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CIF cross country: Plenty to watch for

The storylines are plentiful at Saturday’s CIF finals

Posted: November 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Saugus junior Abigail Frankian, center, leads a pack of Saugus runners on Nov. 1 at Central Park.

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Anything short of a CIF championship would be a major disappointment for Saugus girls cross country, which has stood atop the CIF-Southern Section Division II rankings all season long.

But the Saugus girls are far from the only ones worth watching at Saturday’s CIF-Southern Section Championships at Mt. San Antonio College.

The Foothill League will be well represented with three boys teams, three girls teams and one individual — Valencia’s Olivia Pear — in action on Saturday.

Golden Valley and Canyon will be joining Saugus in the girls Division II race starting at 9:05 a.m. and the Saugus, Golden Valley and Hart boys teams will follow at 10:05 a.m., when the gun goes off for the boys Division II race.

Pear will kick things off for the Foothill group when she begins her Division I race at 8:45 a.m.

“You can look at the times, you can look at the rankings, but no championship is won on paper. You’ve got to go out there and run,” said Saugus head coach Rene Paragas.

Last year, the Centurion girls finished second at the CIF-SS finals behind Simi Valley in the Division II race, which ended Saugus’ five-year reign as CIF champs.

Simi Valley moved to Division I this season, which leaves Saugus as an overwhelming favorite based on last week’s qualifying times.

A strong one-two punch of sophomore Samantha Ortega and junior Abigail Frankian will likely lead the pack for Saugus.

Ortega, the Foothill champion, and Frankian both finished in the top three of all three league races this year.

The Golden Valley girls finished right behind Saugus in league and in the same qualifying heat last week. The Grizzlies will have a chance to make their first-ever appearance at the CIF State Cross Country Championships if they can finish in the top seven.

Last week at prelims, the Grizzlies raced well behind a heat-winning performance by freshman Bianca Tinoco. Golden Valley will likely be led by senior Chelsey Totten, who is making her third straight CIF championship start.

Her best finish is 13th at the 2010 finals.

Golden Valley head coach Marc Minasian feels good about his team’s chances.

“As I go down the list of our top five people just from (prelims), I see a minute, maybe a 1 1/2 minutes or 1 minute and 45 of time we can take off by (Saturday),” Minasian said.

The Canyon girls became the third Foothill finalist after finishing fourth in the Foothill standings and earning an at-large postseason bid.

“Each girl got a little better than where they were two weeks ago,” said Canyon head coach Paul Broneer.

As for Pear, she’ll have to finish in the top five among individuals on non-qualifying teams to make it to the state finals. She’ll be racing in a treacherous Division I field.

“She’s definitely run some fantastic races and come a long way this year,” said Valencia head coach Jeff Gilkey. “She finally started believing in herself.”

On the boys side, Saugus appears to be the team with the best chance to advance to state.

The Centurions finished with the third best qualifying time in the division last week. Like he did with the girls team, Paragas said he intentionally held out two of his top runners in the race to rest them for finals.

The Saugus boys just missed out on making the state meet last year after winning a CIF title in 2010.

Golden Valley and Hart are also both returning CIF-Southern Section finalists, and both are looking to qualify for the state meet for the second year in a row.

The Grizzlies are defending CIF-SS and state champions in Division II, but they will have their work cut out for them coming back after five of their top seven runners graduated.

Nolan Del Valle was the Foothill’s best qualifier last week with a time of 15:16.

It will also be a challenge for Hart to finish in the top seven on Saturday. Head coach Larry David said the team will have to run its best race of the year to do so.



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