Guilderland's Roland Graves knew he couldn't lose this race. Not with Brian Rhodes-Devey on a cell phone thousands of miles away listening to his mother giving a play-by-play account.
Graves passed Thousand Island's Jacob Smith in the final 500 meters and held on for a one-second victory in the boys large school division race at Saturday's Guilderland Invitational.
I didn't think I could sprint as far as I did, said Graves.
After crossing the finish line in a time of 14:01, Graves was greeted by his teammates and the cell phone with Rhodes-Devey " who won the last three Guilderland Invitationals " on the other end calling from the University of Texas.
"I've been talking to him all week," said Graves. "He helped me make my race plan."
Graves and Smith dueled from the first mile to the finish line. Graves gained an advantage on the top portion of the hilly Tawa-sentha Park course, but Smith was on his heels when the two approached "Suicide Hill" " the 1/8-mile steep, twisting decline heading toward the finish line.
"Coming down Suicide, I didn't want to look, but I did and he was right by me," said Graves. "That made me nervous."
Smith passed Graves coming off "Suicide Hill," but Graves found an extra gear and passed Smith back to extend Guilder-land's streak of individual cham-pions to four years.
"Last year, I got to train with (Rhodes-Devey), and it really helped me," said Graves. "This year, I wanted to make a name for myself."
Graves' victory helped the Dutchmen finish second in the team standings with 58 points, 15 points behind large school division champion Burnt Hills.
"I had a few kids (today) who haven't clicked yet, which is encouraging because I know they're capable of doing that," said Guilderland coach Bob Oates.
Justin Veldhuis (ninth place, 14:52), Kevin Sheehan (13th, 15:04), Gianni Vissat (17th, 15:12) and Will Russo (18th, 15:25) rounded out Guilderland's top five.
The Guilderland girls placed third in the large school division with 112 points. Lynley Joynt (18th place, 18:02) and Erin Mossop (19th, 18:05) placed in the top 20 for the Lady Dutch.""