to succeed.

“I hope that these guys can see the commitment I’ve put into this. I ran over 350 miles this past summer and I was the only one that even did that,” Pedersen said. “Being the top guy on varsity, I hope the rest of the guys can see that you don’t just get here by coming to practice on the first day in August, it’s an every-day thing. It’s an every-day commitment and for some athletes it’s an all-year commitment. I just hope they go on to realize that and if they want to be really good runners then that’s the way to go.”

Pietig said it will be tough to lose someone as committed to his craft as Pedersen is, but in a few years he thinks the team will look back at Pedersen as someone who helped bring Marshalltown cross country back to its former greatness.

“Luke is one of the kids who stuck it out when the rest of his classmates quit. His freshman class had more than two athletes in it, he stuck it out and this was something that he had made a priority,” Pietig said. “He has worked so hard for it, he is exactly what you want Marshalltown cross country to represent. I tell the guys all the time that there will be a team that is the first one that gets us back to state, and it’s guys like Luke that will lay that bridge. He is the one that we will remember that got us through those times when we weren’t qualifying for state.”

Looking towards the future, Pietig said the way his guys finished up in the state qualifier will help them going into the next season, and he is happy with how the team grew throughout the year.

“As a young team, we lose Luke but everybody else comes back and hopefully they have a taste of what competitive cross country is about,” he said. “We go to a lot of meets that are intimidating, districts isn’t though because everyone is pretty equal here. I am happy for them and pleased with the progress they’ve made.”

Class 4A State Qualifying Meet

At Marshalltown Community College

BOYS

Team Standings — 1. Ames 47, 2. Linn-Mar 52, 3. Cedar Rapids Kennedy 56, 4. Des Moines Roosevelt 108, 5. Urbandale 122, 6. Cedar Rapids Jefferson 179, 7. Mason City 184, 8. Marshalltown 214, 9. Newton 270, 10. Fort Dodge 276.

Individual (top 10) — 1. Payton Marrs, URB, 16:24; 2. Colin Johnston, LM, 16:32; 3. Anley Akok, AMES, 16:35; 4. Dylan Dolezal, LM, 16:39; 5. Jackson Foley, CRK, 16:44; 6. Jacob Green, CRK, 16:49; 7. Harrison Cota-Prentice, DMR, 16:58; 8. Kear Kear, AMES, 17:04; 9. Tyler Carney, AMES, 17:07; 10. Garang Akok, AMES, 17:08.

MARSHALLTOWN (214) — 29. Luke Pedersen 17:46, 35. Javier Rodriguez 18:10, 42. Eli Thiesen 18:41, 53. Noah Hermenson 19:07, 55. Zach Bitker 19:18, 62. Peyton Hilsabeck 20:28.