Kostelnik goes as far as he can

NORWALK — James Kostelnik of Loyola High is no stranger to adversity.

In fact, throughout the final year of his decorated prep career, it seems to have latched on to the Glendale resident with no intent of letting go.

But what has set Kostelnik apart is the will, determination and spirit he has displayed when faced with that adversity.

The Duke University-bound senior faced his latest bout of adversity at Friday night's CIF Southern Section Masters Meet at Cerritos College in Norwalk.

He had his season come to an abrupt end, as he finished eighth in the 1,600 meters in a time of 4 minutes 18.11 seconds. His time came up short of the 4:14.96 needed to qualify for next week's CIF State Track and Field Championships.

“I'm not gonna lie, I'm pretty disappointed,” Kostelnik said “I was hurt in the beginning of the season. Last year I made state in the two mile so I wanted to do the two mile here, that didn't happen either. I just feel like things didn't really go my way this season.”

If all had gone according to plan, Kostelnik wouldn't even have been running in the 1,600 on Friday.

His plan was to qualify for the 1,600 and the 3,200, the event he qualified for state in last year, at last weekend's CIF Divisional Finals and then focus strictly on the two mile for state.

But after running in the scorching temperatures at the division finals, Kostelnik was overcome with exhaustion and dehydration.

He could barely stand in between races, but still made it back to the track for the start of the 3,200, since his team was in a battle for the team points championship.

“The paramedics said I probably shouldn't run,” Kostelnik said.

The race began, but Kostelnik was clearly not himself and was forced to pull out of the race early, ending his shot at a return trip to state in his signature event.

The fact that he even attempted to run the 3,200 left quite the impression on his coach.

“He's a team guy,” Loyola Coach Mike Porterfield said. “You couldn't ask for a better kid. Big heart, you saw what he did last week. And he recovered from that and gave it his all tonight.”

The year began inauspiciously for Kostelnik, as a leg injury slowed his start to the track season.

But he was able to battle back to take home 1,600 and 3,200 Mission League championships, setting up another run at state.

Throughout the season, it seemed that no obstacle was too big for Kostelnik to overcome.

“That's the thing, you get disappointed and stuff, but I do everything I can and I run as hard as I can every time,” said Kostelnik, who helped lead the Cubs to the Division II state cross-country championship in the fall, while finishing 13th individually. “It's kind of like I have no regrets with it. I love the sport and if things don't go your way there's not much you can do except run your best and do everything as well as you can.”

Despite all the misfortune that was put in front of him this year, when it came to race time, Kostelnik left everything he had on the track.

And in the process, he established himself in his stellar four-year career as one of the top distance runners the Southern Section has to offer.

“He is a great competitor, but more than that, a great kid,” Porterfield said.


?DYLAN KRUSE covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3252 or dylan.kruse@latimes.com.

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