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Samantha Ortega makes All-American at Footlocker finals

Posted: December 14, 2013 4:22 p.m.
Updated: December 14, 2013 4:22 p.m.
 

One incredible cross country season ended fittingly for Saugus junior Samantha Ortega.

The best high school runner in the Santa Clarita Valley finished her season as an All-American at the Footlocker Cross Country National Championship at San Diego’s Balboa Park on Saturday.

Her 15th-place finish in 17 minutes, 54 seconds put her name alongside former SCV greats Lauren Fleshman and Dave Hartman, who both graduated from Canyon High.

“It’s actually really exciting and just so many other things I’ve done this season,” Ortega said. “It’s reassuring for my future and hopefully it’s a sign of great the things to come.”

Ortega was the fifth runners in SCV history to make it to the Footlocker National finals and she became the third to finish top 15 for All-American status after Fleshman and Hartman.

Fleshman, who is a two-time U.S. champion in the 5,000 meters, finished second at the event in 1998 and Hartman was third in 1990.

Ortega was Saugus’ first female runner to compete at the Footlocker Nationals.

Though two former Saugus Centurions — Kaylin Mahoney and Katie Dunn — earned All-American honors at Nike Cross Nationals, which is another annual nationwide high school cross country competition.

This year’s Saugus girls team failed to qualify for Nike Cross Nationals for the first time in eight years.

Instead, Ortega alone decided to compete in the Footlocker competition, which consisted of four regional races around the nation.

She finished fourth last week in the West Regional at Mt. San Antonio College to qualify for nationals.

“It was definitely a goal of mine to become All-American because we couldn’t make it to (Nike Cross) this year,” Ortega said.

Saturday’s race concluded a stellar junior season for Ortega. She broke multiple course records throughout the fall and she won seven consecutive races to start the season, including her second straight individual Foothill League championship.

She followed that up with back-to-back third-place finishes in the CIF-Southern Section Division II final and the state Division II final.

“Individually I think I had a really good season,” Ortega said. “I’m really satisfied with it and I’m super excited for next cross country season.”

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