BRADENTON -- Canaan Meester-Kitterman would be the first to admit it: This fall, he has something to prove.
Meester-Kitterman seemed to come out of nowhere last year as a sophomore, rolling to county and district championships, among others, en route to earning a state berth.
Now a junior year at Bayshore, Meester-Kitterman is out to prove 2011 wasn't a fluke.
He's off to a good start.
Meester-Kitterman took first in the boys race during Saturday's Bradenton Runners Club Invitational at G.T. Bray park, finishing in 16 minutes, 27 seconds, to beat Sarasota's Courtland Bernard (16:32) a week after winning the Lemon Bay Invitational for the second straight year.
"I think a lot of people believe I'm just a sophomore who had a really good season and I'm going to die out," Meester-Kitterman said. "And I don't want that to happen."
By the end of last season, Meester-Kitterman was running two minutes better than he was a freshman, an improvement he attributes to the hard work he did over the summer.
He said he worked twice as hard this year, incorporating upper-body workouts into his regimen, and still goes to the gym twice a week.
"Lots of push-ups ... lots of crunches," Meester-Kitterman said.
After crossing the finish line Saturday, Meester-Kitterman waited for Bernard, and the two shared a handshake and a hug.
"It's his senior year," Meester-Kitterman said. "Me winning is great for me, but it kind of dampens my mood on things knowing it's his last year and I won't be running with a really cool kid anymore. ... I saw him in races and I was like, 'Holy cow, that kid's awesome. I hope I can be like that.' And here I am, competing with him."
Sarasota won the boys title with 31 points. Manatee, the meet host, place third out of 11 teams with 113 points. Leading the Hurricanes was Phil Rottes, who was 12th (18:03), and Anthony Scott, who finished 18th (18:31).
Out-of-Door Academy's Peter Runge took ninth (17:53), and Braden River's Matthew McFall was 10th (17:57).
It was an area sweep at the top as Cardinal Mooney's Grace Casagrande won the girls race with a time of 21:25.
A junior, Casagrande missed last week's meet at Lemon Bay because of a knee injury. Back to 100 percent Saturday, Casagrande defeated Riverview's Patricia Lewis by nearly five seconds.
"I like this trail a lot," Casagrande said. "It felt real good."
Riverview took first (36 points), and Braden River paced area girls teams by placing third (87 points).
Leading the Pirates' charge was Alexis Cullen, who placed third (21:37), and Madison Daunt, who was fifth (22:22).
Out-of-Door Academy's Carling Landeche was seventh (22:42).
Southeast was fourth with 117 points and received a 12th-place finish from Zoe Hawkins-Smyk (23:05).