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Can anyone catch Saugus?

The race to winning the Foothill League in cross country begins with Centurions

Posted: September 10, 2008 9:46 p.m.
Updated: November 12, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The Saugus girls cross country team, led by Anne Randall, center, Kaylin Mahoney, second left, and Brianna Jauregui, right, will again be a dominant force in the Foothill League and nationally. The team is ranked No. 3 in the country by Harrier Magazine.

 

A nationally-ranked Saugus girls cross country team headlines a strong Foothill League, while a dogfight is on the horizon on the boys side.

The Centurions, ranked No. 3 in the country, are the runaway favorite to win the league, CIF Finals, and possibly the state meet. They are the two-time State and CIF Finals champions.

Canyon's girls, who finished second in league last season, also look strong, with Valencia in the mix.

Two-time defending boys champion Saugus could face some serious heat from Canyon, Valencia and Hart.
West Ranch and Golden Valley are looking to move up in the standings too.

Saugus
A dream season put together by the Saugus' girls cross country team last year could be at least partially duplicated this year.

The Centurions won the CIF-SS Finals and the CIF Division I State Cross Country Championship, setting course records in both meets. (Saugus is now in Division II).

They advanced to Portland, Ore., where they finished second in the Nike Team Nationals. They have not lost a meet in cross country in two years.

So there's nowhere to go but down, right?

Wrong.

Saugus is looking for another turn at state and national glory.

With standouts like sophomore Kaylin Mahoney, seniors Anne Randall and Brianna Jauregui, as well as junior Amber Murakami, look for Saugus to win another Foothill League title.

The Centurions will have to fight off teams from Division II like Newport Harbor from Newport Beach and Mira Costa from Manhattan Beach for the CIF state meet title.

"That's our main goal, is to win state," said fifth-year head coach Rene Paragas. "The only thing that could stop us from winning state is if we have a sickness or an injury. That's something we've talked about this year is stay healthy."

Losses of Katie Dunn and Nina Moore could be felt at times, but returners like Jauregui, the Centurions' No. 2 runner, Mahoney, Randall and Murakami appear strong enough to fit the bill and reach Saugus' lofty expectations.

Mahoney finished seventh with a time of 17 minutes, 47 seconds in last season's state meet at Woodward Park. Murakami (19th, 18:24) and Randall (25th, 18:24) were also outstanding in that three-mile race.

Mahoney is ranked No. 1 in Division II, according to dyestatcal.com's individual rankings. She is stepping into Dunn's role as the No. 1 runner, after spending much of last season as the No. 2 runner. Dunn finished one second ahead of Mahoney in the state meet.

"When you do extremely well, people want to see you fall," Paragas said. "That's our motivation, is to stay at the top."

Randall is the top returning senior. Amber Murakami, who along with Jaregui is a former state champion, is another runner who could routinely come in as the second or third runner.

"She's not afraid of anything," Paragas said of Randall. "When she started out, she was 80th or 90th in meets. Now she's one of our top runners. She'd run a 25-minute, three-mile race, which is not that good for a girl. She has a nothing-to-lose attitude."

Murakami is the younger sister of Shannon Murakami, a 2006 Saugus graduate who is a sophomore on the UCLA women's cross country team. Amber has followed her sister since she was in middle school.

"It seems like she's been around eight years," Paragas said. "Brianna has the most endurance. She's not our fastest girl, but she's a really strong, durable runner."

Runners like senior captain Keri Molt, the team captain, freshmen Karis Franklin and Katie Shirley, and sophomore Stephanie Bulder round out the top eight.

Saugus' boys team is also looking for a strong season. Brandon Jauregui and Alec Nelson both headline a one-two punch that has the two-time defending Foothill League champions setting their sneakers at a spot in the CIF state meet, something the Centurions have not done since 1998.

The top 17 teams in the CIF division meet will advance to the state meet. Saugus went to the CIF Prelims, but could not advance to the finals. The Cents were ranked eighth on dyestatcal.com's preseason poll.

"They look at as, ‘We work harder than the girls," Paragas said. "We just don't have as much success. "It takes a while to mature. A 14-year-old boy running against 18-year-olds is tough. But a 14-year-old girl can compete with anyone in the state."

Jauregui, the older brother of Brianna on the Saugus girls team, was the top two-mile runner in the league track season, with a time of 9 minutes, 34 seconds.

Nelson (9:39) is the third-fastest returner in the two-mile.

Seniors Joey Eledge, an all-league selection, team captain Bret Swinehart and Kevin Heineman round out the top runners.

Canyon
There are two girls teams in the league who were ranked among the top 10 in the state preseason poll on dyestatecal.com.

One of them is Canyon, ranked 10th.

"I think it's going to be a battle for second (behind Saugus)," said head coach Paul Broneer. "It's been a few years since we've been ranked. Hopefully they're right."

The Cowboys are brimming with talent, led by juniors Haley Parkinson, the top runner, Jessica Gatton, and Alyssa Selve, a transfer from Quartz Hill High just south of Palmdale who could end up as Canyon's No. 2 runner.

CHS made it to the CIF Finals last season and was very close to reaching the state meet.

"We missed it by one place," Broneer said. "We have a pretty strong pack, we should have a strong season."

Top senior Gatton, who finished eighth in the league, is a second-team pick in league. Devin Goff and Elvia Contreras round out the top four.

Canyon's boys team has enough talent to be right on Saugus' heels in an attempt to dethrone the Centurions. Anthony Pizzo is the top runner for now, with Tommy McGuan close behind.

Depth is not a concern for the Cowboys, who run 10 deep.

"We could contend for a league title," Broneer said. "We have a different seven every week. We have 10 guys who are tied for third. "Our number 10 guy is just as good as our number three guy."

Defending league frosh-soph champion Nate Taylor, who won the two-mile run at the league track meet last season, is another strong runner. Michael Norris, Timmy Gonzalez, Joe Pineda are also in the mix, along with Tim Snow and James Snow.

Valencia
Vikings head coach Pat Connelly is trying to guide his boys team to the CIF Finals for the first time in team history, while making sure his girls team qualifies for the CIF Prelims.

"It'll be a battle," Connelly said. "Saugus has it locked up. I think we'll be pretty good."

Falco DiGiallondro, who won the Foothill League frosh-soph mile race is the ace runner. Last season, he set the freshman record in the mile (4:32).

Chris Hernandez is another one to watch, along with Andrew Mayeda.

Laura Bloom and Megan McDaniel set up the top four among the girls team, who finished third last season.

"That's our goal for this year, is to make it to third (in girls)."

Hart
Alex Gunning heads head coach Larry David's team. He was 11th last season, ahead of Brandon Jauregui of Saugus.

Konrad Antoniak, a strong swimmer on the Indians last season, returns as well. He was second on the team (16:30) in the CIF Prelims. Freshman Sam Peckham is another fast runner for the Indians. The loss of Jimmy Kelley, who is now the No. 1 cross country runner at Pepperdine University, will be felt.

"He was a guaranteed one point for us," David said. "It'll be a big loss in league meets. We'll have run as a pack."

The girls team will be spearheaded by Grace Zamudio, a sophomore who was also the No. 1 runner last season.

"I think she's going to conted for all-league," David said.

West Ranch
The Wildcat girls are the story here.

Two-time all-league runner Bailey Miller and freshman Ashley Welker could help West Ranch contend for one of the top three league spots. But with Saugus and Canyon appearing to have the top two spots locked up, it could be tough.

Golden Valley
Seth Trotten qualified in both the mile and two-mile runs in the league finals as a sophomore last season. He was in the top 20 in the league last season and is the fastest returning Grizzly.

Johnny Tapia and Gabe Vasquez also return, the top newcomer is Danny Carrillo.

Lauren Nygren is the top girls runner for the Grizzlies.

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