For Rene Paragas and Kathryn Nelson, it was the crowning achievement to a six-year long journey.
For Karis Frankian and Jenay Jauregui, it was the perfect ending to two fantastic high school cross country careers.
For Abigail Frankian, Jordan McCall, Katie Huntington and Heidi Hoslet, it was an incredible transformation from frosh/soph and junior varsity runners last year to state-level athletes this fall.
As for Emily McCarty, it was the best birthday present she’s received in her lifetime.
Daily News sports reporter Erik Boal called their final mile “unseen.” Tim O’Rourke, the announcer at the awards tent, said their historical feat was “incomparable to any other team in state history.” And the spectators at Woodward Park in Fresno stood in disbelief after hearing the Lady Centurions won a sixth straight state cross country championship.
Through the halfway mark, the Saugus girls sat in fourth in the team competition. Coaches Paragas and Nelson thought the race would turn into a disaster.
The race had just began though.
While the elder Frankian sat in seventh at the 2.1-mile marker, Jauregui, the younger Frankian, Huntington, McCall and Hoslet formed a pack and began their pursuit at the record books, moving up to second place with a mile remaining, 11 points behind the favorites in Simi Valley.
What happened next is nearly impossible to describe.
The Saugus girls need no one to describe that moment for them, however. The look on their faces said it all. Through pure heart, will and determination, the pack of five moved up significantly to finish 20th, 21st, 22nd, 26th and 27th, while teammate Frankian made her way to a third place individual finish. Frankian’s time of 17 minutes, 42 second is the third fastest on the Woodward Park course in Santa Clarita Valley history, only behind former teammate Kaylin Mahoney (17:34) and Canyon’s Lauren Fleshman (17:38). It also marks the third time in history a runner has scored on four consecutive team championships, the other two being Mahoney and Amber Murakami. This championship was made up of more than just Frankian though.
Just a short six months ago, Saugus graduated six of its top nine runners from last year’s championship team, including Mahoney and Stephanie Bulder. The only returning members were Frankian and all-state first team performer Jauregui, leaving the program and many others wondering what to shoot for next. There was no doubt about what Saugus wanted: a sixth state championship. The girls team, which also included Jessica McCall, Nina Sassano and Tiffany West, set to work, piling in the miles throughout the summer. Then came the real first test of the season, the Seaside Invitational.
Their performance was an eye-popping one as they recorded the third fastest team time in course history, only behind the 2007 and 2008 Saugus teams.
Still it wasn’t enough to convince most, especially because powerhouse Simi Valley beat Saugus by over 30 points at the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational in late-October, although both competed in two different sweepstakes races. The Lady Cents went on to win a sixth consecutive Foothill League Championship two weeks later, then dominated their heat at the CIF Southern Section Prelims, the first time beating the Pioneers seemed like a possibility.
The CIF Southern Section Championships was a race for the ages, both Saugus and Simi Valley running the sixth and fourth fastest team times in Mt. SAC history. Simi Valley, however, prevailed over Saugus by a thin margin of nine points, ending Saugus’ string of five straight section titles. The Pioneers also became the first team from California to defeat Saugus since 2005. It was a very emotional day for the team; however, their desire to win a sixth consecutive state championship grew even larger that day.
A week later, the Saugus girls had one of the most inspiring finishes ever witnessed. A disqualification to Simi Valley’s No. 3 for body contact to Jauregui and a very close race left the Centurions sitting for 20 minutes, waiting and hoping they pulled off the six-peat, something no team in California history has ever accomplished, against Simi Valley, La Costa Canyon and Redondo Union.
Then it happened.
Paragas made the announcement after reviewing the results off of a phone owned by the Evans brothers, the Golden Valley coaches and reigning division two boys champions: “NUMBER SIX!” … The rest was a large chunk of California cross country history.
Jauregui’s frustration after an intense finish with Erika Barr of Simi Valley quickly turned into lots of tears, far different from the ones she spilt at Mt. SAC a week before. Coach Paragas, McCall, Huntington, Hoslet, the younger Frankian and McCarty shared hugs with teammates, family and coaches around camp.
As for Coach Nelson and the elder Frankian? The magnitude Saturday’s championship had may have been largest on the two. Before the race, Nelson gave every girl a safety pin worn by the runners from the 2006 team, the first group of ladies to win a state championship for the program. During the race and her entire high school career, the elder Frankian lead, not only up front, but by example. It was the perfect ending to a rare feat Frankian and Jauregui set out out to accomplish just minutes after their triumph a year ago, when Mahoney and Bulder were the leaders of the team, something that looked impossible but was attained through hard work, dedication and tremendous heart, courage and will.
With their sixth state championship in the bag now, you have to wonder, is number seven in the Saugus girls plans next fall?
We’ll just have to wait and see.