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2013 Foothill League girls cross country preview: Who comes in second place in XC?

Saugus girls have their sights set on an eighth straight league and state championship

Posted: September 25, 2013 9:11 p.m.
Updated: September 25, 2013 9:11 p.m.

Golden Valley's Bianca Tinoco qualified for the CIF-State finals last season.

 

 

It won’t be very difficult to figure out who will be among the top finishers in each Foothill League race with so many talented girls returning from last year.

The key factor that will separate the top teams in league from the bottom teams is depth.

No team in league comes close to the seven-time defending state and league champion Saugus Centurions in that category.

But that doesn’t mean a few other teams can’t make an impact in the postseason.

West Ranch and Canyon bring a lot of experience to the table and both are seeing a lot of success in the preleague season.

If healthy, Valencia and Golden Valley will also be in the mix.

It will all come down to what some of the young, emerging talent does as the league season unfolds.

 

Saugus

There was so little known about last year’s Saugus team and what it was capable of. Going into the season, the question was, can this young group of runners continue the state title streak?

Now, the question is who is going to stop them from eight in a row?

It could be Simi Valley, which is the only team ranked above Saugus in the state, according to prepcaltrack.com, a reputable high school cross country website.

And even despite Saugus’ victory at the Saugus September Showdown over three other defending state champions, Great Oak (CIF Division I), Bonita (Division III) and JSerra (Division IV) earlier this month, head coach Rene Paragas still has his reservations.

“We don’t think of ourselves as being on top again,” Paragas said of the preseason rankings. “Although the team is good, it’s not like they’re veterans.”

True. Only three members of last year’s state champion team return in sophomore Samantha Ortega, coming off a second-place finish in the state Division II final in 2012, won the September Showdown and already appears to be in midseason form.

She is the clear cut favorite to repeat as individual Foothill champion and has the potential to challenge for a state title as well.

The other returners are junior Darby LaPlant and senior Abigail Frankian, who ran for each of the last two state championship teams.

After the three returners, Saugus has junior Sabrina Janes and sophomore Ashley Heys who both enter with limited varsity experience.

Janes is coming off a stellar track and field season in which she was a state finalist in the 800-meter.

They are followed by juniors Jessica Ruiz and Mackinzie Moncibais, who are fully new to the team.

 

Golden Valley

For Golden Valley, it is simply a question of whether its sophomores and juniors can keep with the rest of the league’s seniors.

Most of last year’s top runners graduated for Golden Valley, including Chelsey Totten, her twin sister Weslie Totten and Abby Buckhoff.

On top of that, Sara Soltani takes over as the team’s third different head coach in as many years after Marc Minasian stepped down.

“This year it’s just finding what suits the kids the most because they have gone through so many changes,” said Soltani, who was an assistant coach last year.

The good news for Golden Valley is sophomore Bianca Tinoco comes back after becoming the first girl runner in school history to advance to the state finals as an individual last year. She finished seventh in the girls Division II race.

Tinoco is, however, battling a foot issue headed into the league season.

Sophomore Veronica Lopez and junior Crystal Orellana also return to the varsity lineup, joined by newcomer Yovanna Gonzalez (junior), Bethany Hinson (sophomore), Makaysia Simpkins (sophomore) and Elaine Pusey (senior).

“They’re very good, but they just happen to be very young,” Soltani said of the team.

 

West Ranch

If West Ranch was the dark horse of the Foothill League last year, it will have a tough time staying in the shadows in 2013.

Almost all of the team’s top runners are back this season and if they stay healthy, a successful run into the CIF finals and beyond may not be out of the question.

And that’s despite the fact that West Ranch competes in the very competitive CIF-Southern Section Division I, unlike most Foothill teams in Division II.

“We know that’s a big challenge for us and these girls are ready for us,” said West Ranch head coach Rick Larimore. “They’ve done the work over the summer and we’re starting to see the more experienced girls making a difference.”

The experienced ones include junior Marisa Magsarili, who is coming off a very strong sophomore season.

The No. 2 runner will likely be senior Taylor Welker, though she’s dealing an illness for the time being. Larimore says she’ll should be 100 percent in the coming weeks.

Senior Allison Werbicki is new to varsity and fighting for the No. 3 spot on the team.

Other than that, the roster is filled with talented girls with varsity experience, namely seniors Abbie Phillips and Megan Leonhardt along with junior Kaeli Olson.

 

Canyon

In a very crowded and competitive Foothill League on the girls side, Canyon will need to rely on its depth.

If the early part of the season is any indication, Canyon should be just fine.

“They’re better than last year,” said Canyon head coach Paul Broneer of his team which finished fourth in the Foothill League a year ago. “They’re deeper than last year. I think we have about 10 girls that can run varsity.”

At the prestigious Woodbridge Invitational this past weekend, Canyon finished 13th of 236 teams. That helped the team move into the No. 8 spot in this week’s CIF-Southern Section Division II rankings.

Canyon’s top finisher at that event was senior Natalie Rodriguez, who ran varsity her sophomore year but missed out last season due to illness.

New to the mix this year is junior Kyla Danforth, who had a successful track season in the spring.

Other key runners who are coming back from last year include seniors Shalyn Mabritto and Concepcion Flores.

 

Valencia

Injuries were Valencia’s downfall last year. If Valencia can stay healthy this season, it could be a vast improvement on last year’s fifth place finish in league.

It will start with freshman and potential star-in-the-making Kaylee Thompson, who already broke a course record at the Seaside Invitational on Sept. 6 with a winning time of 17 minutes, 12.80 seconds in the freshman race.

In support of Thompson, the Vikings have a stable of seniors in Kimmie Newton, Morgan Spurlock, Lexi Whitman and Alyssa Rodriguez.

Junior Amelia Pear will also compete for a top spot on the team as she’ll help replace her older sister Olivia, who was the team’s top runner and an individual CIF finalist last year before graduating.

Gilkey said Amelia has to chance to be at least as good as Olivia was.

“I don’t think anybody really knew who our girls were last year other than the people who graduated, but we’ve got some girls running really well this year,” said Valencia head coach Jeff Gilkey.

 

Hart

Injuries and inexperience are an ongoing issue for Hart.

Top runner and senior Meghan Fairchild is out of commission for the time being with a back injury.

She may return late in the season, said Hart head coach Larry David.

Until then, it will be up to sophomore returner Yohanna Neri, senior Leina Verrier and a bunch of athletes new to varsity.

“It’s a good, hard-working group of girls, but there’s not a lot of experience there,” David said.

Seniors Charlotte Steed and Kate Linn will look to make an impact along with freshman Anely Avila.

 

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