On a day of extremes at the Stanford Invitational, during which three course records fell, Alex Dunn may have been subjected to more physical torment than anyone else Saturday at the Stanford Golf Course.
To successfully defend his Division III cross-country title, the San Lorenzo Valley junior had to overcome an overly ambitious start, a tumultuous middle stretch, a 70-meter deficit with just 300 to go in the 5-kilometer race, and, worst of all, a lack of oxygen.
But in the stretch, Dunn caught Redwood sophomore Jake Schmitt a couple of steps before the end of the race, finishing in 15 minutes, 20 seconds. Schmitt finished in 15:21.
``I'm not feeling good,'' said Dunn, almost doubled over. Dunn, who was lured into a torrid early pace by a runner from Soquel who was out of contention by the mile mark, said that in his mind, he had conceded the victory to Schmitt when he was passed 3,000 meters into the race. But as he held off third-place finisher Sean Barrett of St. Augustine in San Diego (15:27), Dunn suddenly found himself reeling in Schmitt. So he put his 4:16-mile speed to use.
``I was trying to go too fast,'' said Dunn, the runner-up at last year's Central Coast Section championships. ``It killed me. The Soquel guy was sprinting.''
In winning their fourth consecutive Division III team title, the girls from San Lorenzo Valley faced an intense test. Missing its No. 5 runner, Jenny Lewis, San Lorenzo Valley eked out a two-point victory over second-place Oak Park, 124-126.
Pacing San Lorenzo Valley and finishing sixth overall was senior Raquel Barrientos (18:29). Barrientos, one of the top runners in the state as a sophomore, couldn't run for much of last year after she was run over by a vehicle.
``I think so,'' she responded when asked if her fitness level has returned to where it was before her injury. ``I'm really just enjoying myself right now. I'm looking forward to everything this year.''
On the girls side, Casey Nevitt of Aptos was fourth (18:26) in Division I, trailed closely by Milpitas' Marie Nguyen (10th, 18:39). Melissa Grelli of Presentation (San Jose) was second in the Division III, and Castilleja (Palo Alto) was second in Division V. For the boys, Jeremy Mineau (fourth, Division II, 15:20), Kyle Shackleton (ninth, Division II, 15:31), and Patrick Parsel (seventh, Division IV, 16:14) were the top performers.
In Parsel's race, Mohamed Trafeh, a junior from Duarte, took down Ian Dobson's 3-year-old record of 15:05 with a 14:58 run. Trafeh's mark, however, was bested twice in the Division I race -- by Lauren Jesperson (first) and Tim Nelson (second), who were both clocked at 14:54.
Dobson, now a runner at Stanford, may have lost a record but promptly set another one, racing the collegiate 8K in 23:27, beating the previous record by 18 seconds.
Some of the area's top cross-country runners will measure themselves against the best in America at the Stanford Invitational this weekend.
Stanford University and Palo Alto High are hosting one of the nation's most prestigious cross-country events Saturday, with 304 high schools competing in five divisions. About 30 teams from the Central Coast Section will be there.
``I see it as an important race for me and others as well,'' said Presentation junior Melissa Grelli, who won the CCS Division III title last year. ``It's a very fun place to be and a good race to see where you're at.''
The Stanford Invitational is one of the largest meets in the nation and includes 75 college teams. The first high school race begins at 9:45 a.m.; college races start at 3:45 p.m. The varsity boys and girls will run a fast 5,000-meter course that starts near the second tee of the Stanford Golf Course.
Some of the local high school standouts scheduled to run include Grelli, Aptos' Casey Nevitt, Milpitas' Matthew Grilli, San Lorenzo Valley's Alex Dunn and Aragon's Chris Ashley.
San Lorenzo Valley returns to defend its Division III meet title, led by sophomores Stephanie Hamilton and Emily Romo, who placed sixth and eighth, respectively, at last year's meet. Castilleja is expected to contend for the team title in Division V behind senior Alana Levinson, who placed 14th in the state finals last season.
Top returning teams on the boys side include Serra (15th in Division I) and Silver Creek (16th in Division I).
The Milpitas girls team placed fourth in Division I at the Stanford meet last year behind two Oregon schools and one from Nevada. Coach Matt Newbrough hopes the Trojans, who return Marie Nguyen, Erinn Kim and Jessie Baldwin, can repeat that success.
He also likes the chance to see how his program stacks up.
``The kids really enjoy the course and the amount of competition that shows up,'' Newbrough said. ``It gives me a good indication, overall, of how we stand on the West Coast.''
Gunn's Ruth Graham, a defending CCS and state champion, won't be at the meet. She recently won the Iolani Invitational in Oahu, a meet that attracted some of the nation's top talent. Graham, also the defending CCS champion in the 3,200 meters, ran the 3.1-mile race in 19 minutes, 48.4 seconds.
GAME OF THE WEEK: The football game Friday between Mitty (ranked No. 2 in the Mercury News top 15) and Salinas (No. 3) is shaping up to be the best non-league contest between CCS opponents this year.
Mitty travels to face the Cowboys at the refurbished Pit, where a capacity crowd of 5,000 is expected. Though the game will be a great measuring stick for each team before league play, the outcome could play a role in the Division I playoffs.
If the Monarchs lose -- and do not win the West Catholic Athletic League title -- they could drop into Division III with three defeats. Teams that do not naturally fall into the large-school Division I must either be a champion of one of the section's top leagues or have one of the top eight power-point totals, based on strength of schedule.
Mitty already has lost to De La Salle and does not receive any bonus power points for playing the nation's top-ranked team. The Monarchs successfully petitioned into the Division I playoffs the past three years and reached the Division I final for the first time last season.
Los Gatos, Menlo-Atherton, Milpitas, Oak Grove, Palma, Piedmont Hills, Salinas, Terra Nova and Valley Christian -- all ``A-league'' teams -- could wind up with two losses or fewer.
DE LA SALLE ON ROLL: Fresh off its 31-21 victory over St. Louis of Honolulu on Saturday, De La Salle will bring its 127-game win streak to St. Francis on Friday. The Lancers are playing the Spartans for the fifth consecutive year. De La Salle, ranked No. 1 in the nation by Student Sports, has beaten the Lancers eight times in nine games.
LEIGH GETS LIGHTS: With a 3 1/2-year project completed, Leigh will host its first night football game at 7 p.m. Friday against Branham. The Longhorns completed the installation of lights Sept. 16 and will hold a pregame ceremony thanking those who contributed.