Presentation, SLV boast champions

Special to the Mercury News

Melissa Grelli and Alex Dunn experienced the joys of individual state championships at the state cross-country championships Saturday at Woodward Park.

Next year, the juniors hope to bring some teammates with them.

Grelli, the Presentation standout ranked second in girls Division III heading into Saturday's meet, broke away in the first mile of the course's rolling 5,000-meter layout and took top honors with a time of 17 minutes, 59 seconds.

Central Coast Section rivals Ciara Viehweg of St. Ignatius and Michelle Gallagher of Sacred Heart Cathedral made a clean sweep of individual honors by placing second and third, respectively, with times of 18:09 and 18:24.

San Lorenzo Valley's Dunn led a pack of runners through the first two miles and then broke the boys Division III race open in the third mile to take a 14-second victory over runner-up Barry Fischer of Campolindo with a time of 15:18.

``We're going to have a lot of freshmen coming up next year and we're going to train like heck,'' said Dunn, who placed 10th in last year's state meet. ``We'd like to contend for a team title and if we do, that would be the first time our boys team could contend for one.''

Presentation Coach Chris Cozort wants a similar scenario for his team.

``We're hoping her state championship will encourage more girls to run,'' he said. ``We have a small group of dedicated runners and having this type of success is going to jump-start things.''

For Grelli, things were a little rough at the outset.

``There were a lot of strong girls out there,'' said Grelli, who placed third in last year's state meet. ``It was really hard getting out and I got tripped a couple of times, but I broke them right before the mile.''

Grelli's is the first cross-country title by a Presentation athlete, according to CIF records.

Barstow took team honors in the boys Division III race with 71 points. St. Francis of Sacramento won the Division III girls meet with 78 points.

Jeremy Mineau, a junior from Menlo-Atherton, earned all-state honors in the Division II boys meet with a 10th-place finish and a time of 15:27.

If Mineau could run the race over, though, he would have been more conservative in the first mile.

``We went out in 4:40 and that's too fast for me,'' Mineau said of the pack of about a half-dozen runners that he was with in the first mile. ``In that first mile, the adrenaline is kicking in and you think it's easy. But when you get to about a mile and a quarter, reality kicks in. If I would have started out slower, I would have run a lot better. I wanted to run about 15:10.''

There were also some disappointing moments experienced on the overcast day, which threatened rain but stayed dry for the entire competition.

Ruth Graham of Gunn High, the defending state champion in Division II, was third at the mile mark but faded badly in the ensuing two miles and finished 40th. She was inconsolable after the race.

• Tim Nelson, a senior at Liberty Christian in Redding, took his third consecutive Division V individual championship with a time of 15:39 in the first race of the day. His time was the slowest of the three championships he won, but he was 16 seconds ahead of the next competitor.

• The fastest time was recorded by Philip Reid of Rio Mesa in the Division II boys meet with a time of 15:01, breaking the previous division record of 15:06 set by Matt Farley of Jesuit Carmichael in 1993.