Eric Peterson, Published June 24 2013
Sports switch paying dividends for DalezalFargo - During his senior year of high school in Stanley, N.D., Riley Dolezal had committed to play football and baseball at a small NAIA college.
During that spring, Dolezal had a change of heart that now has him headed to a world stage nine years later.
“That’s one that I have never really looked back on,” said Dolezal, who ended up at North Dakota State for track and field from 2005-09.
The decision to throw javelin, instead of play quarterback, turned out well for Dolezal, who is now 27 years old.
The small-town kid had a big-time performance at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Dolezal won the men’s javelin competition on Sunday. His winning throw was 273 feet, 11 inches, earned him the chance to represent the United States in the World Championships, which are set for August in Moscow.
“Now we’ll find out how good his Russian is,” joked NDSU men’s track coach Don Larson, Dolezal’s college head coach.
About 24 hours after winning the United States championship, Dolezal admitted he was still in disbelief. His winning throw Sunday was more than 30 feet better than his previous best heading into the USA Championships.
He was seeded 14th entering the competition.
“I was confident that I could throw far, but not expecting to be at that level,” Dolezal said.
NDSU assistant track coach Justin St. Clair, who has coached Dolezal the past couple years, had faith in his student.
St. Clair told Dolezal in the buildup to the national meet that an 80-meter throw was possible.
“I knew he could throw 80 meters,” St. Clair said. “I just didn’t if or when it would happen. Luckily … it happened on the most important day.”
Dolezal plans to train for the next couple of months and not compete in any meets before the World Championships.
On his way back from the U.S. Championships, which were in Des Moines, Iowa, Dolezal received a call from his roommate.
During the call, Dolezal was reminded that he set the background on his computer to the stadium where the worlds are being held.
Dolezal said he changed the image last fall and it proved to be prophetic.
“I was just kind of joking around at first,” Dolezal said.
His performance Sunday was nothing to laugh at. His rise to a U.S national title is more impressive when you consider there was a time when Dolezal thought his throwing career may be over.
He hurt his elbow early in his senior season at NDSU in 2009, and had Tommy John surgery.
“I never thought I would come back around this far,” Dolezal said.
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