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Boys may have state’s most competitive league

Posted: September 23, 2009 10:36 p.m.
Updated: September 24, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Parity has crept into Foothill League boys cross country.

It has eliminated the league’s reputation for having just one or two strong teams at the top each season.

It’s also given five teams a legitimate hope of winning the league title.

One of them is Golden Valley.

The Grizzlies burst onto the scene a year ago and finished 11th at the CIF State Division III meet.

“I think it speaks to the great coaching at all six schools,” said Golden Valley co-head coach Chris Evans. “It comes down to the runners.”

The Grizzlies are ranked No. 3 in the preseason CIF State Division III rankings according to dyestatcal.com, but lost a couple of key contributors from last year’s team.

Senior Seth Totten returns to follow up his fifth-place individual finish at the state meet. Totten also finished mere milliseconds behind Saugus’ Brandon Jauregui for the individual league title.

Golden Valley will need more depth if it wants to win the league title and return to the state meet.

Sophomore Danny Carrillo is back after running the Grizzlies’ second-best time at the state meet, and juniors Luc Schutz and Andrew Valenzuela also return after scoring fifth and sixth, respectively.

Evans said senior Avery McDougal has improved a great deal over the summer and could be among Golden Valley’s top four, while sophomore Kristian Martinez and freshman Nolan DelValle have stepped up as well.

Golden Valley’s athletic struggles have been well-documented, and Evans said a successful 2009 season would help establish the program.

“I think it would be validation for a lot of these boys who came in as freshmen and sophomores and got beat,” Evans said. “(It would be) the completion of that journey going from a team battling not to be last to a team battling for the top.”

The defending league champions won’t go quietly, if at all.

Saugus suffered heavy losses due to graduation, with only two runners who saw significant time on varsity returning.

“It’s been monumentally difficult to reload,” said Saugus head coach Rene Paragas. “There’s not many teams that can have completely different runners from the year before and still compete at the highest level. This year is a learning experience for us.”

Senior Alec Nelson finished third in the Foothill League a year ago but has been held out of a couple meets due to injury.

Paragas said that junior Robert Pion could be Saugus’ second scorer in a lot of meets, which was impressive since Pion only started running cross country last January.

Junior Alex Ruther is another runner who could a top scorer for Saugus, while junior Logan Smith is the No.-4 runner after seeing spot races last year.

Junior A.J. Hebert rounds out the top five on a Centurions team that will have to work to win its fourth consecutive league title.

“This is probably going to be the most exciting year in the Foothill League ever,” Paragas said. “I wouldn’t call any (of the Foothill League teams) contenders for a CIF championship, but they’re all really solid teams.”

Canyon is another solid squad that has designs on a Foothill League championship.

“I’m really pleased with this group of boys,” said Canyon head coach Paul Broneer. “We’re about 12 kids deep. I think you could substitute our 12th for our fifth and it’s only going to change (the time) eight or 10 seconds.”

The Cowboys’ solid pack of runners should give them consistent results this season, but the leader is unquestionably senior Thomas McGuan, who finished fifth in the league last season.

Juniors Sam Willis and Timmy Gonzales could be among Canyon’s top-three scorers this season, while the senior group of Michel Norris, Joe Pineda, Chris Low, Mason Bouchet and Tyler Tockstein has been on the team for four years and worked their way up.

It all starts, however, with McGuan.

“He’s a tough kid,” Broneer said. “He put in over 900 miles this summer. He’s really been the leader on our team.”

Hart has three runners who are a cut above the rest of the team, but that strength at the top will help the Indians contend for the league title.

Junior Anthony Soto and sophomore Sam Peckham are the top two according to head coach Larry David.

Senior Konrad Antoniuk was the team’s top runner at the end of last fall, and usually performs better in the second half of the season.

“Having all three of those guys spreads the experience to all the levels and all the grades,” said Hart head coach Larry David. “There’s no big senior at the top that makes freshmen feel lowly.”

David said the four through seven spots are flexible, and that sophomore Austin O’Neil and junior Sam Goldman should headline the group.

“I think we have a chance as much as anybody else if our top-three guys are running where we hope they can be,” David said. “If we can get to CIF, we should be able to do some good things there.”

Valencia wants to make it to CIF, and the team has a state-caliber runner at the top spot.

Junior Falco DiGiallonardo figures to challenge for the individual league title, and Valencia head coach Pat Connelly has nothing but praise for him.

“There’s no question, no one (on the team) is going to come close to Falco,” he said. “He has come to a level of maturity which is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

Senior Andrew Berumen will likely be Valencia’s second scorer, followed by senior Andrew Mayeda and junior Mark Lampert.

Valencia will need consistency from the runners behind DiGiallonardo if it hopes to contend for the league title.

Even if the Vikings come up short, Connelly hopes that the CIF will recognize the strength of the Foothill League.

“I think we’re the best league anywhere in the state,” he said. “I just hope the CIF gives us an at-large berth because we so deserve it.”

With all the talent across the league, West Ranch is just hoping to improve.

“I’m looking more toward the future with the boys team,” said head coach Randy Smith. “We don’t have the talent up there in the senior and junior class.”

Smith said junior Calvin Kim is probably the team’s best runner, while the next four scorers will likely be freshmen, led by Joshua Sherffy.

“They’re a good group of freshmen and I think they’re going to get better,” Smith said.

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