FORT DODGE It didn’t hit him until he reached the class 2A state cross country course and saw the mass of runners and fans that engulfed the Lakeside Golf Course in Fort Dodge Saturday, Oct. 31.

      Until that point, Anamosa junior Drew Pate wasn’t the least bit nervous about competing in his first-ever state cross country meet.

      In fact, he was looking forward to the challenge.

      “I wasn’t nervous at all coming into the meet,” said Pate, who pushed his way through the challenging 139-runner class 2A field, and an extremely strong wind, to place 93rd overall with a time of 18-minutes, 57.9-seconds.

      “But when we got there and I saw all the people and runners, I got more and more nervous, and the wind sure didn’t help my cause any either.”

      Gusts were approaching 40-miles-per-hour, and by the time Pate completed his state journey, he felt completely exhausted.

      “The wind made that race extremely challenging,” Pate said. “I didn’t do as well as I had hoped I would, and it was the wind that factored into that. It didn’t seem to matter what direction we were running either, it always seemed like I was running against the wind. Not only was there the mental fatigue, but there was a physical one as well as it seemed like I was running into a brick wall the entire time.”

      Pate came into the race with a goal of finishing with a time around 17:30, but with everything he faced he wound up well off that personal-record pace.

      “That time would have been seven-seconds faster than my qualifier time, but it was just so hard facing that kind of wind. I know we all had to do it, but I really struggled with it. That, and the competition here at state was like nothing I’ve ever faced either. All-in-all though, this was a good learning experience.”

      Anamosa cross country coach Ken Sunseri was proud of his star junior.

      “Drew put in the effort this year and it paid off with a state meet appearance no one thought was possible,” he said. “I saw Drew’s potential after about our second practice this past summer. Drew has a future in this sport, and the good news is, like Shea, he’s going to work at it to get even better.

      “Like Drew, I saw him better than 93rd in the individual standings coming into this state meet race, but I still thought he ran quite well. The goal all year long was to get to state. Now that he got here, we had to quickly set an entirely new goal, and now we’ve got a state foundation that Drew can build off of and move forward. I know when he gets back here next year, he’ll most likely make one of the biggest jumps of any runner, and it will be great to watch.”

      Pate would also like to bring some teammates with him next fall as well.

      “Next year I’m going to push myself even harder and hopefully we can get the entire team here to state too,” he said. “I know I’ve got more in me to be even better next year. No one thought I could do what I did this year, and now that there is an expectation, I want to make sure I can go out and meet it. Coming into this meet I didn’t really have a particular place in mind. Coach thought middle of the pack would have been good for me, and I didn’t quite get there.

      “Overall, I can walk away from this state meet as a positive experience. It was my first time here and I learned a lot. Next year I’ll have a better understanding of the course and just be more comfortable with the entire environment.”

      Pate is also going to work tirelessly in the off-season to make sure he improves upon his 2020 standing.

      “That’s the plan,” he said. “That state competition was the toughest I’ve ever faced, and now I know what that feels like and can be more prepared as I get ready to work to try and make it back here in 2021. I worked hard leading into this year, now I’ve got to work even harder. That’s the only way I’m going to get better.”

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