This question is an opinion question that can be left up to individual reader interpretation. Jess desperately wants to win the school running race because he believes that it will make his father proud and gain him friends.
Jess pumped his arms harder and bent his head for the distant fence. He could hear the third-grade boys screaming him on. They would follow him around like a country-music star. And May Belle would pop her buttons. Her brother was the fastest, the best. That ought to give the rest of the first grade something to chew their cuds on.
Even his dad would be proud.
It is entirely possible that winning the race earns Jess friends and his father's pride. It is also entirely possible that it does neither. The kids in school might turn hostile and work against Jess rather than become his friend. If I had to hazard a guess, I think winning the race would earn him friends. Sports have a way of bringing people together. From my own experiences in track and cross country, competing well against teammates and opponents from other schools gained me friends because of the mutual respect we shared with each other for putting ourselves through the same types of races. Jess isn't new to the school races. He is well known, and the kids know that he's quite fast.
One time last year Jesse had won. Not just the first heat but the whole shebang. Only once. But it had put into his mouth a taste for winning.
Winning the race wouldn't be a huge surprise to everybody, and I think Jess would gain friends that want to know how he did it. Those people might not initially be deep friends, but they could become that.