Pedersen signs with Bethel cross country

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON Marshalltown senior Luke Pedersen, middle, signs his National Letter of Intent to join the Bethel University cross country team in the teamroom of the Roundhouse on Friday. Joining Pedersen at the table are his mother Jenn and father Mike, along with cross country coach Chad Pietig, back left, and track coach Doug Bacon.

There are moments when faced with a big decision in life where you are forced to compromise and settle for something less than you would like, and there are moments where an opportunity arises that makes the decision for you by meeting all of your needs.

Marshalltown senior cross country and distance runner Luke Pedersen experienced the latter when making his decision on where he would attend college in the fall, and that moment came on the campus of NCAA Division III Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn.

“We looked at Colorado Christian University and Northwestern St. Paul, which is right next to Bethel, but Northwestern was kind of small and Colorado Christian had some things that I didn’t exactly like, but there were a lot of things about Bethel that I just liked a lot and I felt like for me this was the best place I could go,” Pedersen said after inking his name on a National Letter of Intent to join the Royals cross country program in the fall.

For Pedersen, this decision came down to much more than just where he wanted to continue his running career.

“It had more to do with my focus on my education and where I want to go for my academics because really if you look at the statistics only two percent of college athletes even go pro, so you have to go somewhere after college,” he said. “I want to become a pastor when I grow up, and Bethel is a great place because they are really grounded in their Bible teachings and going through biblical and theological studies.”

As for his athletic ambitions along with his pastoral ones, Pedersen said another factor that really sold him on attending Bethel University is how the cross country team operates under head coach Joe Stephens.

“I put a lot of emphasis on their team and their atmosphere and how they incorporate Christ and having a good environment where it is fulfilling and beneficial and everyone can improve,” Pedersen said. “Not only athletically and physically but also in relationships and growing in themselves.”

Pedersen has left his mark on the programs he has been involved with at MHS, as his coaches will gladly tell you.

Bobcat head boys track coach Doug Bacon said Pedersen going on to run at the collegiate level is just a great testament to the effort he’s put into his craft while in high school.

“He has done a lot of hard work, I think he’s had personal bests in all three distances this spring and significant drops in the two mile and the mile,” Bacon said. “It’s obvious he put in the work getting ready for the season so it’s really nice to see that pay off and I think the has quite a future ahead of him because he has the work ethic already and he will just continue to get stronger.”

Marshalltown boys cross country coach Chad Pietig said the reason Pedersen has excelled in distance running is because of his obvious desire to improve.

“He has a passion for running, he loves it and he’s not afraid of the work that it takes to be a good runner,” Pietig said. “I think those are his two greatest attributes when it comes to that, he absolutely loves to run and he loves to work.”

Ultimately a love of running is the only reason Pedersen said he is continuing his career, and he values the relationships with teammates and coaches that are built through the sport.

“That’s why I want to continue running as a sport, because that’s the easiest way to find a group of people I can surround myself with and help me improve my running and my love for running,” he said. “If there’s anything I know that Bethel will do, it’s that they will keep nourishing that kind of love I have while larger programs may not do the same.”

Unlike other sports, cross country and distance running isn’t glamorous and even those that run professionally aren’t household names because of their efforts. It is a sport that is propelled primarily by a love for running, and Pietig said he is glad he was to help Pedersen continue to grow that love.

“You are always happy and excited as a coach when your kids still love running,” Pietig said. “The last thing you want to do is kill something that was a big part of their life and they love, so it’s always gratifying when you know they had such a good experience and they don’t want it to end and want to continue it, and he’s perfect for that.”

Bacon said Pedersen is also perfect as a poster child for other kids who want to pursue athletic careers in college but not in the more popular sports.

“Too often people think ‘oh well if you don’t get a scholarship in football or basketball or something there’s nothing out there for you,’ but over the years we have sent a lot of kids off to run in college,” Bacon said. “He’s one in a long line, but it has been a while. It’s just nice to have one every once in a while that decides to go on and is a quality leader for us.”

Pedersen said if he could just leave one thing as a legacy for his time running at MHS, he hopes it’s the way he continued to work and will continue to work to fulfill his dreams for the rest of his days.

“I hope that my teammates will see that, even though you may not feel like you are the best ever there is still a place for you in the future and a place for you to continue to grow,” he said. “I think for me, a motivation when it comes to working hard is knowing that even though it seems like high school is the last place you have to continue going, if you really pursue the colleges and pursue the coaches and really build that desire for what you are doing, then you can continue to improve after high school.”