DES MOINES, Iowa — Former North Dakota State track athlete Riley Dolezal finished a centimeter away from his third United States championship in the men's javelin.
In a dramatic finish, Michael Shuey rallied for first place in the event Saturday at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Shuey uncorked a throw of 82.85 meters (271 feet, 10 inches) on the final attempt of the competition at Drake Stadium.
One throw before Shuey's winning effort, Dolezal had surged into the lead with his season-best toss of 82.84 meters (271-9) that ended up being good enough for second place. That was Dolezal's final throw in the competition.
"To see him throw just 1 centimeter more, it was kind of a kick in the shin," said the 33-year-old Dolezal, who is a volunteer track coach at NDSU. "It knocks the wind out of you a little bit."
On his final attempt in the javelin at the USATF Championships, Riley Dolezal uncorked the 2nd-best throw of his life -- 271-9 (82.84m) -- to move into 1st place.
On the very final throw, Michael Shuey threw 271-10 (82.85m). Riley finished 2nd by 1 centimeter. pic.twitter.com/cIEgBZ9OhN
Since the conversion from metric is rounded to even inches in the javelin, Dolezal was less than half an inch from first place. Both Shuey and Dolezal finished just shy of the men's javelin qualifying standard of 83 meters for the IAAF World Championships, which are scheduled to start Sept. 28 in Doha, Qatar.
"I've seen a lot of competitions in my day," said Justin St. Clair, an associated track coach at NDSU who also coaches Dolezal. "Never have a seen a javelin competition within a centimeter."
Dolezal won USATF Outdoor championships in the men's javelin in 2013 and 2017. He has placed in the top three in either the USATF Championships or USA Olympic Trials for seven consecutive years, starting in 2013.
"He's just getting better with age," St. Clair said. "He's healthy, he's strong. I don't see any reason why he needs to slow down."
Dolezal was in third place entering his third and final throw of the finals and sixth overall. He surged into first place with his throw of 82.84 meters, the second-best in his career.
"I felt way more energy going into the throw," said Dolezal, who is from Stanley, N.D. "I felt way more connected."
Shuey responded with his career-best toss that landed 1 centimeter farther.
"It's good to see him throw well, too," Dolezal said of Shuey.
"It's just one of those things. It's bittersweet," St. Clair said of Dolezal getting bumped out of first place by a centimeter on the final throw. "The guy comes back, he did a heck of a job."
Dolezal still has the chance to receive an invitation to the World Championships if he remains among the top 32 performers on the world list this season. He's ranked No. 26 after Saturday's throw.
Regardless if he gets invited to the World Championships, Dolezal is going to keep training. He is slated to compete for the United States in the men's javelin at the USA vs. Europe Match, which is scheduled for Sept. 9-10 in Minsk, Belarus. St. Clair is the U.S. men's throws coach for that event.
Dolezal is optimistic he will receive an invite to the World Championships based off his mark Saturday.
"I think it's fairly high that I would be going," Dolezal said. "If I don't make it, I don't make it."
Dolezal said there was a huge adrenaline rush after he hit that big throw Saturday. Then he watched Shuey pop his big throw moments later and waited for that mark to be posted on the board.
"It always seems like forever when that number comes up there on the board," Dolezal said.
Dolezal is pleased with his performance Saturday, considering he's coming off an Achilles injury in October 2017. Beyond this season, he has aspirations to make the United States team for the 2020 Summer Olympics, set to be hosted in Tokyo.
"Coming back from the injury, it's feeling very good that everything is heading in the right direction," Dolezal said.