There came a point when pest became prodigy.
In turn, former prep stars became like proud papas. Or brothers, at least.
JD Gieson is one of four Dixon Dukes who will compete at the 2A state track meet this week. Just a sophomore, he's not only sizing up the field in Charleston in the long jump and 300-meter hurdles.
Already in ownership of the freshman and sophomore class records in the latter event, he's bent on breaking Ricky Laskowski's overall school record of 38.82, which earned the then-Dixon senior third place at state in 2010.
"I hope he does break it," said Laskowski, who recently completed his training in the National Guard after his first three semesters at Valparaiso. "I know that he can break it. I'm just waiting for him to do it. I wish I could help him train to do it."
Laskowski's rooting interest goes beyond Dixon pride. About 8 years ago, his family moved into the Giesons' neighborhood. He didn't get to know the prodigy quite as well as Scott Goad, who grew up in the house right next door to the Giesons.
"He was a little pest when he was really little, always trying to hang out with us," said Goad, who dropped by Dukes practice Tuesday after his orientation shift for his internship with KSB, fresh out of his first year at Drake. "I think that's what really helped him. We gave him a hard time. That kind of toughened him up."
"I always got beaten up in games," Gieson interrupted.
"No mercy," Goad followed.
Already one of the most beloved athletes in Dixon history – along with his older brother, David – Goad's legend continues to grow. He helped the Bulldogs to the 1,600 relay title at the Missouri Valley Conference meet May 12. He says next year, he's training for the decathlon.
Meanwhile, back on the homefront, Gieson's filling in Goad's cleats nicely, having taken over at the helm in football. Goad helped a relay make state his sophomore and junior years before first making state individually in the high jump – and placing second – as a senior.
Gieson will try to do something this week that Goad couldn't do until he was a senior: compete in Day 2 of the state meet.
Goad first realized Gieson's potential to pull off such a feat when he was in eighth grade and the prodigy entered middle school.
"At that point, it was like, 'He's almost keeping up. He's got potential.' When he was going through Junior Dukes, I knew right away that he was going to do something special in high school," Goad said.
Goad keeps tabs on his beloved Dukes with Twitter, and admits he beams with pride when he sees what Gieson's accomplished.
"He was under my wing, then he's playing my positions," Goad said. "It makes me feel good that I had an impact."
As for Gieson, he realized he'd made it when he was no longer pulling on the neighborhood kids' coattails.
"At a point when I was really young, I felt like the third wheel, hanging out and hanging on the edge," Gieson said. "Then, suddenly, they'd get back to me and ask if I wanted to do certain things. It wasn't me asking them. It was them asking me."
Gieson says being the only kid a few years younger than the rest of the guys benefitted him.
"It's different when I actually get to compete against kids my own age," Gieson said. "I'm not used to it, but next year, I'll feel more like I'm their age."
That sort of indoctrination explains why Gieson has such a commanding presence, whether on the infield or in the huddle. And, after skipping hoops this year to focus on training for the indoor season, he's eager to both lift and play hoops as a junior, something that undoubtedly puts a smile on boys hoops coach Jason Mead's face.
But first things first, Gieson stares down the last challenge of his sophomore year: life in the fast lane at Charleston. Laskowski has one piece of advice for his pursuer.
"Just leave it all out there," he said. "No sense in getting nervous and not trying your hardest."
Put up your Dukes
Dixon athletes in state field
Name Year Event Sectional mark State seed
Simon Thorpe Jr. 3,200 9:30.09 4th
Reid Deets Jr. 200 22.54 18
JD Gieson So. Long jump 21 feet, 7 inches (t-1st) 14
JD Gieson So. 300 hurdles 39.95 13