Great accomplishments are often inspired by relationships, which certainly was the case for Kyle Shackleton, Alex Dunn and Marie Nguyen at the Central Coast Section cross-country finals Saturday at Crystal Springs.
Each was among 10 individual champions crowned in five divisions for boys and girls and advanced to the state championships Nov. 29 in Fresno.
Regardless of what happens next, their performances Saturday were memorable enough. Carlmont senior Shackleton and his twin brother, Drew, competed on a course as familiar to them as anybody who has ever run it.
``I tell people we live on the course,'' Drew said. And he's right. It's literally in their back yard. Their house backs up to the first-mile loop.
Every day during the summer, they ran the 2.95-mile course and talked about how special it would be to finish 1-2 there at the CCS final, but neither expected it to happen.
``This was probably the most anticipated race of our lives,'' Drew said.
That's the reason Kyle, the pre-race favorite, saved his biggest celebratory yell not for his own victory in the Division II race (15 minutes, 35 seconds), but for his brother, who finished second (15:40).
The runaway Division IV victory for San Lorenzo Valley's Dunn (15:04) was gratifying for him and his adoptive parents, Mary and Carmine Dunn.
Within one year, Alex lost his father to liver disease caused by alcoholism and his mother to breast cancer. Alex was 11.
His mother's dying wish was for Mary, single at the time, to raise Alex and his younger sister.
Mary accepted, but found Alex to be ``one angry kid without a lot of direction,'' said Carmine, who married Mary soon after. ``He closed himself off. It was like there was a box around him.''
But running, his parents say, helped change that.
Last week, the family received a letter from the mother of a runner whose son finished well back at the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League finals, but was touched when Dunn waited at the finish line to shake his hand, as Dunn did for every competitor.
``Running has given him confidence,'' Mary said. ``It's given him goals. It's given him everything.''
The Division I girls race was the closest of the day, with three runners in a heated battle over the final mile. But the tension subsided somewhat for Nguyen as she considered that one of the contenders was Milpitas teammate Erinn Kim.
Nguyen and Kim, who finished 1-2 (18:26, 18:28), have run together since seventh grade and developed such symbiosis that neither individually could have accomplished as much, Milpitas Coach Matthew Newbrough said.
``When she's right next to me, I feel this connection,'' Nguyen said. ``I hear it through her breathing. It helps me relax. It really makes you reach a higher point in your mind to pull you through.''
Menlo-Atherton's Jeremy Mineau ran the day's fastest time (15:03) to win the Division I race. Presentation's Melissa Grelli ran 17:55, marking the eighth consecutive year that the best girls' time came from Division III.