Relaxed and ready, Josh Pestka ran the best race of his life Saturday, and the St. Ambrose junior was rewarded with a runner-up finish in the 1,000-meter run at the NAIA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
The Fighting Bees’ middle distance runner, a former North Scott prep, came from the back of the pack during the final lap to run a personal best of 2 minutes, 28.32 seconds in the championship race at the Sanford Jackrabbits Athletic Complex in Brookings, S.D.
"I knew if I could stay in contention, that I would give myself a chance at the end," Pestka said. "When we got to the bell lap, I was still there, at the back of the pack but close enough to make a move."
Repeating what he did to win his heat in Friday’s semifinals and qualify for the eight-man final, Pestka watched the other entries come out quickly, setting a hard pace.
He settled in at the back of the pack, and then delivered a kick as the race entered its final lap, working his way past other competitors. Unlike the semifinal, he was unable to catch all of the other runners, and Luke Skinner of St. Mary (Kan.) crossed the finish line in 2:27.15 to win the race.
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"I felt good going into the race, felt relaxed and confident in my preparation," Pestka said. "I ran a good race, had a great end to the season."
He said some adjustments during the final weeks of the indoor season prepared him well for what transpired at the national meet.
"It was a great way to end the indoor season, and it should give myself and our team some confidence as we head outdoors," Pestka said. "The culture of the program at St. Ambrose allowed me to make the adjustments I needed to make to have this type of success, and whether it’s in an individual event or a relay, it shows that what we’re doing works and can lead to big things."
Pestka was the only Fighting Bee to score points at the national meet, collecting eight points for his runner-up effort.
The only other St. Ambrose athlete to compete Saturday was freshman Abby Camp, who finished 26th in the women’s triple jump.