Peter Kesting remembers in great detail running in the Fort Steilacoom Invitational two years ago as a freshman.
Breaking from the start in tight quarters surrounded by a couple hundred other cross-country runners, Kesting caught a few elbows before being slowed behind a wall of traffic.
“You don’t have much room. You probably have a 2-foot-by-2-foot area before the start, so not much space,” the Olympia High School junior said. “Someone fell right after we started causing everyone to be pushed together even more. It was crazy, just hectic. It was definitely my first introduction into what running in a big cross-country meet is like.”
Kesting emerged from the race with one key piece of cross-country knowledge – don’t be bashful at the start.
Kesting applied that thinking to his performance Saturday, taking control of the field early in the 5,000-meter race before winning in stellar fashion at the 16th annual Fort Steilacoom Invite at Fort Steilacoom State Park in Lakewood.
“He’s a force to be reckoned with,” Olympia coach Jesse Stevick said about Kesting. “He put in a ton of work this summer, and it’s now starting to pay off for him.”
Kesting’s time of 15 minutes, 36.4 seconds was tops among the 440 participants and a personal best. It was also the fifth fastest in meet history. Central Kitsap’s Shane Moskowitz, who now competes for Oklahoma State, set the meet mark of 15:09.6 in 2009.
“It felt great being here,” said Kesting, who finished fifth at last year’s meet. “There’s always great competition here. You know you’re going to get pushed.”
Roosevelt’s Adam Houston (15:43.3) finished second and Richland’s Michael Williams (15:46.4) was third, while Eisenhower’s Drew Schreiber (15:52.9) got up for fourth and Bothell’s Charlie Barringer (15:53.4) was fifth.
“Right before the start of the race one of my teammates pointed out Michael Williams from Richland was here,” Kesting said. “I didn’t know he was going to be here so I changed my strategy at the last second. I decided to run with Barringer that first mile and see what kind of shape he was in.”
Barringer and Kesting finished 19th and 20th, respectively, at last year’s 4A state meet, less than a second apart.
Little separated them during the early stages in their most recent matchup.
“At the top of the first hill, he was still right there with me and we had opened up a huge gap and were still cruising,” Kesting said. “I was able to open up a little bit of a gap at 2 miles. My kick came a little earlier than I wanted today, but I felt comfortable. I wasn’t sure how far in front I was towards the end. I thought I had a second or so lead because I could still hear people behind me so I just picked it up.”
Tahoma’s Tristan Houser was 13th at 16:14.4.
Richland junior Lindsey Bradley dominated the girls race in 18:04.4 – the second-fastest time in meet history and more than 18 seconds ahead of runner-up Megan LeGresley of Redmond.
Central Kitsap’s Rose Christen (18:28.4) finished third.
Tahoma’s Delaney Tiernan was 10th in 19:13.5.
A total of 66 schools from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia participated in the meet, which was broken down into multiple varsity and junior varsity flights.
“When we started this we had 350 runners. Today, when you add in the youth and community runners we are going to be right around 3,000,” Lakes cross country coach and meet director Joe Clark said. “(The event setup) is mind numbing. But the thing is we have so much support here. Everyone does such a fantastic job pulling this off.”