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Finding the right words

From top to bottom, Cents solidify status in California

Posted: November 28, 2009 11:57 p.m.
Updated: November 29, 2009 4:30 a.m.

FRESNO — They had just won their fourth consecutive CIF State championship.

What did members of the Saugus girls cross country program have to say?

“I was in shock,” said senior Amber Murakami.

“It was difficult,” said head coach Rene Paragas.

“It was much different than my freshman and sophomore years,” said junior Kaylin Mahoney.

There are many ways to describe Saugus’ historic morning Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno, a moment etched in the history of California high school athletics.

Given the celebration that took place at the Centurions’ tent afterwards — which included several prominent alumni — one word seemed to fit best.


“This was by far the toughest year,” Paragas said. “When you’re on the rise, no one’s gunning for you. This year was a battle.”

It’s a fitting metaphor, considering Saugus took everyone’s best shot this season.

The coaches and runners knew it would be that way coming in.

“Amber and Kaylin and all the juniors talk about having to train for the state championship,” said sophomore Karis Frankian.
Mahoney led the way, finishing third overall with a time of 17 minutes, 35 seconds.

“This year it wasn’t a given, but it was all up to us to get it done,” Mahoney said.

Frankian was fifth at 17:52. Junior Stephanie Bulder was 10th at 18:06. Murakami was 23rd at 18:26. Junior Danielle Hernando was 24th at 18:27.

Furthermore, juniors Merissa Kado and Nicole Penick made sure that if one of the five scoring runners had faltered, Saugus still had a great chance to win the state title.

Kado finished 32nd at 18:34 and Penick was 72nd at 19:25, both crossing the finish line before several teams even had their second runners come through.

“We had to ask ourselves, how bad do we want it?” Frankian said. “Obviously we wanted it more today, because we won.”

And not just the state championship.

The Centurions won the Foothill League for the fourth straight year. They won the CIF-Southern Section divisional finals for the fourth straight year, the first two coming in Division I.

Over the past four years, they’ve won the respect of their peers, too.

While Mira Costa was accepting medals for its second-place finish Saturday, head coach Renee Williams-Smith took the microphone and thanked Saugus for pushing them.

Soon after, the Centurions took that same podium again.

“Last year, I knew I had the opportunity to win four,” said Murakami, who is the only scoring member of all four state championship teams. “When we got it, I didn’t know what to say.”

That’s OK. The moment provided plenty of words for her.

The Saugus girls were presented with the state championship trophy, which had a model of California sitting on it.

They stood atop the podium, together again. With the competition looking up at them.

The state of California in the palm of their hands.



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