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CIF cross country: Saugus' section

Girls win Division II; Boys are runners up

Posted: November 17, 2012 5:59 p.m.
Updated: November 17, 2012 5:59 p.m.

Saugus' Nina Sassano, center, carries the CIF-SS Division II championship trophy with teammates from left, Heidi Hoslet, Olivia Altieri and Darby LaPlant at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut on Saturday.

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WALNUT — Saugus High is again, without a doubt, the best cross country program in the Southern Section.

Now it has a chance to again prove it’s the best in the state.

The Centurions girls returned to the top on Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College in the CIF-Southern Section Cross Country Championships and won their sixth title in seven years and the boys team finished as the runner-up, both in the Division II race.

“We’re the best combined program in the state. If you take the boys and girls, who’s better than Saugus combined? That’s the kind of outstanding achievement we’ve done this season,” said Saugus head coach Rene Paragas, who gave a lot of credit to coaches George Serrano and Jose Flores — two men who took over the boys program in 2012. “It’s very rare that you’re going to leave a CIF championship with one first and a second. That’s something to never sneeze about. It’s an awesome experience.”

On top of that, two Golden Valley individuals — senior Nolan Del Valle and freshman Bianca Tinoco — advanced to next Saturday’s CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno.

Saturday’s race was a curve ball for all the runners.

On Friday, all teams were informed that the course would be changed to account for expected rain.

That eliminated the hills from the race and turned it into a pavement heavy run.

Saugus, more accustomed to hilly terrains and a team built on strength running, wasn’t fazed.

The girls easily won the Division II race with 96 points, well ahead of second-place Tesoro with 142.

The Centurions failed to win the division title last year after five straight wins from 2006-2010.

It’s one of the reasons why Paragas called this victory the one that “probably means the most to me.” That and Saugus lost a slew of talent from last year’s sixth straight state championship team to graduation.

Newport Harbor’s Paige Tennison was the only runner in the Mt. San Antonio College stadium for a good 10 seconds as she crossed the finish line first with a time of 16 minutes, 13 seconds.

But diminutive Saugus runner and Foothill League champion Samantha Ortega came in second with a time of 16:26.

“It’s really gratifying,” she said. “We love it. We wanted to come back and show and take back that title to (Saugus).”

Saugus runners took the second, 16th (Abigail Frankian, 16:53), 26th (Heidi Hoslet, 17:17), 33rd (Katie Huntington, 17:24), 37th (Olivia Altieri, 17:29) and 51st (Nina Sassano, 17:47) spots.

Golden Valley’s girls, which came into the meet ranked 10th in the state in Division II, finished 12th overall (248) and didn’t advance to state, but Tinoco finished eighth individually at 16:42 and did move on to next week.

It was a big step forward for the Grizzlies girls program, which made its second-ever Southern Section championship appearance.

But it was the end of the road for four Grizzly seniors who competed in the race Saturday, including varsity star Chelsey Totten, who finished 30th overall with a time of 17:23.

“They’ve been working hard every day since May and have done everything right,” said first-year Golden Valley head coach Marc Minasian. “These girls have been through a lot and all the girls stepped right up. They showed they were a team of character.”

Canyon finished right behind at 13th overall with 271 points. Senior Madison Hills was the Cowboys’ top finisher tied for 37th (17:29).

The top seven teams in the division advance to state.

Valencia senior Olivia Pear suffered heartbreak in the Division I race.

Pear, who was the lone racer for the Vikings, finished 11th overall with a time of 16:40, four seconds behind the last individual qualifier for state — Edison’s Haley Seward.

On the boys side, Saugus was close to reclaiming a title it last won in 2010.

The Centurions finished with 148 points behind Westlake’s 115 points.

Centurion A.J. Yarnall finished fourth overall with a time of 14:12.

Behind him were Rodrigo Ornelas (16th, 14:32), Anthony Janaslani (39th, 14:51), Alex Pearson (T-61st, 15:01), Austin Fisher (T-61st, 15:01), Brian Zabilski (67th, 15:04) and Ethan Walker (74th, 15:12).

“On a flat course, it’s a completely different game,” Yarnall said. “It was a pretty dramatic race.”

The drama Yarnall was alluding to was during the first mile, a small collision caused a group of runners to fall.

In that fall was Ornelas and Golden Valley’s Brendan Tinoco.

Ornelas, clutching the runner-up plaque with both knees wrapped after the race, was distraught.

“It was really crowded and somebody kicked the back of my shoe and I skid my knees,” he said. “Two guys tripped over me and I lost about 10 seconds.”

That was heartbreak for Tinoco, too, as he finished at 14:44 — 24 seconds off the final state individual qualifier spot.

In fact, Golden Valley’s entire team felt the hurt as the Grizzlies were the defending Division II champions in the state and Southern Section.

“I don’t think it’s disappointing at all,” said Del Valle, who finished sixth overall with a time of 14:16. “I couldn’t be any more proud of my guys.”

Hart meanwhile finished 16th out of 16 teams with 332 points.

The Indians’ top runner was Ruben Rubira at 52nd with a time of 14:57.

 

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