It’s funny the twists and turns life and take us on when we decide to never give-up on ourselves.
At the start of the cross country season, few, outside of Anamosa coach Ken Sunseri, expected Raider sophomore Shea Keister and junior Drew Pate to qualify for the coveted state meet in Fort Dodge as individuals.
A couple of true diamonds in the rough.
Coming into the qualifier meet after turning in a solid 2020 campaign this past fall, Keister was seen as having a very legitimate chance of advancing and becoming the first Anamosa boy to compete at the state level since Noah Sams and Daniel Miller both did it for the Raiders back in 2016 (Sams actually medaled placing 12th in the loaded 2A race that fall while Miller was 47th).
Pate however, while having an absolutely fantastic breakthrough season transforming himself into one of the Raiders’ top runners in 2020, was thought more to have a shot next season than this.
Well, the time was now for both Keister and Pate, who went out and had one of the boys’ most shocking state qualifier meet performances in recent memory.
Keister was in the hunt all race long going against runners from Tipton, Waukon and North Fayette Valley, just to name a few, placing himself anywhere from the 10-15 range (the top-15 individuals and top-three teams qualify for berths to state) before making one of the biggest kicks to the finish line in school history.
Keister exploded down the stretch and went from about 10th, to second with a personal-record time of 17:08.13, that shattered his old mark by almost a full minute (which was 17:52).
As Keister gasped for air after crossing the finish line ahead of Tipton’s Cody Bohlmann in the pouring rain, he was at a total loss for words as to how he was able to produce a phenomenal finish like that.
“I don’t know, I just gave it all I had there at the end,” he said. “I guess I had a little more left than I thought I was going to have and I was able to pass quite a few runners to the finish.”
Not only did Keister and Pate turn in one of the top dynamic duo performances in Anamosa boys’ qualifier history, but they did it in not exactly ideal conditions on a sloppy course in Jesup.
As the boys’ race started, rain was coming down, not heavily at that point, but it was coming down to the point the course became sloppy making for slippery conditions for runners.
Through all of that, Keister and Pate were still able to shine.
Pate considers himself a better runner in the chilly, and not so ideal conditions, and still his 11th-place 17:37.77 performance at the qualifier came as a total surprise to him.
“Obviously, I was hoping I’d be able to make it to state, but I certainly was expecting it,” he said. “I think the conditions helped me actually. I know there aren’t too many other guys who like to run in the kind of conditions we had Thursday, rainy and cool, and I just took advantage.”
Pate, like Keister, slashed nearly a minute off his personal-record time (which was 18:21), and the two head to Fort Dodge, where they’ll be facing the top runners in the entire state of Iowa, where most-likely we’ll see more personal-record times from both Raider runners.
“My goal is to just go out there and run my best,” said Pate. “There’s no pressure on me. No one thought I could get here so hopefully I can go out and surprise people again at the state level and run another PR there in Fort Dodge.”
Keister defeated four-state-ranked runners in Jesup, and has gone all the way from being a possible state qualifier, to a possible state medalist.
After what I witnessed in the pouring rain in Jesup last Thursday, I certainly wouldn’t bet against Keister and Pate walking away from the state meet with yet another personal-record clocking, and maybe, just maybe, a little bit more than that. It seems like the pair have a flair for the dramatic, and it’ll be fun watching them Saturday morning.