On Saturday morning, the Saugus High girls cross country team recorded the sixth fastest team time in Mt. San Antonio College course history, their top five combining for a phenomenal team time of 89 minutes, 12 seconds on the 2.91-mile layout.
Veterans Karis Frankian and Jenay Jauregui, both seniors this school year, had their best performances of their young careers, running the second and seventh fastest marks in Santa Clarita Valley history, while two other scorers ran personal bests as well.
Compared to past teams, head coach Rene Paragas says this team is just as good, if not better, than the 2009 squad, which included all-state first team performers Frankian and Stephanie Bulder, as well as the 2008 individual state champion in Kaylin Mahoney.
However, as incredible as the Lady Centurions have been this fall, they didn’t win Saturday’s CIF Southern Section championship, Simi Valley snapping their string of five straight championships.
It really was a race for the ages, perhaps the best girls team race California has ever witnessed.
Simi Valley sophomore Sarah Baxter broke the sophomore class record, running a staggering 16:44. The old record was held by Reno’s Marie Lawrence in 16:48, set way back in 2003.
Next came Frankian and Jauregui, finishing in blistering marks of 17:06 and 17:33.
Despite those two incredible performances, the Pioneers then reacted to Saugus’ blow with a powerful blow of their own. Seniors Karla Vernola and Erika Barr were just as impressive, flying to huge personal records of 17:38 and 17:50 on the challenging Mt. SAC course in Walnut, California. Saugus then reacted with another blow against the Simi Valley lineup. Jordan McCall took down Sarah Riggs in the final 50 meters of the race, beating the freshman 18:03 to 18:05. The battle wasn’t over yet, though, as Rachel Vinas finished just ahead of Saugus’ fourth and fifth scorers in 18:08, securing the victory for the Pioneers. Heidi Hoslet and Katie Huntington were both timed in 18:15 for the Cents, a personal best for Hoslet and a near-miss for Huntington, who ran 18:14 at the invitational in late-October.
This Saturday is the California State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno, a race that should be better than any we’ve ever seen before.
Not only will Simi Valley and Saugus face each other once again in a historical rematch, La Costa Canyon of San Diego will join the war up front for the team title.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is both Frankian and Jauregui are heading into this years state finals in the best shape of their lives and while the Centurions remaining runners – McCall, Hoslet, Huntington and Abigail Frankian – finished behind Simi Valley’s third, fourth and fifth scorers, the gap is no where near impossible to make up this Saturday, especially because the Saugus powerhouse finally figured out how to peak perfectly. All but one – Kaylin Mahoney – ran all-time bests at state last year.
This state championship race really could be the race of the century as all three squads – Saugus, Simi Valley and La Costa Canyon – are capable of running a team time under 91 minutes, if not better than 90:30. Only one other non-Saugus team has accomplished that feat in history, the Mira Costa team of 2010, while the Saugus girls have broken the 90:30 barrier three times in history, in 2008 (90:06), 2009 (90:26) and 2010 (89:25).
Meanwhile, Karis Frankian and Jenay Jauregui could come out of this year’s state finals as the greatest duo in California history. Cresenta Valley’s Claire Collison and Rachel Lange are arguably the greatest duo in the history of Woodward Park, having run 17:33 and 17:46 at the 2007 California State Championships, while Mahoney and Jauregui’s older sister, Brianna, ran to blistering times of 17:34 and 17:48 in the 2008 championships as well.
The Santa Clarita Valley record of 17:34, set by Kaylin Mahoney, is in serious jeopardy this weekend, as Karis Frankian has been on fire this fall. Her Mt. SAC clocking of 17:06 last weekend was just five seconds shy of Mahoney’s SCV record and while both marks are outstanding, the Woodward Park one is no where near as strong at the 17:01 Mt. SAC valley record Mahoney set in the 2008 invitational. In my eyes, Mahoney will only hold the record for another few days.
All eyes will be on Saugus and whether or not they can become the first team in California history to win six consecutive championships though. In what could turn out to be the greatest, and deepest, girls cross country race in not just state history, but American high school history, Saugus, Simi Valley and La Costa Canyon will line up against each other in a short four days to see who the queens of the Golden State are. Will it be La Costa Canyon, a squad with incredible depth? Or Simi Valley, the first team from California to take down the Lady Centurions in six years? Or will it be our hometown favorites, the Saugus girls, the five-time defending champions and owner of four of the top five fastest team times in Woodward Park history? Only one can be crowned the 2011 California State Division 2 Champions.
CIF Southern Section Division 2 Final Girls Results
Sarah Baxter (Simi Valley HS) 16:44
Karis Frankian (Saugus HS) 17:06
Paige Tennison (Newport Harbor HS) 17:15
Kelli Sugimoto (Mira Costa HS) 17:25
Melissa Fairchild (Serrano HS) 17:30
Xochitl Navarrete (Colony HS) 17:31
Molly Babcock (Woodbridge HS) 17:32
Jenay Jauregui (Saugus HS) 17:33
Mariel Mendoza (J.W. North HS) 17:33
Karla Vernola (Simi Valley HS) 17:38