FORT DODGE - Bursting onto the scene with an outstanding qualifier performance in the rain and cold just a week earlier, Anamosa sophomore Shea Keister came into his first-ever state cross country meet Saturday, Oct. 31, with some pretty lofty goals.
But, much like in Jesup a week earlier, Keister, and the rest of the class 2A boys’ state field, had to face some pretty intense weather.
“We had to deal with the rain and the cold last week at the qualifier and the this time we had to deal with a very strong wind at the state meet,” said Keister, who battled those intense gusts that reached up to 40-miles-per-hour Saturday morning, and turned in a solid 22nd-place finish crossing in 17-minutes, 46.9-seconds.
“Coming in I had hopes of being All-State and making the top-15 and medaling. I was close, only seven places away, but unlike last week at the qualifier I didn’t have that big kick at the end. The wind just tired me out and made that last part of the race very tough. Normally, I can make a move and beat a few people to the finish line, but that just didn’t happen this time.”
While Keister was disappointed with his finish, his Coach Ken Sunseri was extremely pleased with the outcome.
“Competing in a state meet for the first time can be overwhelming for anyone,” Sunseri said. “This was the greatest competition Shea has ever faced and I thought he went out and battled the best he possibly could. He got good experience of what the state meet is all about and next year will come back and be able to use that experience.”
While weather factored into each of Keister’s final two races in 2020, he liked the rain and cold at the qualifier more than running against the wind at state.
“No doubt about it,” Keister said. “The cold numbs you a little and I like that a lot better than trying to run against the wind. I needed to try and do a better job of running behind people, and for a good chunk of the race I wasn’t able to do that.”
Though Keister was boxed in for a short stretch of the race as well, that cost him key seconds he was still able to turn in a top-25 performance.
“I didn’t anticipate how hard the hills were going to be at state,” Keister said. “That, and I got stuck in a group behind the top-15 and that cost me some time. If I could have gotten out of that a little quicker, maybe I have enough time to make up those seven spots and get into the top-15.
“Next year, I won’t make the same mistakes, and hopefully it won’t be as windy either.”
Keister, ranked 14th in the final Iowa Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches class 2A rankings, plans on working often this off-season to make his goals for 2021 come true.
“I’ll take a break right now and let my legs rest, and then start running the halls at school this winter,” Keister said. “This spring I’ll run track and then next summer I’ll get back outside and run even more so I can be as ready as I can possibly be for the start of the 2021 season.”
Sunseri will have a plan in place for Keister as well.
“Shea’s a legitimate talent, and he’s got the work-ethic to go with that talent,” Sunseri said. “We’ll make sure he comes into the 2021 cross country season in shape and ready to go and make a run for a state title.
“Shea has come so far so quickly that now we’re not just talking about making the state meet, I think he’s got the talent to win it. We’ll just have to see what pans out in the next year, but it’s going to be a run ride. Shea is only a sophomore, so he’s going to keep getting stronger and more experienced. I’m very happy with how he competed at this state meet against the people he ran with. Next year we’ll get even more strategic and detailed. We all felt Shea had the opportunity to medal at this meet, but we also knew everything had to go exactly to plan for that to happen. There were a few bumps along the way and the wind obviously had an effect on him, but this is just the beginning for Shea. He’s got a lot of great days ahead of him.”
Tipton’s Caleb Schumacher claimed the class 2A boys’ individual championship blowing away the field with a 16:13.2 clocking that won the event by 37-seconds over Danville-New London’s Ty Carr (16:50.1).
Danville-New London tallied a score of 64 points to top the 2A team field while Tipton (86 points) was second and Des Moines Christian (95) third.
“I know it’s a goal for Shea and Drew to get their teammates to Fort Dodge with them next year,” Sunseri said. “We would love to be able to qualify as a team in 2021 and keep building this program. We took two big steps this fall with Shea and Drew getting here, and we want to continue taking steps in the right direction.”