State Track: Running rivals now close friends
ST. PAUL - Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd's Keiser Freetly and Montevideo's Kurt TeBeest didn't always get along. It just seems like it.
"I remember when I was younger I just knew of this 'TeBeest kid' and I wasn't too happy about how fast he ran," said Freetly, a junior, who ran with TeBeest and other local athletes at the Minnesota State Track and Field Championships on Saturday at Hamline University.
"That didn't last long, though," Freetly said. "I wanted to be as fast as him so he pushed me to get better. We grew up running together."
TeBeest, a senior, remembers that time as well.
"Early on I thought this kid was out to get me," TeBeest said. "I didn't like it but then I got to know him and I realized what a good guy he is. He motivated me. It became more like we're a team. We compete against each other but we work together."
Throughout their high school careers, the duo have consistently outpaced their competition in the 800 meter and 1,600 meter runs. Their times in those races are often among the state's best but until Saturday they had never competed at the Class A state meet together. That changed this weekend.
TeBeest made his fourth appearance at the state meet but Freetly encountered troubles in past section meets. In 2016, Freetly appeared ready to clinch a spot in the state meet but was tripped just prior to reaching the finish line.
"I felt bad for him last year," TeBeest said. "I'm always rooting for him so this year I knew we had to get him here."
The pair work on race plans together and their coaches email each other to develop practice plans as well. They'll even talk before races about how they want to run.
"I don't like to lead right away so I'll always try to let him get out in front early," TeBeest said. "Sometimes we'll just look at each other during the race to see what the other is going to do. It's helped me grow into the way I race."
Freetly, at times, gladly takes the lead. He did so in his first finals race at the state meet Saturday in the 1,600 meter run and led for more than a lap. He took 16th place in that event but bounced back in his final event of the day.
Freetly was bunched up at the front with just meters to go in the 800 meter race when he saw Mora's John Schwinghamer stagger and fall. In the process, Pine Island's Jack Williams also fell but Freetly, who was directly behind Williams, avoided the fall and finished in second place.
"I saw him start to sway and it reminded me of last year (at the section meet) so I was ready for it," Freetly said.
Benson/KMS' Jonathan Tostenson and TeBeest were also just behind and finished in third and fourth place, respectively.
The 800 meter race also marked the end of the running partnership that has propelled TeBeest and Freetly to a strong friendship and stellar careers. TeBeest recently graduated from Montevideo and is heading to Drake University while Freetly will return for his senior year.
"It's going to be tougher without him," Freetly said. "We pace each other and he's somebody I always push myself to compete with. It won't be the same without him."
TeBeest, however, thinks Freetly will be just fine.
"He's a great runner," TeBeest said. "I'll keep pushing him but from a distance. We'll make sure he gets back here and I'll be here with him, just in the stands."