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2012-2013 Newcomer of the Year: Saugus sophomore Samantha Ortega

Posted: July 5, 2013 9:23 p.m.
Updated: July 5, 2013 9:23 p.m.

Saugus High sophomore Samantha Ortega helped lead the Centurions to a seventh straight CIF state cross country championship by finishing second overall in the race. She finished 11th overall in the 3,200 in the state track and field championships.

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Samantha Ortega’s running career began at Saugus High School.

But at the rate she’s going, it will extend far beyond the Santa Clarita Valley.

When Ortega joined the junior varsity cross country team at Saugus toward the end of the fall season her freshman year, it was the first time she had run competitively in her life.

Long story short, a year later, she was one of the top distance runners in California and among the best all-time in SCV history.

In her first season with the varsity squad, Ortega finished second place in the CIF Division II State Cross Country Championship last fall with an all-time SCV state-meet record time of 17 minutes, 33 seconds.

That time beat out former cross country state champions and Saugus graduates Shannon Murakami and Kaylin Mahoney.

She followed that up with an appearance at the state 3,200-meter final during the spring track and field season. She finished 11th in that race in 10:39.96.

Ortega won the Foothill League cross country title and the 3,200 title as well and ended up 25th at the Nike Cross Nationals, which features runners from across the country.

This season was historically good no matter what grade Ortega was. Add on the fact that this was her first year running at the varsity level, and that makes her The Signal Newcomer of the Year.

But allow those close to her to explain why she had such a breakthrough year:

 

Heidi Hoslet

Saugus senior cross country and track and field runner

 

She moved up with the JV group and I saw her do pretty well. I thought, ‘Yeah she could be a pretty could runner,’ but I never thought she could be the best runner that Saugus ever had.

The reason she became so good is because she never gives up. She just loves to run, which is crazy. I’ve never really met anyone who loves it that much. I mean I like it. She’s always happy to be running.

It’s just watching her run and race, it’s just obvious she enjoys it. I just think it’s really cool that she loves it so much. Lots of people don’t love it that much. It’s just cool to see that. It’s so mind-blowing how much she enjoys it.

The one race that I saw her race in, it was the Seaside Invitational. She had like the fastest time that I’d ever seen a sophomore run and, oh man, it was crazy. And I was injured so I was able to see her.

 

Sharollyn Ortega

Samantha’s mother

She didn’t like running at first, but I guess when she got to high school as a freshman, she did really good.

We were surprised too when she came home and told me, “My P.E. coach told me to try out for cross country.”

She’s an amazing kid and sometimes when I take her to practice and she’s late, she gets really mad at me. She says, ‘I can’t be late!’ She just need to be punctual.

She loves running. She’s really dedicated to that and what can I say, I don’t know, she just loves it. I don’t know how she does it. She’s just very motivated. She loves the team and she has a good coach.

 

Rene Paragas

Saugus girls cross country head coach and track and field assistant coach

 

When she came out, it wasn’t like she was a world beater. She trained for six months and was just a JV runner. It took a year of hard training before she started to be a varsity runner. If she had ability, it would have manifested. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have any ability, but what she does have is good ability with what I call maybe the most desire we’ve ever had.

That’s what I look at it as. It’s just someone, really a classic overachiever, that wanted to be good. And that sets her apart when she gets in the races.

Someone like Sam, early on, she went through a lot of injuries and she’ll tell you, last year at this time, she had hardly been running. She had been on the bikes, she was icing a lot. She was banged up a lot because she was new to running. Within the first two years of running, you’re going to encounter a lot of injuries and before we went to camp, which is Big Bear, I remember we had a conversation where I basically said, “Sam, you can’t be hurt anymore.” We literally had that conversation where, “It’s time for you to be done being injured.” And she wasn’t hurt the rest of the season. That sounds funny, but to me that’s a testament to will.

On her birthday, she asked her parents for a trash can. She wanted a heavy-duty, brute trash can. That’s what she got for her birthday so she could ice at home with a bucket of ice water.

Whatever she did to make it happen, she did. I don’t know if it was just the icing. I don’t know if it was just her will power or if she just decided to internalize it and not say anything about it, but obviously she hasn’t been hurt since for somebody who was hurt all the time before.

 

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