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Centurions looking for place in history books

A win Saturday would give Saugus third straight title

Posted: November 27, 2008 8:55 p.m.
Updated: November 28, 2008 4:55 a.m.

The Centurions will go for their third straight CIF State Cross Country championship Saturday in Fresno as the favorites to take the crown.

 
One of the most decorated cross country teams in California will attempt to win its third straight CIF State Cross Country championship.

It will do so with four returning three-milers and one strong new addition.

At 10:40 a.m. on Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno, Saugus will compete in the CIF State Division II Girls Cross Country Championship.

One season after winning the Division I title, the Centurions will be the favorite to win again this season.

"Everything's the same," said Saugus head coach Rene Paragas. "We faced all the top competition. We would have preferred to compete in Division I, but that's OK."

The talk of the team was the willingness to compete in Division I, but due to the fact the school has less than the amount of students required for that level, the team had to compete in Div. II.

Not that it's stopped the Centurions, who was still able to hand Div. I favorite Dana Hills its only defeat of the season at the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational in Walnut.

The fastest five Centurions this season have primarily been Kaylin Mahoney, Brianna Jauregui, Amber Murakami, Anne Randall and Stephanie Bulder.

Four of those were on the team that set a course record at last season's state meet with a time of 90 minutes, 49 seconds. Bulder was a freshman on the junior varsity team last year.

"It'd be nice to be in Division I, but it hasn't slowed us down," Randall said. "We are excited to try to set the course record this year."

Bulder has bolstered a team that finished second in the nation last season.

On Saturday at Mt. SAC, at the CIF-Southern Section Division II Girls Cross Country Finals, Saugus won with a near-perfect score of 22 points. Mira Costa was a distant second, with 93 points.

Bulder finished sixth overall (17:46). Mahoney won (17:01) and she broke a team record set at last season's Mt. SAC Invite by Shannon Murakami (17:08). Amber Murakami, Shannon's little sister, was third (17:38). Randall came in seventh (17:53), followed by Brianna Jauregui (18:02), who finished eighth.

"We used to do team rankings to see where we were at," Amber Murakami said. "We can't do that anymore, because we're so equal. We watched this team grow. It's awesome. We try to be modest about it."

Trying to be humble about being the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, according to Harrier Magazine, can be tough. But Saugus has managed to do just that.

Randall was able to turn in her top-10 finish even though she experienced bronchial spasms during the race. She passed out shortly afterward and was taken out on an ambulance. She was suffering from dehydration but Paragas said she should be fine for Saturday's state final. Mahoney has been running with a shin injury but should also be good to run.

"We try to be as modest as possible," Randall said. "We're like a big family. I think we surprised ourselves. I just think our motivation and our drive to be that much better helped."

In order to reach their goal of a threepeat, Paragas has tried to keep every runner no more than 45 seconds off each other's times.

While preparing his girls team for the Nike Team Nationals on Dec. 6 in Eugene, Ore., Paragas has had his team run through small washes, sand and jump onto small blocks of wood to build their leg strength.

"We run every day," Paragas said. "We don't always have the best athletes in our area. In fact, other schools that get kids feeding into them have some of the better athletes. We just try to outwork them."

Paragas said training for Woodward Park in Fresno and its rolling hills is not too difficult. The back part of Central Park across Bouquet Canyon Road is pretty similar.

"The first mile is always challenging because we don't like starting out fast," Paragas said. "Some teams, their adrenaline builds and they start out real fast. We don't like to do that. We'd rather hang on and outlast them at the end. Our strength is our fitness."

Mountain View girls team, ranked second in the state by dyestatcal.com, and Mira Costa, ranked third, are the top contenders to challenge the Centurions.

Saugus has not lost a meet to a team from California in each of the last three seasons. It has a great shot at making sure a win in Saturday's state finals continues that streak.


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