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Ortega makes Foot Locker Nationals

Saugus girls XC standout has strong showing at regionals

Posted: December 7, 2013 10:59 p.m.
Updated: December 7, 2013 10:59 p.m.

Samantha Ortega runs at Mt. SAC on a rainy Saturday.

 

Samantha Ortega is still feeling the sting of last week’s second-place finish at the CIF State Cross Country championships.

She harnessed that disappointment into another stellar performance on Saturday at the Foot Locker Cross Country West Regional Championships at Mt. San Antonio College.

On a rainy, muddy, 3.1-mile track, the Saugus junior finished fourth place in 19 minutes, 2.4 seconds to advance to the Foot Locker National Championships on Saturday in San Diego.

Ortega becomes the fifth Santa Clarita Valley runner and first in school history to make it to the Foot Locker finals.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” Ortega said. “I hope there won’t be as much mud (in San Diego) as there is today.”

The race on Saturday featured 104 runners from states throughout the West Coast in addition to Alaska and Hawaii.

Only the top 10 finishers advanced to nationals which will combine the best runners to come out of four different regional races ran throughout the country.

Last week in Fresno, Saugus finished second as a team in the state Division II race, losing to Simi Valley by five points. It ended the team’s streak of seven straight state championships.

That five-point loss stuck with Ortega.

“All I could keep repeating to myself was the number five,” Ortega said of Saturday’s race. “Five points, five points, five points, and that helped me and made me want to keep passing one more person.”

This will be Ortega’s second appearance in a national cross country race. She finished 61st at Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore. last year.

The Saugus girls team had qualified for Nike Cross Nationals each of the last seven years, but both Saugus teams fell short of qualifying this time around despite a state championship win for the boys and a runner-up finish for the girls.

But for Ortega, cross country season isn’t over yet.

“It feels great, but nothing can compare to going to nationals as a team,” she said.

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