Great performance at Myrtle Beach by Alex!

It was just a year ago that Alex Scales raced to a county championship as an eight grader running for the cross country team at Dartmouth Middle School. Now he's a national champion.

Scales covered the 4,000-meter course in a blistering 12:33 to finish first overall in the 13-14 age group at the National Junior Olympic Cross Country Club National Championships held Dec. 13 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Scales led the Los Gatos Club Team to the championship with his individual win. Los Gatos ran up a low 66 points to take the team title with the Cascade Striders of Bellevue, Wash., second at 94 and the Grandview Eagles third at 159.

Scales, a freshman at Bellarmine, was one of three Los Gatos runners to earn All-American honors at the national meet. Neerav Gade of Bellarmine was 21st in 13:11, and Josh Lee of Easterbrook Middle School was 25th in 13:14. The top 25 finishers in the meet earned automatic All-American spots.

Kevin Chacko of Lynbrook--who finished in 13:15 and just a second behind Lee to barely miss All-American qualification--ended up 26th for Los Gatos with Ross D'Orfani (Union Middle School) 41st in 13:30, Luca Barreiro (Fisher Middle School) 128th in 14:07, Daniel Blake (Westmont) 167th place in 14:19 and Mateo Barreiro (Fisher) 176th place in 14:23.

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The club, sponsored by the Los Gatos Athletic Association, was founded in 2001 by Los Gatos coaches Willie Harmatz, Monica Townsend and Tom Newman and Roger Adams of St. Andrews School in Saratoga. Los Gatos had finished as high as second place at the meet but had never before won a national championship.

"Most of these runners train and compete with their school team until the school season is over, then they meet up with the club team and we compete in two qualifying meets to get to Nationals," said Harmatz.

Coaches Brad Armstrong, Suzie Blake, Paul Lawryk (Fisher) and Harmatz led the Los Gatos boys and also a girls team to the national meet.

The Gatos girls finished 10th as a team, with six of the seven runners just 13 years old and eligible to return next year. All of the boys were 14.

Jessica Kain of Scotts Valley finished 17th in 14:36 to lead Los Gatos and claim All-American honors. Kain, who placed 18th last year, is a two-time All-American and was the ninth-best 13-year-old in the Dec. 13 field.

Reina Garcia (St. Lucy's School) placed 93rd in 15:31. Garcia had finished 12th in the 3,000 meters at the Nationals in track last June.

Dimitra Constantin (Union), who was fourth in the county last spring, was 111th in 15:40 with Annika Paylor (Fisher) 124th in 15:46, Angela Liu (Fisher) 171st in 16:06, Skyler Miller (Ida Price) 224th in 16:34 and Alice Bibaud 226th in

16:35. There were 408 runners in the race.

Samuel Blake, a senior at Westmont High School, represented Los Gatos in the 17-18 age group and ran 16:21 to place 21st, good for All-American status. Blake was the 3,200-meter champion at the Central Coast Section Top 8 meet last spring and was a two-time Junior Olympic Individual National Champion in the 11-12 age group.

Adam Julian (Westmont) finished 58th in 16:24 in the age group for Los Gatos with Kevin Krein (Westmont) 70th in 16:59.