Dom Graf was surprised by his performance Wednesday.
Which put the Sir James Dunn runner squarely in the minority. Despite recent health problems and an atypical training schedule, the 16-year-old captured the Senior Boys Division 7-kilometre run by more than 10 seconds in the annual City High School Cross-Country Championships at Kinsmen Park.
The junior champion a year ago, Graf (24:40.18), a Grade 11 student, managed to out-leg his teammate and defending senior champ Reg Peer (24:50.32).
"I didn't feel I was ready physically," said Graf, diagnosed with swollen glands last June and told by his doctor to stop training for six weeks. "It started with a cold but got worse and worse and I couldn't even finish workouts. I started training again in mid-July but I've been so nervous lately thinking about how I'd do, I couldn't fall asleep the last few nights. I wasn't confident."
Graf said he wasn't sure how he managed to win what was supposed to be a highly-competitive showdown involving he and Peer, along with John Harvey (25:08.59) of St. Mary's, who wound up third, and eventual fourth-place finisher Ian Connell (25:23.52) of SJD.
"I wasn't surprised at all," said the 17-year-old Peer. "He's a really good runner, but I'm not really happy with my race."
The SJD's boys coach, Pat Sanderson, was also anything but stunned by Graf's success.
Sanderson saw the talented runner place first at last year's Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Association (NOSSA) meet and 11th out of 236 runners at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) championships.
"He's really been running well the past couple of meets and that's why he didn't surprise me today (Wednesday)," Sanderson said. "I thought any of the top four could have won. I'm happy Reg finished right behind him because that's what we need as a team going into NOSSA."
Peer said that with about 400 metres remaining, he suffered a letdown.
"My mind told me it was over," he said. "But if I could have ran through that feeling, I could have made it closer."
The Eagles Joey Lachowsky (25:34.06) placed fifth, helping his school run away with senior team honours. Korah wound up second.
But the Colts grabbed the aggregate boys championship, although SJD won overall aggregate bragging rights.
SJD's Jesse Wetzl (23:32.95) grabbed the 6-km event, edging out Korah's Spencer Hogan (23:34.77). Colts runners Allister Smith (24:10.83), Adam Fortais (24:35.57) and Ian Roney (24:38.56) rounded out the top five. Their strong performance powered Korah to the team title over the Dunn.
Thomas Peer (18:08.91) out-raced Sean Plumley (18:16.95) of White Pines over 5 km. Matt Fabbre (19:40.59) finished third and led the St. Mary's charge towards the team title. White Pines wound up second.
The Wolverines Jake Spears (19:47.63) placed fourth and Korah's Brenden Carson (19:50.85) wound up fifth.
The top two five-member teams in all divisions qualify for NOSSA Oct. 27 in Sudbury. The three next best individuals, who haven't already qualified as part of a team, are also NOSSA bound.