SARASOTA -- Canaan Meester-Kitterman went to bed at nine o’clock Friday night so he would be well rested for Saturday’s Manasota Track Club Invitational Cross Country meet.
He tossed and turned and couldn’t fall asleep as he went over the McIntosh Middle School course in his mind. The Bayshore High sophomore had already won two big invitationals, but he saw this race as special.
“All the top dogs were in it. That gets my adrenalin going and I wanted to do well. I knew a lot of the people in the race,” he said.
Meester-Kitterman is on the modest side, but he might want to include himself in that “top dog” category.
Showing a late burst of speed down the last forty meters, Meester-Kitterman raced to the finish line ahead of more than 100 participants to capture the event. He finished the 3.1 mile race in 16 minutes and 48.31 seconds edging Brendan Shearman, of Fort Myers, who crossed the line in 16:49.35
“I knew there was real good competition here and I would’ve been happy to finish in the top 10,” Meester-Kitterman said. “I love this course with all the turns and the woods. It makes the course so much more difficult, but I like hard courses because of the challenge.”
Meester-Kitterman surprised a lot of people when he won the Venice Invitational to open the season. He also won the Lemon Bay Invitational and was a top four finisher at the North Port Invitational. He rates this race as his biggest triumph.
“This one means the most because I know so many people and all the top runners were here,” he said. “We’ve got Sarasota kids, those guys are monsters, we’ve got Lakewood Ranch, those guys are amazing and Fort Myers and those guys are great. When I get in a race like this my adrenalin sky-rockets.”
Meester-Kitterman ran the first mile at about 5:40, which he considers slow for himself. He turned on what he calls his track speed for the last two miles and then turned on his jets down the last 100 meters.
“I get extremely tired, but you’ve got to push through it,” he said. “I didn’t get the lead until the last sprint and only got him by a second. I had to use an extra gear to beat him. He is a super fast kid. The only thing I was thinking is that he is there and I am here and I’ve got to beat him.”
The next highest finishers in the boys competition from Manatee County were Lakewood Ranch’s Evan Dipsiner (18:01.1) who placed 19th overall and Evan Amato (18:02.99 for 20th place) from Saint Stephens.
Meester-Kitterman is still a long way from his goal of getting his time down to about 16:00 and will get a big test next Saturday when he runs in the Elite Division of the pre-state meet.
“You put so much into this, getting up ridiculously early and it was extremely hard to fall asleep last night,” he said. “This morning I just loaded up on carbs with fruit and granola bars. Always I have a hard time sleeping the night before a race with all that anticipation. It’s hard going to sleep, but once I do I sleep like a baby.”
Lakewood Ranch was the top team in the boys standings, finishing fourth with 156 points far behind winner Fort Myers (50). The rest of the Manatee County boys standings were: St. Stephens (9th), Bayshore (12th), Southeast (16th), Braden River (20th) and Palmetto (21st). Out-of-Door Academy placed 18th.
Manatee County’s top performer among the girls was Saint Stephens’ Hannah Howell, who placed 12th with a time of 21:23.30. Cardinal Mooney’s Grace Casagrande was 16th (21:35.48). The only other county girl in the top 30 was Braden River’s Alexis Cullen (23d with a time of 22:00.97).
Sarasota Riverview won the girls meet (61 points). Saint Stephens was the top team from Manatee County finishing 11th. ODA was 10th, Braden River 13th and Southeast 15th.