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Fieldcrest senior Zach Alden (second from left) and classmate Brandon Pongracz (third from right) talk with coaches and teammates Saturday before the Princeton Invitational. The friends are battling to be Fieldcrest’s valedictorian. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
Turns out at Fieldcrest High School, great minds run together.
This year’s Knights cross country team has two seniors battling it out to be class valedictorian as they also battle the elements, competition and themselves during the cross country season.
With matching weighted grade point averages of 4.22 (extra points are given for honors classes), both Zach Alden and Brandon Pongracz have had flawless academic careers during their four years at Fieldcrest and are in the running to be the top student of the Class of 2014.
While the duo has had already had plenty of friendly competition — and helped each other along — during their time in the classroom at FHS, the two friends have joined forces this fall on the cross country team after Pongracz, a team captain for the Knights, extended an invitation to Alden to join the squad over the summer.
“We only had four varsity runners and we needed a fifth person to field a full team. I knew Zach ran during the summer and I thought he might like the sport and want to go out,” Pongracz said.
Alden accepted, and not only did Pongracz get the Knights a full five-man running squad this season, he gained a teammate who could relate to the rigorous demands of balancing honors classes and distance running.
“A lot of time we talk about classes and everything we are doing. It’s nice to have somebody to talk to about that stuff and they’re not really lost,” said Pongracz, who counts math as his favorite subject in school.
Alden agreed that sharing honors classes along with cross country helped both students deal with the demands.
“It helps because it’s not just one person saying ‘Oh, I have a lot of homework to do,’ you’ve got someone that’s in the same boat as you,” Alden said.
Both students stress that while they are in engaged in a friendly competition to be valedictorian, they both want the other to succeed in the classroom.
“We don’t want to crush each other. We actually help each other out surprisingly, even though we compete for the same thing. We’re lab partners and we take a lot of classes together. We help each other out in all subjects,” Alden said.
The race to be to top student is more about learning than competition, Pongracz said.
“It’s not really a big competition, because we’re both friends and both want the best for each other,” Pongracz said.
Alden, who one day hopes to be a bio-engineer, said he’s glad his lab partner asked him to sign up for cross country this fall.
“I’ve been loving it. I’m more happy than I ever thought I could be,” Alden said. “Brandon’s been pushing me as well. It’s just been a great experience.
“I’m looking back right now, and I’m glad I did it. I wish I would have done it when I was a freshman in all honesty.”
Alden looks to have an advantage in the race to be Fieldcrest’s top student this spring — it turns out he’s enrolled in one more honors class than his friend and teammate.
Pongracz, who does hold an advantage come race day as the Knights’ No. 2 runner, doesn’t mind.
After all, friends just want what’s best for one another.
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.
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