With a mile to go, the greatest high school sports dynasty in California history looked to be in jeopardy.
Then it happened.
Just like last year, the Saugus girls cross country team pulled off the impossible. Seven girls starting in box seven won their seventh consecutive state championship. Yes, you heard right … SEVEN.
As for Samantha Ortega, the sensational sophomore became one of Santa Clarita’s all-time greats by finishing second, her time of 17 minutes, 33 seconds a new Santa Clarita Valley record at Woodward Park in Fresno.
That mark is one second faster than the former record-holder, Saugus’ Kaylin Mahoney, five seconds faster than Canyon High’s Lauren Fleshman and 10 seconds faster than Shannon Murakami of Saugus.
All three won individual state titles during their time in high school and those names are arguably the top three greatest distance runners in SCV cross country and track history.
This performance was more than Ortega, though.
There was senior Heidi Hoslet, who battled back from a bruised bone in her foot and four months of missed training to finish 21st in a personal best time of 18:32.
Junior Abigail Frankian, who missed the entire week leading up the meet due to an injured left foot, took 23rd, just three seconds off her best set at last year’s finals.
Katie Huntington, a senior, overcame a five-week mid-season hip injury and finished in 35th place.
Olivia Altieri, who was a vegetarian before this season, began eating meat in order to help the team. The senior crossed 49th in a field of 180 to secure Saugus’ seventh straight state championship, and Nina Sassano and Darby LaPlant gave the Lady Centurions a strong sixth and seventh runner, finishing 62nd and 96th.
In all, it was the perfect finish to a great day for the Saugus program, who saw the boys team finish second, just 13 points behind Westlake High, and senior AJ Yarnall also take runner-up honors.
The girl’s race was nearly identical to last year. At the mile marker, Saugus wasn’t even in the top five, however, that quickly changed as they moved up to first heading into the final 1,600 meters, just one point ahead of La Costa Canyon, who were led by senior Kelly Lawson and junior Emma Abrahamson.
With Granite Bay High freshman Maggie Bell and Ortega battling for the individual title until the final 200 meters and Hoslet running the race of her life, strong moves by Frankian, Huntington, Altieri and Sassano secured an 11-point victory over the Mavericks.
After waiting several minutes for the official results, word finally got out. The Saugus girls cross country team, despite overcoming graduation losses, injuries, illness and several other obstacles throughout the season, continued one of the greatest dynasties in California high school sports history.
Coach Rene Paragas
Once again, it was one for the record books thanks to another well-timed peak by coach Rene Paragas.
The squad set another record for most consecutive state championships won by a California cross country team, two more than the next best, and now tie for #2 with Corona Del Mar girls on the list for most state championships won by a school overall, only trailing San Francisco University, who won their 10th championship in the division five finals on Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, the Saugus boys nearly made up a 50-point deficit over the last mile and pulled off the perfect day, but it wasn’t meant to be. The Centurions finished in second place, just 13 points behind Westlake High. Senior AJ Yarnall also took runner-up honors behind Dos Pueblos’ Bryan Fernandez, just one second off the pace. His finishing time of 15:10 is #2 in Santa Clarita Valley history, only six seconds behind Canyon’s Dave Hartman’s 1990 runner-up finish of 15:04. Hartman went on to finish third at Footlocker Nationals, 13 seconds off the winner.
But the day belonged to Samantha Ortega and the Saugus girl’s cross country team, who finished up their sixth undefeated season in California in seven years, a feat no one has ever achieved, not even the San Francisco University girls cross country team.
With their seventh consecutive state title wrapped up, two words filtered through the Saugus camp following another memorable celebration.