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Saugus wins third straight state title, Mahoney claims individual crown

Posted: November 29, 2008 10:25 p.m.
Updated: November 30, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Saugus' Kaylin Mahoney, left, is pursued by Casa Grande's Jacque Taylor, right. Mahoney won the individual title with a time of 17:34 in Fresno.

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FRESNO - The Saugus High School girls cross country team made a proclamation with its feet Saturday morning at Fresno's Woodward Park.

The team later made the proclamation with by its feat.

With a dominant performance in the CIF State Division II Cross Country Championships, the Centurions claimed their third straight state title.

Adding more emphasis, sophomore runner Kaylin Mahoney became the second Saugus runner in the last four years to claim an individual championship.

The proclamation is clear - this Saugus team, after besting its own state mark by running 90 minutes, 6 seconds and defeating its next closest competitor by a whopping 109 points, is the greatest girls cross country team in California history.

Taking it a step beyond, with all the accolades over the past three years, the Saugus girls cross country program, between 2006 and 2008, joins the argument as the greatest team in the history of the Santa Clarita Valley.

"Saugus is the greatest team in state history," said Saugus cross country head coach Rene Paragas, with a lot of emphasis in his voice. "Can you say that about teams like Hart football (which won six division championships between 1995 and 2003, not state titles)?There's not even an argument."

Paragas made the argument that although there have been Santa Clarita Valley teams with tremendous success this decade, including those that took home state championships like Canyon football of 2006 and Valencia softball of 2007 and the national champion Valencia boys volleyball team of 2008, none had to defeat more teams than Saugus cross country.

The one program that could say it did that was Hart's state champion boys cross country teams of 1990, 1991 and 1992.

Now the Centurions can say it also.

Saugus was so powerful Saturday that second-place Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach wasn't remotely close.
Behind Mahoney, Brianna Jauregui posted a personal best time of 17:48, good enough for fourth overall.

The Centurions then crossed the finish line like a blue tsunami.

Junior Amber Murakami (eighth, 18:03), sophomore Stephanie Bulder (14th, 18:18), freshman Karis Frankian (17th, 18:23), senior Anne Randall (22nd, 18:29) and senior Keri Molt (27th, 18:37) passed through the chute in close succession.

But Mahoney stood out.

The sophomore runner crossed at 17:34, three seconds ahead of Edison High of Huntington Beach's Hillary Hayes.

Mahoney was cradled in the arms of an official after crossing the line, the Centurion sophomore's eyes rolling upward as if she were dizzy.

"As soon as I crossed, it didn't hit me," she said. "I wasn't thinking about the win. I was trying to stand up and not be a wimp. I wanted to see my girls cross the finish line."

Mahoney danced with disaster, though, on the final leg of the race.

She misunderstood the course and trailed off from the leaders during the course's last turn, heading toward a tree.

Realizing she made the mistake, Mahoney made up the 15-meter distance and battled with Hayes and Jacque Taylor of Casa Grande of Petaluma to the finish line.

Other than Mahoney, who now joins Shannon Murakami as the only state individual champions in Saugus history (Murakami accomplished the feat in 2005), the strategy was the same.

Saugus coaches put Mahoney on her own because of her strong chance of winning the individual title.

The rest of the girls were conservative for the first mile - then as the next mile approached they were to pick runners off, girl by girl.

The final mile was the surge - a sprint to the line.

Jauregui benefited most from the strategy.

"At picking off girls, I'm usually really, really good," Jauregui said.

Jauregui spoke of the adversity Saugus had to go through coming in as well.

Mahoney had shin splints.

Randall was taken off in an ambulance last week after a post-race battle with bronchitis.

"We weren't at the top of our game," Paragas said.

Saugus now turns its attention to the Nike Cross Nationals next Saturday.

The Centurions finished second last year.

The course features hay bales, creeks and unique surfaces - some would liken it to an obstacle course.

Don't think they're not motivated.

"To us, state wasn't the big deal," Mahoney said. "Compared to (Nike Cross Nationals), that's something we haven't conquered."

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