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Runners up again

Saugus girls cross country get closer, but cannot take down the two-time defending national champs

Posted: December 6, 2008 10:36 p.m.
Updated: December 7, 2008 4:55 a.m.
If the Saugus girls cross country team is known as a running juggernaut, what would Fayetteville-Manlius of New York be called?

How about "targeted."

Saugus, running as Santa Clarita Cross Country for this particular race, came closer this year but couldn't overcome the team that has lorded over the nation's top prep cross country programs three years in a row.

The three-time California state champion Centurions finished in second place Saturday for the second consecutive year at the Nike Cross Championship in Portland, Ore.

Saugus finished with an improved time from last year - 93 minutes, 33.24 seconds - but couldn't catch up with Manlius' time of 91:29.60.

"They're good. I'd have to say they're just as good as we are," said Saugus runner Anne Randall. "Their pack was ahead of our pack, and they just ran a better race than we did.

"We ran extremely tough. We ran tougher than ever. Kaylin (Mahoney) was up there far, then it was our pack. We worked together the whole way."

In the end, Manlius had better numbers.

Its runners finished seventh, 19th, 21st, 24th, 63rd, 115th and 112nd.

By comparison, Saugus' runners finished 11th (Mahoney, 18:04.10), 56th (Amber Murakami, 18:47.40), 61st (Stephanie Bulder, 18:49.20), 65th (Brianna Jauregui, 18:51.50), 66th (Randall, 18:52), 97th (Karis Frankian, 19:11.60) and 112th (Keri Molt, 19:23.40).

Mahoney was roughly a half-minute off the lead pace.

Chelsey Sveinsson of Addison (Texas) Cross Country finished first individually at 17:26.90.

"There are so many good girls," said the sophomore Mahoney. "I'm not up to that level yet. Yet."

Saugus might not be either - yet.

A strong core of the team should return next season - Mahoney, Bulder, Frankian and Murakami are all underclassmen.

Murakami picked up steam late in the season.

Her time Saturday was nearly three minutes better than last year.

In fact, Mahoney, Jauregui and Randall also shaved considerable time off last year's finishes.

Saugus as a team finished the race in 100:13.20 last season after improving from 18th in 2006.

"We definitely wanted to win - that was the ultimate goal," Murakami said. "The main thing was to be as tough as we could.

"If we go out there and be tough and ignore the pain, you can't ask for more."

Murakami said it was a painful race, yet the conditions were ideal.

Last year, runners had to brave the cold and fight the snow.

This year, Portland was sunny and the course was less muddy.

Nonetheless, Saugus' runners were at a slight disadvantage because they had to overcome different obstacles like hay bales and "whoopdy-doos" (described by Murakami as little hills of wood chips).

The obstacles made the runners hurt - even prompting the Saugus girls to chant early on: "No pain. No pain."

The strategy, according to the trio, was to stay with the Manlius girls, then try and pull it out late.

Though it didn't work out, Saugus is inching closer.

Randall even said that if the setting were different, Saugus would have an even better shot at becoming national champions.

"It would be different if (Manlius) went to Mt. SAC," she said. "It would be a good race."


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