Photo by Ferraz Photography
In the beginning of the varsity girls’ cross-country race Thursday afternoon, Maddie Dignadice looked like San Luis Obispo legend Jordan Hasay.
Way out in front, not afraid of anyone, and so smooth, she looked as if she was out on a Sunday morning jog.
In the end of the varsity boys’ race at Santa Clarita Central Park, Sam Peckham looked similar to San Francisco University’s Holland Reynolds.
Collapsed from both exhaustion and dehydration, nearly unable to move, but still too stubborn yet courageous to quit.
As for the five-time defending California state champions in Saugus High?
The girls in blue and white reminded everyone of the same Lady Cents of 2010. And 2009. And 2008. And 2007. And 2006.
Very focused, very determined and incredibly hungry for the Golden State’s biggest prize in late-November.
On a day when Saugus sophomore Abigail Frankian continued her undefeated dream season by winning the frosh/soph girls race by almost two minutes, and junior teammate Nina Sassano won her second consecutive race by winning the junior varsity campaign in a time that would of seen her tenth in the “big dogs” race, Valencia junior Dignadice gapped the entire varsity girls field by nearly 200 meters over the first mile and stayed there for a majority of the 2.9-mile race.
In the race were two all-state honorees in Saugus’ Karis Frankian and Jenay Jauregui, as well as Golden Valley High junior Chelsey Totten, the fastest returning performer from last year’s finals. Despite a very conservative first mile, Frankian caught the junior phenom just after two miles and went on to win by 25 seconds in 18 minutes, 18 seconds, while Dignadice hung on tough in second (18:43). Jauregui closed quickly over the final 1,200 meters, but ran out of room, taking a solid third in 18:50. Frankian, Dignadice and Jauregui were the only ladies to break the 19-minute barrier on Thursday. Meanwhile, Valencia’s Arianna Michaels stunned everyone with a sensational fourth place finish in her varsity league debut, finishing in 19:02, just ahead of Totten (19:06).
After those top five, the Saugus girls dominance began with Katie Huntington (19:14), Tiffany West (19:22), Jordan McCall (19:23) and Heidi Hoslet (19:30) finishing 6-9. Tenth went to Golden Valley junior Abby Buckoff, although the junior varsity winner in Sassano of Saugus ran a second faster than Buckoff. The younger Frankian, Abigail, also ran a terrific solo race at the frosh/soph level (19:43), while senior Emily McCarty had an off day, finishing 15th in the varsity race. Valencia finished a solid second, while the Canyon girls were the story of the day, upsetting both strong West Ranch and Golden Valley squads in third, although standouts Taylor Welker, younger sister of 14th place finisher Ashley Welker, and Weslie Totten, twin sister of Chelsey, didn’t compete.
On the boys’ side, Golden Valley senior Kristian Martinez finally got the chance to redeem himself after a disappointing 12th place finish in last year’s finals; however, Hart’s Sam Peckham stole the show with his courageous finish after collapsing near the finish due to dehydration and exhaustion. Last fall, Peckham was unable to perform at the finals due to a stress fracture in his foot. Heading into the finals, both Martinez and Peckham were the favorites to win the individual gold medal. Although Peckham’s finish was a courageous effort, his 12th place finish proved to be the difference in the team standings as Saugus, the five-time defending champions, slipped by the Indians by a single point for second. Junior AJ Yarnell had a phenomenal performance too. Golden Valley’s Martinez lead the final mile, but it wasn’t easy as the Saugus standout trailed Martinez with just 500 meters remaining. Martinez’s 1:54 800-meter speed was too much to handle though as the veteran pulled away for a six second win, the second cross country league win of his young, brilliant career, and a new course record of 15 minutes, 34 seconds.
Golden Valley made it clear to the entire Foothill League that they are indeed the favorites for this year’s championship and probably impossible to beat as they put their entire scoring contigent in the top seven with Juan David Garcia in third, Nolan Del Valle in fourth, Aaron Nguyen in sixth and Gabe Levy anchoring the team in seventh. Canyon’s Zachary Wims rounded out the top five individually, setting a new school record in 15:55 for the Cowboys.
NOTES: Saugus High girls won all three team and individual races, while the Centurions received a team win from the junior varsity squad and individual wins from Cole Helm and Anthony Rosales. The Hart boys ran down Saugus in the final 400 meters of the frosh/soph race, bolstered by third and fourth place finishes from freshmen Mac Kaufman and Ruben Rubira.