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July 21
1952 - 7.5-magnitude Kern County earthquake devastates Tehachapi; damage spread from San Diego to Las Vegas [story]

Valencia’s Maddie Dignadice repeats | Photos by Mark La Plant

As the defending champion, Valencia High’s Maddie Dignadice refused to lose in a race she ran away with in 17 minutes, 26 seconds.

The Saugus girls’ record-setting performance left teams around California wondering what it’s going to take to prevent the Lady Centurions from winning an unbelievable seventh consecutive state cross country championship when Nov. 24th rolls around.

Then their was Olivia Pear, who finally got it right. The Valencia senior produced the greatest race of her career, finishing third in the senior race, her time of 17:41 nearly two minutes faster than last year’s event.

The Foothill League was simply outstanding throughout the entire meet, beginning with Golden Valley’s Bianca Tinoco’s triumph in the freshman race and ending with another memorable and dominant win for Saugus.

In the freshman race, Tinoco – younger sister of senior Brendan – led from start to finish, crossing the finish line in 18:10. That mark ranks third on the all-time freshman list, behind Saugus’ Karis Frankian (17:27 in 2008) and Kaylin Mahoney (17:59 in 2007). Meanwhile, Saugus’ Ashley Heys continued her high school debut with an impressive fifth place finish, her time of 18:46 the fourth fastest freshman mark in school history. Right now, Heys looks like the runaway favorite to win the frosh/soph league title, assuming Tinoco runs varsity at the Foothill League Finals.

Saugus seniors Katie Huntington, Nina Sassano, Olivia Altieri and Heidi Hoslet

Saugus’ Ortega wasted no time making her mark in Friday’s sophomore event, clocking the fastest time among Foothill League competition. Her brilliant performance of 17:20 is the fifth fastest in Santa Clarita Valley history, only trailing Katie Dunn (16:57 in 2007), Kaylin Mahoney (17:06 in 2008), Karis Frankian (17:06 in 2011) and Shannon Murakami (17:18), all former Saugus standouts. One question has to be asked, is Samantha Ortega, a sophomore who only ran one cross country race during her freshman campaign and 11:43 over 3,200 meters this spring, the next all-time Saugus great in line? …  Finishing fourth was Darby LaPlant, who shaved two minutes and 14 seconds off her time from last year, clocking 17:47. For LaPlant, her individual performance was an incredible transition from a frosh/soph runner in the spring to perhaps one of the state’s best just three months later.

In the junior division, Saugus’ Abigail Frankian – who won last year’s sophomore race in 18:28 – was third here, although her mark of 17:50 was significally faster than a year ago. Her performance gave Saugus three under the 18-minute barrier, with seniors Olivia Altieri, Nina Sassano and Katie Huntington still on deck in the senior race. Hart’s Meghan Fairchild also cracked the top ten, crossing eighth in a new personal best of 18:30.

In the final girl’s race of the day, Valencia’s Dignadice took a commanding lead at the gun and never looked back. Her time of 17:26 ranks #7 on the all-time list in Santa Clarita and was nine seconds ahead of second place. More memorable for the senior was teammate Pear finishing third in her final appearance at the meet. Just three months after clocking 2:17.65 over 800 meters, the four-year varsity runner was impressive once again. For Saugus, Huntington ran in a small pack chasing Dignadice for half of the race, with teammate Altieri, Sassano, Alex Hill and Callie Hallman not far behind. In the end, it was Altieri and Sassano breaking 18 minutes for the first time in their careers to take fourth and fifth. For Altieri, she ran over three minutes faster than last year, while Sassano clocked a personal best by 40 seconds. Huntington faded over the final stages of the race, eventually finishing in ninth, her time of 18:09 still a personal best though. Hill and Hallman were both golden as well, skipping the 19-minute range to run all-time bests of 18:19 and 18:45, giving  Saugus seven in the top 25 overall.

Golden Valley’s Abby Buckhoff also continued her consistent improvement over the last few years with an 18:16 personal best that saw her finish 12th place, just ahead of Hill. The Totten sisters didn’t compete at Friday’s meet, nor did Saugus’ Heidi Hoslet, the 14th fastest returner from last year’s state division two championships.

The Saugus girl’s team time of 88:39 was the second fastest in meet history, only trailing the outstanding record-setting performance from the 2008 squad (87:33) and well ahead of the 2007 and 2011 state championship teams (89:18 and 89:34). Again, the Lady Centurions defeated Palos Verdes – the top ranked division three school in the Southern Section – by two minutes and 13 seconds. If the meet was scored like an invitational, the six-time defending state champions would have won by a 49-123 margin. The team’s gap from their first to fifth runner was just 32 seconds, following a 25-second gap at last week’s Palos Verdes two-mile event, and that was without varsity returnees Huntington (18:09 Friday) and Hoslet (did not compete). As of right now, Saugus is the team to beat in California.



For those who didn’t notice, Saugus’ top three, as well as five of their top ten fastest runners, are underclassmen (Ortega 17:20, LaPlant 17:47, Frankian 17:50, Heys 18:46, Sabrina Janes 18:59), a small preview of what to expect next year … If you take out the seniors and score just the five underclassmen named above, Saugus still defeats Palos Verdes best squad – the top ranked division three team in Southern California and a NATIONALLY-RANKED team – by 10 seconds (90:42 to 90:52). Expect big things in 2013.

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