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Saugus girls cross country completes historic run

Centurions win record fourth consecutive CIF state girls cross country championship

Posted: November 28, 2009 11:55 p.m.
Updated: November 29, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Canyon's Tommy McGuan races toward the finish line in the Div. II race. McGuan wound up 18th overall and Canyon finished fifth as a team.

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FRESNO — The Saugus girls had a chance to make history Saturday at Woodward Park.

Their focus, however, was much more immediate.

“We asked the girls, ‘Do you want to go home in the van with the second-place trophy?’” said Saugus head coach Rene Paragas.

Their answer: a resounding no.

The same way it’s been the last four years.

The Centurions won their unprecedented fourth consecutive CIF State Girls Cross Country title with a team time of 1 hour, 30 minutes, 26 seconds, highlighting a tremendous day for the Foothill League at the state meet.

Golden Valley finished third in the boys’ Division III race with a team time of 1:20:43, and Canyon wound up fifth in the boys’ Division II race at 1:20:44.

In their first trip to the state meet, the West Ranch girls wound up seventh in the Division II race at 1:36:11. The Saugus boys were 10th in the Division II race with a time of 1:21:33.

But the day belonged to their female counterparts.

A year after winning the CIF State Division II individual championship as a sophomore, junior Kaylin Mahoney finished third overall with a time of 17 minutes, 35 seconds, leading a contingent of seven Saugus girls that all finished in the top 72.

Saugus’ other four scorers were sophomore Karis Frankian, who was fifth overall at 17:52; junior Stephanie Bulder, who was 10th at 18:06; senior Amber Murakami, who was 23rd at 18:26; and junior Danielle Hernando, who was 24th with a time of 18:27.

Mahoney was out-kicked by both, eventual state champion Jacque Taylor of Casa Grande and runner-up Julie Nacouzi of Montgomery, but it didn’t bother her.

“I couldn’t have asked any more of myself,” Mahoney said. “I stuck with Jacque at the two-mile mark. They just sprinted faster.”

Meanwhile, her teammates were blitzing their way to the finish line.

It was critical that they did so, because second-place Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach finished just nine points behind the Centurions at last weekend’s CIF-Southern Section Division II finals.

Paragas said that gave the Mustangs confidence heading into the state meet, so he prepared his team to stay just ahead of them at each level of the race, or “hold them by the belt buckle.”

The strategy paid off.

“I think we pulled it off great,” Murakami said. “(Coach Paragas) did a great job preparing us and showing us what we had to do.”

After the race, Paragas left it to his runners to decide if they would participate in next weekend’s Nike Cross Nationals in Oregon, where they have finished second the last two years.

The girls were leaning toward going, but they weren’t 100 percent sure.

They had something else on their minds.

“This is a big accomplishment,” Paragas said. “I was very stressed out about it. This means more than maybe even the first (state title), given what we’ve been through this season.”

Golden Valley has been through a lot this season, too.

After finishing 11th in the state a season ago, Grizzlies co-head coaches Chris and Rob Evans had a question for the team.

“At Mammoth, we said, ‘Was 11th good enough?’” Rob Evans said. “They said, ‘No.’ We said, ‘What gets a medal?’ They said, ‘Top three.’ That’s what we wanted.”

That’s what they got.

Senior Seth Totten capped an outstanding senior year by posting a seventh-place overall time of 15:24.

“I gave it everything I had today,” he said. “I felt like it was my race to win and I raced like that.”

Sophomore Kristian Martinez was 28th overall at 15:57, and sophomore Danny Carrillo was 60th at 16:24.

Senior Avery McDougal was 70th at 16:29, and sophomore Juan David Garcia was milliseconds behind at 72nd with a time of 16:29.

Golden Valley was in fourth place entering the last mile of the race, but pushed it from there to claim third.

“All the work we did, we said it was for the last mile (of the state race),” Chris Evans said. “It worked for us.”

After the race, the coaches talked about how they had been considered a “novelty” program.

They talked about people coming up to them and almost pandering to them, given Golden Valley’s athletic reputation.

What did the runners have to say to that?

“Do we need to say anything?” Totten asked, holding up his medal. “People can think we’re a cutesy program, an expansion team. We can point to the trophy. We’re for real.”

For many years, Canyon’s boys team proved it was for real with postseason success.

Last year’s team didn’t get that chance, but this year’s team returned to the postseason in a big way.

The team’s fifth-place performance had the coaches beaming afterwards.

“As well as this group ran,” said co-head coach Dave DeLong, “we’re going home feeling like we’re state champions.”

Senior Tommy McGuan ran the race in 15:37 to finish 18th, and the rest of the Cowboys swooped through the finish line in a pack.

Senior Michel Noris was 57th at 16:14; senior Chris Low was 61st at 16:16; junior Timmy Gonzales was 67th with a time of 16:18; and senior Tyler Tockstein was 70th at 16:19.

The Cowboys’ two non-scorers, senior Mason Bouchet and junior Sam Willis, also posted times of 16:25 and 16:27, respectively.

Normally Canyon’s No. 2 runner, Willis came down with swine flu just two weeks ago, which made his accomplishment all the more impressive.

“I think it says we’ve grown equally as people, and we’ve grown a lot closer,” Willis said. “That was one of the most important things we can do. For me, this is one of the best teams I’ve ever been with.”

Before the season began, a cross country Web site predicted that the Canyon boys would finish fifth this fall.

That site was talking about the Foothill League, not the state.

“I texted (the site runner) and said, ‘You were right, we were fifth,’” said Canyon co-head coach Paul Broneer.

The West Ranch girls were happy to be seventh in their first state trip.

Senior Bailey Miller led the Wildcats with a 20th overall time of 18:24.

Sophomore Ashley Welker was 30th with a time of 18:31 and junior Jennifer Owen wound up 59th with a time of 19:09.

And just like they’ve been doing the past three weeks, West Ranch’s fourth and fifth runners came through.

Sophomore Samantha Phillips was 103rd overall at 20:01 and Marissa Yabko was 106th at 20:06.

“We brought it like we planned on doing,” Miller said. “We finished two spots from where we were ranked coming in and we’re excited.”

One of the teams that West Ranch jumped was Mountain View, which finished eighth as a team.

Wildcats head coach Randy Smith said the program will build on Saturday’s performance.

“I was pleased with how we finished,” he said. “Last year, we faded in (CIF-SS) finals. This is a nice step, but we want to be more competitive and closer to the top.”

The Saugus boys were at the top of their game at last weekend’s CIF-SS finals, and Paragas said it was natural to have a letdown one week later.

“A couple of them tried to do a little too much,” he said. “That’s the nature of the sport, it’s up and down.”

Junior Robert Pion was 27th overall with a time of 15:47, while junior A.J. Hebert was 45th at 16:08.

Senior Alec Nelson was 53rd at 16:10, junior Alan Gately was 111th at 16:44 and junior Logan Smith was milliseconds behind Gately at 16:44.

“We’ve got six underclassmen on our roster,” Paragas said, “so we shall return.”

NOTES: Mountain View won the Division II boys race with a team time of 1:18:26, and Loyola junior Elias Gedyon won the individual race with a time of 15 minutes flat … Palos Verdes won the Division III boys race with a team time of 1:18:46, and Novato senior Erik Olson won the individual title with a time of 15:01 … In the Division II girls race, Taylor won the state championship with a time of 17:29, and Nacouzi was milliseconds behind her … The announced attendance of the CIF State Cross Country Championship was close to 11,000 people.

 

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