FORT DODGE — Coming down the final straightaway hill toward the finish line, Northeast’s Eli Kaczinski felt a little help on his final push for a top-10 finish Saturday at the Iowa Class 2A boys cross country state meet.
“Right there in that moment I was kind of thinking about who I’m running for; I’m running for Jesus, and I think that’s what helped me,” he said. “I knew how bad I wanted it, too, and I think he just carried me through the last part of it.”
After passing Albia’s Colton Dorpinghaus, Kaczinski won a foot race to the finish against Haile Duden of Sioux Center and captured ninth place in the 5,000-meter race, his best finish in four trips to the state course at Kennedy Park.
Led by Kaczinski, the Rebels placed eighth in the team race with 215 points.
Kaczinski maintained a spot around the 10th-place mark the entire race. He said he went out faster than he wanted to — in part not to get boxed in behind traffic with 128 runners in the field — then found a pace he liked.
“There’s going to be all sorts of people who are going out really fast, so you need to make sure you know your competition and know who’s going to be able to maintain that fast speed throughout the race,” he said. “Probably at the one-mile mark, that’s where everyone starts getting in their place, and after that it’s kind of every man for themselves. After the one-mile mark, I think that’s where people really start to settle in.
“I wanted to hang on with the lead pack as long as possible, but once the race actually started, then I just knew I needed to stay as close to them and maintain as much contact as I can with them.”