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2013-14 Team of the Year: Saugus boys cross country

Posted: July 15, 2014 10:00 p.m.
Updated: July 15, 2014 10:00 p.m.

The Saugus boys cross country team recieves the CIF Boys Division II State Cross Country Championship trophy at Woodward Park in Fresno on Nov. 30. Pictured from left, head coach Rene Paragas, team members Chris Ochoa, Billy Anthony, Jordan Serrano, Ryan Tate, Alex Pearson, Ethan Walker, Brian Zabilski and assistant coach Jose Flores.

It’s comical to look back at what the outside world thought of Saugus boys cross country in late September.

Headed into the first Foothill League meet, Saugus was ranked seventh in CIF-Southern Section Division II.

That was a little more than two months before the team went on to win a state championship – the first for the boys team in school history.

And this group was supposedly only seventh best its division? Ouch.

It fits well in a way though, because the boys team has operated in the shadows for so many years with the immense success of Saugus girls cross country.

With the Saugus girls winning state titles seven years in a row from 2006-2012, the boys team was always an afterthought despite the fact that it finished second in state twice — 2010 and 2012.

But let’s not make the mistake of thinking the story of Saugus’ 2013 season was some kind of underdog story or a fluke.

This collection of talented runners knew from the very beginning they had a chance to go all the way to Fresno and hoist a state title trophy.

Returning varsity runners Brian Zabilski and Alex Pearson knew. Head coach Rene Paragas knew.

They were all there at Woodward Park in Fresno the previous year when Saugus settled for a painfully close runner-up finish in the state Division II final.

Sure, the team’s top two runners from that season, A.J. Yarnall and Rodrigo Ornelas, graduated.

As per tradition though, the next man up emerged. This time around, the junior wonder Zabilski rose to the occasion and became the star of the season. He won all three league races and was Saugus’ top finisher at the CIF-SS finals and state finals.

He was fourth overall in the Division II state final at 15 minutes, 22 seconds, which is the third-best time in school history on that course.

And then there was the veteran senior captain, Pearson, who cranked his game up a notch this season as well.

But the difference between Saugus’ close calls of the past and this season were the Nos. 3-7 runners.

Senior Ethan Walker built so much momentum as the season went on that he wound up as Saugus’ No. 2 runner at the state final.

And there were the young, eager, first-time varsity runners in sophomore Ryan Tate and junior Jordan Serrano.

The team’s sixth and seventh finishers at state, Billy Anthony and Chris Ochoa, also can’t be forgotten because of the role they played by competing with and pushing their teammates to new heights.

Anthony and Ochoa took turns as top five runners on the team at various points in the season as it is. And without them, Saugus may not have been able to knock off the same Westlake team that beat it out for the state Division II title the year before.

They can all stake their claim to this victory.

Plenty of teams in the Santa Clarita Valley this season won Foothill League titles and a few even won CIF sectional championships.

But only one team completed the trifecta with a state crown.

And for that reason, we’ve got our own ranking for Saugus boys cross country. How about No. 1 in the voting for The Signal’s 2013-14 Team of the Year?

It’s now the sixth straight year The Signal’s Team of the Year has included the words “Saugus” and “cross country.” This time though, it’s about the boys.


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