He's no longer the favourite.
But as he hurries around the track, Dom Graf thinks he'll enjoy flying under the radar.
The Sir James Dunn star puts a six-race, Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Association winning streak on the line today when he begins competing in this year's NOSSA track-and-field meet in North Bay.
The 17-year-old Grade 11 student, heretofore unbeatable at NOSSA, must deal with the very talented Matt Walters of North Bay's West Ferris high school in both the senior boys 1,500-metre and 3,000 m events.
"He's a tough competitor, he's really good and he'll be favoured in both races," said Graf, who won both races in last week's Sault Ste. Marie meet. "I'm concerned, but I like that. I'm the underdog now and it challenges me more."
Competing as a junior a year ago, Graf won the 800 m, 1,500 m and 3,000 m at both city and NOSSA. He did the same thing in Grade 9 as a midget.
Last year, he placed 10th in the 1,500 m at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) meet and in 2005 finished sixth in the 1,500 m and seventh in the 3,000 m at OFSAA.
But now, Graf admits he's concerned he may not even get to this year's Ontario championships, slated for June 7-9 in Ottawa.
"I'm very nervous," he admitted. "Getting to three straight OFSAAs is my greatest goal this year."
To do so, he'll either have to beat Walters in one of his two events, or finish second with a strong enough time to qualify. Graf didn't run the 800 m at the city meet this year because the scheduling of the race conflicted with the 3,000 m.
The NOSSA 1,500 m is scheduled for 7 p.m. today while the 3,000 m is slated for 10 a.m. Friday, the day the meet concludes.
"I'm just looking to run really good times in both races," Graf said. "I'll stick behind him (Walters) as long as I can and try to beat him with my kick."
His training has gone well, Graf added, and he feels good physically and mentally.
"I'm nervous, but ready," he said.