Thursday afternoon was a day of firsts for the Golden Valley High boys cross country team and Kristian Martinez.
The Grizzlies won their first Foothill League team championship in program history, ending Saugus High’s five-year string of titles.
A team finally out-shined the Lady Centurions for the first time since November 2005, Golden Valley finishing one through four with all seven runners in the top 12.
And Martinez won his first individual gold medal, a year after fading to 12th at the most competitive championships in Foothill League history.
This fall, there was no Saugus boys squad standing atop the Foothill League. They were busy reloading after losing six of their top seven runners from last year’s CIF Southern Section Division 2 championship. The results at this years finals? A solid third behind the newly-crowned champions in Golden Valley and runner-up Hart High of Newhall. And although the Saugus girls, who also suffered heavy losses, graduating six of their top nine from last year’s five-time defending State and Southern Section championship teams, finished one through three with seven of the fastest nine performers of the meet, the Golden Valley boys were still the story of the day.
Heading into this year’s finals, was there really any doubt Martinez, Juan David Garcia and Nolan Del Valle would be denied a one through three finish? They pulled off the incredible feat at Foothill League #2 in mid-October and although Del Valle had an off day at the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational two weeks back, they looked amazing in Walnut, finishing third behind Rancho Cucamonga High and defending Nike Cross National champions Arcadia High. The big surprise was Carlos Lopez running stride-for-stride with Saugus standout AJ Yarnell throughout the three-mile Central Park course, then dropping a jaw-dropping kick to overtake the junior at the finish line for the fourth place spot on the All-Foothill League first team roster. A boys team hasn’t dominated the Foothill League Cross Country Championships like Golden Valley did on Thursday afternoon in at least a decade, when Canyon High reigned supreme in the early 2000s.
Not to be outdone, teammates Brendan Tinoco, Aaron Nguyen and Gabe Levy filed in soon after, crossing the finish line at Central Park in ninth, tenth and twelfth. The Grizzlies performance was one of their best to date and could be the first of three team championships this season as the squad is ranked first in the Southern Section and California Division 2 polls. Performances like Thursday would surely secure both championships in the next three weeks. Meanwhile, Martinez stands at #1 in the individual Southern Section rankings and #2 in California behind Darren Fahy of La Costa Canyon in San Diego.
No one has ever won Southern Section and State team championships in Golden Valley High School history before, the highest finish in state for the Grizzlies was in 2009, when they finished third. Last fall, they took a solid seventh in the California State Championships.
No one has ever won individual Southern Section and State championships in program history before, the closest attempt came from two-time All-State First Team performer and 2010 graduate Seth Totten, who now competes for the UC Riverside.
And no boys team in Santa Clarita Valley history has ever been invited to the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon before. Not Canyon High, who was ranked #2 in the nation in 2001. Not the Saugus boys, who finished off last year ranked #21 in the country. Or even Hart High, who, along with last year’s Arcadia High team, are the only California squads to finish off their seasons with a #1-national ranking.
If Golden Valley continues to run strong in the next three weeks, Thursday won’t be their only day of firsts this fall.
Based on their impressive season so far, it’s hard to bet against them.