Riley Dolezal was beginning to think about the next phase of life.
The javelin thrower from Stanley was substitute teaching to allow for a flexible training schedule. But, at age 27 and seemingly just outside the core group of the United States' top javelin throwers, Dolezal considered finding a full-time teaching job and beginning the transition to his post-athletic career.
Then came The Heave.
Stanley native and former North Dakota State thrower Riley Dolezal, shown here at the USA Outdoor Championships in June, will compete in the World Championships in Moscow next week. Photo courtesy of Kyle Huegel/NDSU athletics.
Dolezal crushed his personal best by more than 21 feet at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in June, winning the event with a mark of 83.50 meters (273 feet, 11 inches). The throw matched the world "A" standard and gave Dolezal automatic qualification to represent the U.S. at the World Championships beginning in Moscow next week.
Instead of finding a job, Dolezal found an agent.
"I was about ready to look for full-time jobs and get everything going and start a different part of life," said Dolezal, who left for Moscow on Sunday. "But I'll take this for now."
Dolezal's agent, Karen Locke of the Elite Athletes Network, is helping him gain sponsors and schedule more meets in Europe following the World Championships.
Dolezal - who finished 17th at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials and didn't advance to the finals - is set on a run at the 2016 Olympics. A solid performance in Moscow could give Dolezal valuable big-meet experience, and the former North Dakota State thrower is eager to prove his massive mark at the USA Championships wasn't an aberration.
"There's a little bit of pressure through that," he said. "You don't want to go out there and look like a fluke or anything like that. The way the throws have been going, they're all going the same spot or farther in practice, so I think I'll be able to hit those."
Qualification for the men's javelin is on Aug. 15, with the top 12 athletes advancing to throw again on Aug. 17. After three attempts, the field will be cut once more to the final eight throwers.
Justin St. Clair, Dolezal's coach, said his student isn't expecting to set another personal best, adding that a throw of 80-81 meters should be sufficient to advance to the finals. Seventeen athletes have thrown further than Dolezal's 83.50 meters this year. Dmitri Tarabin of Russia holds 2013's top mark of 88.84 meters.
"That's our goal is to make finals," St. Clair said. "I think if Riley just goes and lets it happen, he'll throw over 80 meters."
Letting it happen shouldn't be an issue for Dolezal, an athlete described by St. Clair as a "laid-back, easygoing guy."
"I threw javelin myself so I understand the pressure of the big meet and what it feels like," St. Clair said. "He stays very calm and very relaxed, just like it's an everyday thing. That really helps alleviate some of those stressors that come with a big meet."
Both athlete and coach said Dolezal's current training level is ahead of where it was entering the USA Championships. Although neither puts much stock in practice throws - which are attempted with lighter javelins in order to focus on technique - they said Dolezal is throwing further than he was leading up to the U.S. meet.
Dolezal is confident in the work he has put in leading up to the biggest event of his life, and hopes his relaxed approach yields another career-boosting heave.
"I hit the 'A' standard to get in, but that was one throw," he said. "There's not always that pressure to hit that throw and get those marks. Hopefully it'll work out just like it did at U.S. Champs."
Daniel Allar reports on Minot State University athletics and assists with high school coverage. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.