Dowdy, Taylor lead teams to titles Petaluma boys win fifth straight crown; Casa Grande girls claim fourth consecutive championship By MICHAEL COIT PRESS DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER Published: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 Tuning up for big races, Petaluma's Hugh Dowdy and Casa Grande's Jacque Taylor won Sonoma County League cross country titles Wednesday while saving fuel for tougher fields in coming weeks. Dowdy's 15:24 over the 3.05 mile Spring Lake course in Santa Rosa was his best and the 11th fastest time ever on the circuit. Yet Dowdy said he aims to run even faster at the North Coast Section, California state and Western regional championships “I wasn't going out to do anything special. It really just felt like a workout,” said Dowdy, expressing confidence more than cockiness. Taylor cruised to her third SCL girls' title in four years despite nearly losing her right shoe in the last mile. Her 17:15 was shy of a personal record. “I didn't get out as fast as I should have. I'm still pretty happy,” Taylor said. “I know there's a lot of racing ahead.” The winners, both seniors, were even more pleased to keep their teams' league winning streaks alive. Petaluma won the boys title for a fifth consecutive year, and Casa Grande's girls have taken the championship four straight years. Teams want to be in top condition after summer training and fall meets yet not hit their peak too soon. Teammates are pushing each other, ideally narrowing differences in times from top to bottom. “We're working at keeping those team gaps close,” said Petaluma coach Jim Lynch. “Our goal today was not to overextend ourselves.” The top boys appear set for a memorable run of championship meets. The first three each set personal records at Spring Lake. Dowdy led from the start, but was pushed by teammate Forrest Shaffer, a junior, and Spencer Hall, a Casa Grande senior, who jockeyed for second until Shaffer pulled away. Petaluma's Kevin Poteracke and Ryan Douglas rounded out the top five, running the second and fourth fastest times ever for freshmen runners on the course. They bettered Sterling Lockert's league championship time as a freshman, a title he won all four years with the Trojans. Dowdy emerged last year as Petaluma's top runner behind Sterling and twin Devin Lockert and this year is one of the best in Northern California. “The Lockerts had their time to shine and now it's mine,” Dowdy said. Having followed the plan to hold a little back Wednesday, Dowdy is ready for the bigger races, Lynch said. “Hugh's just been running pretty insane. His body is healthy. He's primed now,” Lynch said. A notable footnote to the boy's race was Hall's third-place finish, preventing Petaluma from sweeping the top five spots as the Trojans did the previous three years. “They got faster and I also got faster. I finally broke in there and mixed it up a little,” Hall said. The only drama in the girls' race was whether Taylor would run out of her right shoe after her shoelace untied. “My shoelace kept hitting my leg and my shoe almost fell off,” Taylor said. While the annoying shoelace was in the back of her mind, Taylor kept her focus on getting stronger and her ultimate goal — winning the state championships. “It's always been a stretch. But this year I really think I can do it,” she said. Three top five finishes at state have Taylor hungry for more, and coach Carl Triola said she is working hard in the season's stretch run. “She wants to run fast and leave her mark,” Triola said. On Wednesday, Petaluma's Isabel Andrade again was Taylor's closest pursuer. “I saw her a little more than usual. It's reassuring that I'm getting better,” Andrade said. “I really just want to kick into that gear that I think I have left.” Casa Grande senior Dominique Ratto finished third. Amber Peirsol, a Windsor sophomore, took fourth by leaning past another sophomore, Francesca Honey, of Petaluma, in the sprint to the finish line.