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John Dressel, left, poses with his father, cross country coach Alex Dressel, center, and younger brother, Hayden. (Jesse Tinsley)

Dressel brothers choose to continue family’s long-distance love affair

John Dressel was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Should he focus on soccer or follow in family footsteps and become a distance runner?

After placing second at the 3A state cross country race last year as a sophomore and placing twice in track, including second behind North Central’s Tanner Anderson in the 3,200 meters, you can probably guess which path the Mt. Spokane star chose.

“I was involved in soccer all the way through eighth grade,” said Dressel. “Dad is a runner and Aunt Lisa is a runner so the genes were there.”

Soccer and cross country, it turned out, proved symbiotic. The endurance gained in soccer transferred seamlessly to the family business. But it took awhile to decide between the two.

“I started thinking outside the box and realized how much farther I could go with running,” Dressel said. “It was hard considering the time I played soccer and I do miss it. At the same time with what I’ve accomplished, running was the better option.”

It delighted his dad, Mt. Spokane cross country coach Alex Dressel, who had seen the passion with which John and his freshman brother Hayden attacked soccer and knew they’d succeed in whichever they chose.

“Am I glad they chose (distance running)?” Alex said. “Absolutely. I was silently doing back flips when they made the decision.”

Hayden will also run at state as part of the qualifying team that joins defending champion North Central. He said at first it was intimidating chasing his older brother.

“I was kind of leery, I guess,” Hayden said. “But once I started getting experience I kind of figured it out. Now I just run for myself and don’t worry about Johnny’s old times.”

Alex said it had taken him a while before the light turned on and the Shadle Park graduate parlayed distance running into a college career at Arkansas. In 1987-88 his sister won three high school state distance track titles and was second in cross country.

The light turned on quicker for John who finished 13th in state cross country as a freshman and was runner-up to Seattle Prep’s Joe Hardy for the title last year. The two square off again Saturday, along with three other Greater Spokane League title aspirants, NC’s Anderson among them.

“Last year was kind of a surprise,” John said. “My freshman track season I remember talking about cross country goals and was like, ‘I think it would be nice to go to nationals.’ It wasn’t a target it was something in the back of my head.

“Making the Foot Locker was one of the best trips I’ve ever had.”

John, said Alex, is easy to coach. He loves what he does, is self motivated and has a burning passion within him to succeed.

“He loves to work hard at what he does and has definitely seen the fruits of his labors this past year,” Alex said. “I wish I could bottle and sell it.”

But in talking with John you get the sense that there is something more to distance running than him.

“For me it’s just getting the team to state. It will be interesting to see how they come along,” he said. “As long I give an honest effort, that’s all that matters.”