JESUP - It was supposed to be nearly 70-degrees as the Anamosa cross country team was set to compete at their class 2A state qualifier event in Jesup Thursday, Oct. 22.
Rain, however, was in the forecast as well.
The meteorologists got one thing right, and for the Raider boys, namely sophomore Shea Keister and junior Drew Pate, they’re glad they did.
“What a miserable night for a cross country meet, but what an amazing finish for Shea and Drew,” said Anamosa cross country coach Ken Sunseri, as the pair advanced to the state meet in Fort Dodge after two outstanding pressure-filled performances against a loaded qualifier field.
“I knew both of them were more than capable of doing what they did at the qualifier meet, but it’s an entirely different thing to be able to actually accomplish it. Not only did these two kids do it, but they went out and had the races of their lives.”
Temperatures settled around the high 40s on what turned out to be a muddy track across the Jesup Country Club golf course, and the two Raiders took advantage of the miserable conditions, running in cold, rainy weather and blowing past much of the field with a pair of huge kicks down the stretch.
“As far as Shea goes, I can say I saw that time coming, but to finish second at the qualifier meet going against a field of kids that was loaded with state-ranked runners like this one was, that I can’t say I saw coming,” said Sunseri, as Keister posted a personal-record time of 17-minutes, 8.13-seconds that shaved nearly a minute off his previously best clocking in taking second overall and punching a ticket to the state meet.
“I’ve always felt Shea is a high 16-minute runner all day long, and he just about got there in the biggest meet of his life. His kick down the stretch was absolutely memorable. I yelled at him as he was coming down the home stretch that we needed him to get second if we wanted a shot at making it to the state meet. Of course, I was talking about the team having a shot, and I think we took me literally and went out and out-ran everyone to get second overall. With Tipton’s Caleb Shumaker way out in front all by himself, Shea was with the lead group pack for the entire race running anywhere from seventh to 12th. He made sure to position himself for a shot at making it to the state meet, but not only did he do that, he blew away everyone other than Shumaker.”
Keister not only defeated state ranked runners in Tipton’s Cody Bohlman (ranked 15th) and Ty Nichols (18th), but also North Fayette’s Valley’s Peyton Halverson (23rd) and Jesup’s Nolan Evans (30th).
“Honestly, as amazing as a performance as Shea turned in, I think he’s got more in him,” Sunseri said. “That’s incredible to say after watching what he just did at the qualifier, but I think he has the chance to be even better, and run consistently in the 16’s.”
Pate, a relative unknown in cross country circles coming into the season, made a name for himself with a phenomenal effort in Jesup on his way to an 11th-place effort (top-15 individuals earn state berths) posting a personal-record 17:37.77 clocking that also knocked nearly a full-minute off his previous best and allows him to compete in Fort Dodge with Keister and the rest of the class 2A state field.
“Honestly, when it got colder and with the rain coming down, I liked my chances even better,” Pate said. “I like the non-ideal conditions. I’ve always run better when it’s been colder, and I was able to do that again here. But did I expect to run the way I actually did? No, I didn’t see that coming. I surprised myself.”
Pate was with a pack of nearly eight runners all vying for a top-15 finish, and with a huge kick down the stretch, the Raider junior was able to hold off most of them and punch his ticket to Fort Dodge.
“I wasn’t surprised at all by Drew’s time,” Sunseri said. “I knew he was capable of that and with where he was by mid-race, I knew he had a chance at making it to state, too.”
With Pate’s and Keister’s high finishes, for a fleeting moment Sunseri had hopes of the Anamosa boys’ team qualifying for state as well.
“I will admit, it did cross my mind there for a minute after watching Drew finish 11th,” said Sunseri, as the Raider boys placed a solid seventh overall against the 14-team field scoring 163 points (top-3 teams earn state meet berths).
“I would have loved for both teams to have made it to state, but to be able to get Shea and Drew through is an amazing accomplishment. The future of the Anamosa cross country program is extremely bright. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of something really special.”
Kole Haverly closed his cross country career with a 38th-place performance after crossing the finish line with a time of 18:46.87 while Jack Troester (46th, 19:06.23), Gio Lopez (66th, 19:45.57), Tristan Weers (69th, 20:01.89) and Grayson Weers (72nd, 20:17.09) rounded out the Raider boys’ field.
“I told the kids before the start of the race that this is our weather,” Sunseri said. “I know we have a lot of kids who like weather like we had in Jesup, but the conditions are not suited for everybody.”
Class 2A second-ranked Tipton easily claimed the qualifier team title scoring just 43 points with Schumaker also dominating winning the individual title with a blistering 16:09.29 clocking.
Waukon, ranked 12th in the state, also punched a team ticket to state scoring 100 points while 11th-ranked North Fayette Valley also claimed a state berth with their third-place finish scoring 107 points.
Crestwood (130 points), Jesup (152) and Northeast (155) rounded out the meet’s top-6 teams while Anamosa defeated New Hampton (188), Oelwein (220), Starmont (241), Waterloo Columbus (316), Union (317), Osage (350) and Beckman (356).
“I think Shea has a shot at getting into the top-15 at state and medaling,” Sunseri said. “He’s up there with those elite kind of runners now, and the competition at state is only going to make him and Drew that much better.”
While there was joy on the boys’ side with a pair of state-qualifier performances, there was heartbreak from the Raider girls as the team finished 11th overall scoring 248 points, ending the careers of an extremely special senior class that included Liz Riniker, Lily Rogers and Natalie Hersom.
“My goal was to be in the top-15 and get to state, and it hurts not being able to get that accomplished,” said Riniker, who placed 40th overall posting a time of 22:13.08.
“I started the race okay, but once I got past the one-mile point I felt my muscles tighten up and then the rest of the race just seemed to drag on. I don’t know what happened. The conditions factored into the way I ran, but I guess I choked. This isn’t how I wanted things to end.”
Sunseri wholeheartedly disagreed.
“No way did Liz choke,” he said. “She got out a little faster than she should have, but that can be expected in a big race like this. There’s a lot of adrenaline flowing. She ran a 6:24 first mile when she probably should have been around 6:50, she just wanted to perform so well at this meet, and wanted it so much that the fast start caught up to her pretty quick.
“Liz has nothing to be upset about though, she was a great leader and had a great cross country career.”
Rogers was second on the team and 45th overall coming in with a time of 22:47.19.
“Much like Liz, Lily got out pretty fast too,” Sunseri said. “All three seniors went out fast actually. They were all pretty pumped up and wanted to give it their all.”
Ashlynn Brown was third to cross for the Raider girls and 48th overall coming through with a 22:47.19 clocking while Hersom was 55th in 23:11.27.
Leah Sleep (67th, 24:18.06), Emma Dales (75th, 25:09.98) and Mickala Herrick (89th, 27:41.58) also took to the course for Anamosa.
Third-ranked Tipton topped the girls’ field scoring 54 points while ninth-ranked Starmont (76) and sixth-ranked Jesup (79) also earned team berths to state.
The Raider girls defeated Oelwein (251) and Osage (298).