October 26, 2001

Hamilton, Dunn run wild at Soquel

Sentinel Staff Writer

SOQUEL — Over the past four years, San Lorenzo Valley High cross country has become a phenomenon in Santa Cruz County.

So Thursday when the Cougars boys and girls ran to victory over both Soquel and Scotts Valley in the final regular-season Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League cross country meet of 2001, it was not a surprise.

Both of the day’s winners — Alex Dunn (14:49) and Stephanie Hamilton (17:48) — set records on Soquel’s newly-configured 3-mile cross country course.

Dunn, an SLV sophomore, was particularly impressive. The tall and lean harrier beat teammate Manuel Moore to the bottom of the first big hill. Then, he never looked back.

At the crest, Moore was about 25-meters behind, and Dunn led his closest non-teammate — Soquel’s Jeff Gill — by half a football field.

The rest of the runners were strung out behind, like ants climbing a pile of sugar.

At the mid-point, Dunn streaked past the Soquel High parking lot, along a cement sidewalk leading to the second hill. The only sound was the clop, clop, clop of Dunn’s running flats beating out his pace on the concrete.

"The cement wasn’t too bad," Dunn said after the race. "But coming down the first big hill there were a lot of roots and ruts to avoid."

The obstacles didn’t affect Dunn, who ended the season undefeated in SCCAL dual meets. The Mt. San Antonio College (Oct. 10) and Stanford Invitationals (Sept. 29) were Dunn’s closest races this year. He said the SCCAL championships could be just as close.

"I’m looking forward to next week," Dunn said. "I haven’t had a chance to race Brett (Gotcher) this year, and I want to try to stay close to him for as long as possible."

Moore, a senior running in his first SCCAL dual meet of the season, said he didn’t do his best Thursday, but was happy to help the team.

"Alex is a maniac," Moore said. "He feels no pain. We don’t know who’s going to win at league, but we’re going to run all-out."

SLV defeated Soquel 21-37, and Scotts Valley by default. Soquel also beat the Falcons by default. Scotts Valley’s top finisher was Tyler Hill (17:18) in 10th. Gill finished third in 15:53 for the Knights.

Hamilton, and the rest of the SLV girls, looked unbeatable on Thursday — especially with junior Raquel Barrientos back in the lineup.

Barrientos, who ran in her first cross country meet of the season at Mt. SAC (Oct. 10), finished fifth in 18:30. She came in behind Soquel’s Aisha Kamala (18:19) and teammates Hillary Schwarzbach (18:17), Emily Romo (18:11) and Hamilton (17:48).

"I’m tired," said a smiling Barrientos after the race. "But I’m so excited. I could not wait for this. It feels so great to be out here running again."

Barrientos suffered two injuries at the start of the season — a strained ligament in her right knee and an ankle sprain.

Barrientos has watched as Hamilton and Romo paved the way for the Cougars this year. The two freshmen helped SLV to a perfect 7-0 SCCAL dual-meet record.

Hamilton summed up her squad’s performance while cheering her teammates on at the finish line.

"I’m really looking forward to the league meet for the competition," she said. "There are a lot of team leaders for us, and we run well together. And I’m so happy to have Raquel back, she did really well coming off her injury."

The SCCAL cross country championship will be held Thursday, at Pinto Lake in Watsonville, starting at 2 p.m.

Contact Ben McMorries at bmcmorries@sant-cruz.com.