Grants strongest rival is Ñ Grant
Cross country boys focus on performance of team as a whole
Alec Wall and Joaquin Chapa of Grant cruised to the top two spots in the Portland Interscholastic League boys cross country finals Thursday. But the real drama for the Generals was where their No. 4 and 5 runners placed.
After a short breather, Wall and Chapa ran to the start of the homestretch of the 5,000-meter course to yell encouragement to senior Michael Lucia and junior Brent Bonfiglio, who eventually finished ninth and 11th, respectively.
Wall, whose brother Scott took fourth, and Chapa figure to be among the championship hopefuls at the state finals Saturday in Eugene. Again, though, they'll focus more on the results of their teammates.
'We're going (to Eugene) to win the state title,' Alec Wall says. 'If one of us wins the individual title but we don't win as a team, we're not going to be pleased.'
Grant easily won the PIL title with 27 points. Lincoln was second with 46.
Cleveland junior Olivia Bender won the PIL girls title in 18 minutes, 25 seconds, leading a string of 17 underclass finishers. Cleveland's Alex Domreis, in 18th, was the first senior girl to cross the finish line.
Grant won the girls title behind sophomore Annaliese Chapa, Joaquin's sister, who finished second in 18:58. Grant runners Lizzy Wild, Kyla Burnet and Kira Donnelly were third, fourth and fifth.
Alec Wall, pushed in the final 300 meters by a charging Mike McGrath of Lincoln, finished in 15:21.6, a half-second under the course record he set last year. Chapa, who ran next to Wall throughout the race, finished in 15:22.0, also beating the district record.
McGrath was timed in 15:25.
Grant will be chasing its first boys state championship since 1964 when it reaches Lane Community College on Saturday. The Generals are the favorite, having finished second in the prestigious Stanford (Calif.) Invitational in September.
Grant may even have something of a following at the state meet. There's been increased interest in cross country in the PIL this season, in part because the Generals are atop the state rankings and their best runners are among the top individuals.
'We've been getting a lot of people asking about our team and when we're running next,' Scott Wall says. 'We didn't get that too much last year.'
Grant finished sixth at the state meet last season.
Alec Wall, fourth in the 2001 state final, and Joaquin Chapa will be among the individual favorites, along with Lauren Jesperson of Klamath Union, the defending champion. Central Catholic junior Galen Rupp also should be a contender. He was sixth last year.
Chapa says he will attend Stanford and not Oregon Ñ where Jesperson, McGrath and Alec Wall are headed. He's not sure which teams will be Grant's top challengers, but one could be defending champion Bend.
Second-ranked Hermiston didn't win its district meet. Sunset, No. 4, didn't qualify for state as a team; No. 3 Jesuit won the Metro League title, and Beaverton took second.
Central Catholic, No. 5, now appears to be one of the top contenders, although the Rams are more likely to win the title next year.
Grant's strongest competition might be Grant.
'If we run like we can,' Joaquin Chapa says, 'we should win.'