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CIF cross country: Some Fresno familiarity

Saugus girls run for 7th straight state title, boys, 2 G.V. runners take to cours

Posted: November 24, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 24, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Golden Valley's Bianca Tinoco is one of two Grizzly runners competing as individuals, along with senior Nolan Del Valle (not pictured).

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If Saugus is the present cross country power, maybe Golden Valley is the future.

Golden Valley will be represented by just two runners on Saturday at the CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno.

The two Grizzlies headed to state are senior Nolan Del Valle, who will run in the boys division II race, and freshman Bianca Tinoco, who set to make her state debut in girls Division II.

In those same two races, both the Saugus boys and girls will be racing for chances to win team state championships. The girls are going for a seventh consecutive state title and the boys are going for a program first title.

The boys race begins at 10:40 a.m. and the girls race starts at 12:15 p.m.

Del Valle is making his fourth appearance in as many years at the state meet, but this will be his first trip without any teammates.

As a team, the defending state Division II champion Golden Valley boys failed to advance to the state finals for the first time since 2008, but Del Valle qualified individually with a sixth-place finish last week at the CIF-Southern Section finals.

w“I think he’s comfortable being up there alone,” said Golden Valley head coach Marc Minasian. “I can tell you some of the pressure is off him, believe it or not, because now he’s not worrying about how the boys are coming in behind him.”

His best finish at a state championship meet came last year, when he took 10th.

Minasian said he expects the senior to repeat a top 10 performance.

Tinoco, on the other hand, may serve as a glimpse of what’s to come for the girls program at Golden Valley.

“I wouldn’t put anything past her,” Minasian said of the freshman. “Just let her go run her own race, and she’ll go.”

The freshman will be the first girl to ever represent the Grizzlies at a state meet as she earned a spot after finishing eighth at CIF finals last week.

Though the Golden Valley girls have never been to a state meet as a team, the future is bright with athletes like Tinoco around.

“I feel that I will be comfortable. I have nothing to lose,” Tinoco said. “I have everything to gain (Saturday). That’s what I’m telling myself and that’s really all it is.”

Her older brother Brendan, Golden Valley senior, ran for the boys state championship team last year, but he fell just short of a state qualifying this season.

As for Saugus, there are multiple chances to continue rewriting the record books.

In addition to bringing home state crowns in each of the last six years, the girls team also picked up its sixth CIF Southern Section title in seven years last week at Mt. San Antonio College.

Leading the way for the Centurions was surprising sophomore talent Samantha Ortega, who came in at second place.

She’ll be joined by junior Abigail Frankian and a stable of four senior runners Katie Huntington, Heidi Hoslet, Olivia Altieri and Nina Sassano.

Only Frankian, Huntington and Hoslet return from last year’s state champion team, which makes this one of the least experienced groups Saugus has brought to Fresno since the title streak began.

“Some people shirk under pressure and that bothers them,” Saugus head coach Rene Paragas said of the expectations. “But I don’t think that bothers them. I think for us, it’s more like people are afraid of us.”

The Centurions are still getting plenty of respect in the polls as PrepCalTrack.com has them ranked No. 1 in state Division II, followed by No. 2 Mira Costa and No. 3 La Costa Canyon of Carlsbad.

Paragas said he expects his team’s biggest challenge to come from La Costa Canyon, which won the CIF San Diego Section Division II championship last week and finished second at the state finals last year behind Saugus.

“We just try not to think everybody else,” Frankian said. “We just do what we can do and not worry.”

The Saugus boys are ranked second in the state Division II behind Westlake, the same team that beat out the Centurions for the Southern Section crown last week.

If the boys can pull off a title run on Saturday, that would make the Centurions the second program in Santa Clarita Valley history to win championships in both genders after the Canyon won titles with its girls team in 1995 and boys in 2001.

It’s never been done in the same season.

“They bought into it. Now they’re full bore and they believe they can do it,” said George Serrano, who was appointed by Paragas as co-head coach of the boys varsity team this season. “They’ve been saying, ‘Coach, we think we can win it’ for the last three or four weeks.”

Serrano and fellow coach Jose Flores took over the team in June while Paragas remained in charge of the rest of the program.

The Saugus boys are making their third trip to the state championships in the past four years. The team’s best finish was second place in 2010.

Only one runner from that 2010 team still remains, senior A.J. Yarnall, who will lead the charge on Saturday.

Fellow seniors Rodrigo Ornelas, Anthony Janaslani and Austin Fisher are also among the team’s official entries for the race.

Juniors Alex Pearson, Billy Anthony, Ethan Walker and Townsend Kaneversky as well as sophomore Brian Zabilski may also work into the mix for Saugus.

“When you have a goal like that and you have enough people wanting something, it’s bound to happen,” Yarnall said.

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