By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Junior John Lovegren failed to score any points for his Menlo-Atherton boys' cross-country team on Tuesday. Then again, just finishing took every ounce of courage and determination he could muster. It would have been easier to give up on the race and call it a day.
Lovegren, instead, picked himself off the dirt of the Crystal Springs Course in the hills west of Belmont, and without bothering to dust himself off, started all over again. He continued to race despite feeling dizzy and suffering headaches over the final stretch.
Bears' senior Mike Hester finished in third place, three minutes ahead of Lovegren, and was one of the first to comfort him.
Hester completed the 2.95-mile course in 15:46, eight seconds behind the winning time recorded by Carlmont's Jeffrey Stalun. M-A junior George Baier finished 10th in 16:22.
Lovegren doesn't exactly know what happened during the PAL race. He collapsed, or fainted, or something, near the 1 1/2 mile mark of the course. He just remembers being on the ground, feeling a push, and getting up to continue racing.
The Bears finished third (with 81 points), to Carlmont (30) and Aragon (76), but the result was pushed down the priority list as coaches and runners came to the aid of their teammate.
Lovegren, who still managed to finished 62nd out of 111 runners, even tried to apologize for letting his teammates down. Afterward he described how he felt as "being car sick."
Menlo-Atherton has one of the top boys' cross-country teams in the Central Coast Section, though Carlmont, as usual, dominated the race. The Scots had all seven of their runners finish among the top 13.
Senior Jordan Scandlyn was M-A's third runner, finishing 17th in 16:57. Zach Plante and Alexander Aguiar also scored for the Bears.
The M-A girls' team finished fourth with 116 points, led by sophomore Taylor Fortnam, who ran eighth in 20:04. Aragon's Lauren Croshaw won the race in 18:20.
The Bears improved on their sixth-place finish from the first PAL meet. As a result, M-A moved into fourth place heading into the final meet on Nov. 3 at 1 p.m.
The boys' team enters the PAL championship meet, which counts double, tied with the Dons for second place. The top nine teams (of 17) qualify for the CCS meet, which will also be held at Crystal Springs on Nov. 12.
Ashley Utz fired a season-best 44 to earn medalist honors as Menlo-Atherton cruised to an easy 273-331 victory over Capuchino in a PAL Bay Division dual match on Tuesday at Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course.
Sacred Heart Prep's slim chance of overtaking Menlo School in the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) race was eliminated on Tuesday as the Gators suffered a 4-3 upset loss to visiting Crystal Springs.
Sacred Heart Prep (2-2, 11-2), which previously had lost only to Menlo, looked in good shape after taking three singles matches behind victories by freshman Caroline Nordman at No. 1, Ceci Marshall at No. 3 and Ruthy Sarwal at No. 4. Sacred Heart, however, suffered a rare sweep in doubles with two matches going three sets.
The Gators next will visit Menlo on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.
In San Jose, the Knights (4-0, 9-2) cruised to an easy 6-1 victory over host Notre Dame-San Jose while winning their 182nd straight league match. Giannina Ong, Kristy Jorgensen, Laura Gradiska and Sarah Schinasi swept the singles to pace Menlo, which will visit Saratoga in a nonleague match Wednesday before hosting SHP.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton remained two games back of first-place Burlingame following a 6-1 triumph over host San Mateo on Tuesday. Erin LaPorte, Samantha Andrew and Lindy LaPlante gave the Bears (7-2, 7-3) a good start with straight-set victories in singles.
Defending champion Palo Alto closed out the first half of SCVAL De Anza Division action with a perfect record following a 25-16, 25-13, 25-18 triumph over host Homestead on Tuesday. Senior Maddie Kuppe led the Vikings (6-0, 19-3) with 13 kills. Paly will open second-half play on Thursday by hosting Mountain View at 6:45 p.m.
In Palo Alto, Gunn had a hard time with Mountain View's Brittany Howard as the Stanford-bound senior registered 21 kills in 25-17, 25-15, 25-22 decision over the Titans (1-5, 11-11) on Tuesday. Julia Maggioncalda had eight kills for Gunn.
In Atherton, Menlo-Atherton remained in control in the PAL Bay Division race with a 25-12, 25-14, 25-18 triumph over visiting Woodside. The Bears (7-0, 14-4) subbed liberally in the easy victory, which was led by sophomore Pauli King's eight kills and three digs. Senior Seini Moimoli added six blocks and three kills.