Graham leads Gunn sweep

Mercury News

Ruth Graham hugged her Gunn teammates. She shrieked and laughed, hopped and skipped. It wasn't because she had won her third consecutive Central Coast Section individual cross-country title. That, after all, was nothing new.

The cause of her joy, instead, was the news that the Gunn boys' team had narrowly beaten Carlmont to claim the Division II title Saturday at Toro Park in Salinas.

The announcement, made to a crowd gathered in front of the awards podium, completed the Titans' sweep of the boys and girls team races, unprecedented in school history.

``We have two! We have two!'' Graham said, jumping up and down like a human pogo stick. ``This is the best. Even when I won before, there were people that didn't do well and they'd be thinking about it.''

And Graham, a senior, did more than just win the individual race to help her team. She abandoned pursuit of the course record (17:53), set in the Division III race by Sacred Heart Catholic's Michelle Gallagher, choosing instead to pace sophomore teammate Tori Tyler.

Graham pulled away effortlessly over the second half of the three-mile race to finish in 18:33, while Tyler was next in at 19:11. Gunn's girls scored 37 points, 14 better than runner-up Los Gatos.

Gunn Coach Ernie Lee revealed after the race that Graham and Tyler were sick all week and that the Titans had alternates ready to run in their places.

The Titan boys won by a much closer margin, as five teams in their race scored under 100 points. But junior Andrew Lipkin's third-place finish (15:55) helped keep Gunn's point total to 70, allowing the squad to claim its championship.

Carlmont, paced by twins Kyle (second, 15:53) and Drew Shackleton (fourth, 15:58), had 75 points. Narrowly missing trips to the Nov. 30 state meet in Fresno were Menlo-Atherton (82), Leland (86) and Aragon (99).

Menlo-Atherton junior Jeremy Mineau (15:21) broke the course record (15:24) held jointly by San Lorenzo Valley's Alex Dunn (2002) and Hollister's Ben Morales (1998).

Dunn failed to better the mark he set earlier this season, but nonetheless took the Division III race in what was the perhaps the most dominating performance of the day.

Leading by 100 meters at the halfway point, Dunn charged to a 15:27 finish.

``I went out a little too fast,'' said Dunn, a junior who was second at this meet in 2001. Although he knew he would run uncontested, Dunn said he forced himself to run at a brisk pace because ``That's how it's going to be at state. State's not going to be easy.''

The next runner, St. Francis freshman Ben Sitler, came in 38 seconds later at 16:05.

Sitler, one of five Lancers in the top 12, led the biggest upset of the day, propelling St. Francis to 37-78 victory over North Monterey County, the state's No. 2 team at its level. For the Lancers, it was their fifth CCS victory in Coach Brian Curley's 20-year reign.

San Lorenzo Valley's girls, meanwhile, claimed their fourth consecutive CCS title -- in Division III -- and their fifth in sixth years. Senior Raquel Barrientos (fifth, 18:42) and sophomore Stephanie Hamilton (ninth, 19:13) were the Cougars' frontrunners.

Other girls team winners were Aptos (Division I), Half Moon Bay (IV) and Castilleja (V). Boys champions included Serra, King City and Redwood Christian.

Contact Dylan Hernandez at Results in Scoreboard, Page 14C.