When it comes to lacing up a pair of shoes and driving oneself to go as fast as possible, there's very little Sir James Dunn's Dom Graf hasn't accomplished.
Or is there?
Having won his fourth consecutive city championship Wednesday, capturing the Senior Boys Division's seven-kilometre race at the High School Cross-Country Championships at Kinsmen Park, Graf couldn't help but look ahead.
The 17-year-old, Grade 12 student has yet to grab a Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Association (NOSSA) senior title. But Graf gets the chance a week from Friday when this year's NOSSA cross-country competition comes to Sault Ste. Marie.
"I really want it, badly. I want to go out with a NOSSA senior championship," said Graf, who ran a 24:50.41 Wednesday, besting Sean Vardy of St. Mary's, the second-place finisher in 25:41.80.
SJD's Dean Lamming was third in 26:49.66, just ahead of Mark Zagordo of St. Mary's (27:00.25) and SJD's Jesse Wetzl (27:09.77).
The Dunn won the senior boys team title, but the Knights were crowned boys aggregate champions. SJD won the co-ed championship.
Graf, who won a city midget title in Grade 9, a junior crown in Grade 10 and his first senior championship a year ago, said he knew Vardy would be tough Wednesday.
"He's always been dedicated, he trains throughout the year and he's a good runner," Graf said of Vardy. "He starts off strong and I know he's going to be right with me."
That was case this time, at least for the first four-to-five kilometres, Graf estimated.
At that point, the Dunn runner said Vardy's pace began to slow, while he picked his up.
"It feels really good to win four consecutive city championships. I never imagined anything like this coming into high school," Graf, also an elite track-and-field runner, said. "I like to train and I was very prepared for this race."
As for NOSSA, Graf secured titles in Grades 9-10, but finished third a year ago, his first try as a senior, behind twins Matt and Nick Walters of North Bay's West Ferris Trojans.
The Walters boys are back this year, but running at home could give Graf an edge.
"I'm hoping the sand hill will hamper them," said Graf, of a difficult incline that greets runners about 1.5k from the end of the race. "It comes up on you all of a sudden."
And, Graf added, surviving the hill is anything but easy.
"It hurts," he said. "Every muscle in your legs hurts. It's the most painful thing you can experience during a race. Running here, you know when to pick the pace up and you just feel more comfortable."
Meantime, SJD's Ryan Poser placed sixth among seniors, one spot ahead of Korah's Ian Roney. Eric Noland of SJD was eighth, followed by Richard MacLennan of St. Mary's and Korah's Allister Smith.
The Dunn's Thomas Peer ran a 23:25.12 to win the junior boys' six-kilometres. But by grabbing four of the top eight spots, St. Mary's captured team honours.
Sean Plumley of White Pines ran a 23:30.05 to place second, while Korah's Brandon Carson (23:42.19) wound up third.
The Knights Devon Cavanaugh (23:47.74) was fourth and teammate Hayden Murray (24:06.26) fifth.
SJD's Cameron Thomas wound up sixth, followed by two St. Mary's athletes: Matt Fabbro and Andrew Dispell. Korah's Greg Gagnon was ninth, one spot ahead of Dan McCulloch of White Pines.
The Dunn's Phil Graf ran an 18:12.05 to top the field in the midget boys' five-kilometre. But Korah runners took five of the top nine positions, giving the Colts the team championship.
Brad Walsh of St. Mary's wound up second in a time of 18:28.10, while SJD's Tyler Davie followed in 19:21.96. Korah's Mackie Edwards (20:07.67) finished fourth while Chances Armstrong (20:07.94) of St. Mary's rounded out the top five.
Colts runners grabbed the next four positions: Brad Pawson, Mike Diberardino, Tom Groulx and Steve Erickson. The Eagles' Josh Fryia was 10th.
Notes: Normally, only the top two boys and girls teams in each division, along with the next three individuals who haven't qualified as part of teams, are eligible for NOSSA.
But with the Sault playing host this year, the vast majority of city runners are expected to compete in the Oct. 26 event.