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The Signal's Coach of the Year: Saugus cross country's Rene Paragas

Posted: July 6, 2013 9:00 p.m.
Updated: July 6, 2013 9:00 p.m.

With newborn twins time management was crucial for Saugus girls cross country head coach Rene Paragas this season. But he managed put everything together and lead the Centurions to a seventh straight CIF State cross country championship.

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This marked a transition year in the life of Saugus girls cross country and track and field distance coach Rene Paragas.

On July 10, his wife Jenny gave birth to twins Israel and Emma.

Time management became more important.

Paragas, arguably the best coach of any kind in the Santa Clarita Valley, had more of a challenge ahead.

Saugus girls cross country had won six state championships in a row.

However, coming into the 2012 season, there was no identifiable superstar in the bunch.

Yet by season’s end, a superstar was developed in Samantha Ortega, a team persevered through injury and illness and in the end — when the dynasty was supposed to end in some people’s eyes — Saugus won an unprescedented seventh straight state title.

In the spring, Paragas took his familiar role coaching distance runners on the track and field team.

Three athletes — Rodrigo Ornelas, Sabrina Janes and Ortega were three of the last athletes competing in the postseason in 2013.

Paragas is The Signal’s choice as Coach of the Year for the fourth time in five years.

Let those who know him best explain what makes him the best.


Jenny Paragas

Rene’s wife

Being a father definitely has made Rene a little more sensitive. Even people besides me think that. He’ll see kids and see things on TV about kids and he has a whole new perspective as a dad. He’s a little more mushy about it all. He looks at kids differently.

If anything he looks at athletes and thinks, “That’s someone’s son or daughter.” I don’t know if he would have in the past. I don’t think having children has affected how he coaches, but it’s affected his world view.

There were a lot of times this past year he had to completely depend on parents in the program — this year more than any other. Whether it was the annual Big Bear trip — he had huge, huge support by this group’s parents. Without them, the program wouldn’t have rolled on as normal. He was missing more things than he did in the past.

But I’ve never seen someone so passionate about something. It makes me feel almost guilty that I don’t have a passion about anything like that. Maybe my kids now. But it’s amazing how much he puts into it. He’ll be crunching numbers between feedings of the kids, He might have used his time differently this year when he was at home with me and the kids. He’d look up every team, returning runners, type out the best times they had. He prepared the girls for what they had to do. Though he wasn’t out in the trenches as much, he was still using every minute to keep the team prepared.

It’s part of his life. When he’s not out coaching, he’s a fan of the sport. He’s reading about running or other teams. He’ll be watching videos of professional runners competing. It’s a way of life for him. He honestly loves it.

In track and field he gets a lot of the same athletes. You’d think it would be easier for him because he’s not the track and field head coach but it’s harder. He’s worried about the other events. He wants to win meets.

In cross country, every year it seems like it’s magic. I just know he was really close to these girls. Over and over they were willing to bleed and sweat for each other. Groups in the past had to rely more on talent. It’s like this group gave everything. He had girls who were injured and fought through those injuries.


Samantha Ortega

Saugus cross country and track sophomore runner


He teaches us and he sees in us our potential to be great and that’s what he brings out in us. He brings out our potential. He really knows how to bring it out in us.

He had me do special stretching four times a day, 30 seconds each one. I had to ice four times a day. I was stretching and icing over and over again. I was icing so many times anyway, and it kind of got annoying. I’ve had minor soreness since then, but after he told me that I need to stop getting hurt, no major injury has happened. I just learned how to handle things more properly with my body and I learned how to take care of things and what not.

He motivates us. He tells us what we can really be capable of. He sees in us what we don’t even see in ourselves.”

After a disappointing finish at the track and field state finals, he just said you’re young, use this experience to push you in other things and to motivate you to go fast, to work harder to focus and to use all of those things for next time. It helps me every day. Every day I think I’ve got to get back, I’ve got to get back. I’ve got to redeem myself.


Heidi Hoslet

Saugus cross country and track senior runner

He just has such a great philosophy. I know he ran in high school and was a good runner. He always talks about the inspiration he’s had and how he’s formed his own philosophy form his coaches and through experience.

It’s crazy how he makes normal runners into great runners. I think I was a pretty normal runner. He made me into an even better one. I don’t think I’d want to join running if it weren’t for him. I originally tried out for soccer in high school and didn’t make it. Then I went out for track. There was a workout where he said I did well. He asked me if I wanted to move up to the next group, which showed he thought I could be a runner.

He’s so personable to all of us. He knows everything about our lives, which could be frightening. But he can work our schedules around it. He knows our families.

When I was injured this season, I couldn’t figure how to stretch my foot. I don’t know how it happened but at the end of track season in 2012 I got a stress fracture. When I was injured, he helped me with pool workouts. He had me swim twice a day. It was very hard. During the Big Bear trip, I swam in the freezing lake. He watched me and helped me.

It was really hard doing the workouts, but I know it definitely helped me. I made the state team

I think he was very close to this team. He went out of his way to help us with anything — injuries or things wrong in our personal lives.

There’s a legacy we like to keep up. I know he doesn’t like losing. I know he likes watching us boys and girls have fun. That’s the main part. He knows we work hard and he likes showing when we work hard awesome things happen.

None of us are sure why we do run. You just don’t want to say no to him. You just don’t want to disappoint him. Some of us do it for the glory — not many people win a state championship. I really like saying working hard pays off.

He deserves a lot of the credit. He tells us what to run and how to do everything. He’s a coach. He deservers a lot of credit. We are the runners, but he’s the main reason we do run and won that championship.


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