It's no secret the powerhouse program has its eyes set on not one, not two, but three state crowns come November, as the Saugus boys and girls squads, as well as senior Mariah Castillo, cruised through the meet with ease in preparation for today's Nike XC Invitational in Portland, Ore.
"I don't want (Samantha Ortega's) course record at Central Park right now," said Castillo, already a seven-time league champion and the Centurions' Athlete of the Year during the 2016-17 school year. "The state championships is the only race that matters."
The league's top returner still rolled through the varsity girls race, separating herself from Valencia sophomore sensation Hailey Kirsch (FL #4) just past the mile marker and winning by 32 seconds. All the work Castillo has put in throughout her decorated four-year high school career has led up to this moment - she hopes to join Saugus' Shannon Murakami (2005), Kaylin Mahoney (2008) and Brian Zabilski (2014), as well as Canyon's Lauren Fleshman (1998), as the only runners in SCV history to walk away from Woodward Park with an individual state championship.
Castillo also has the heavy burden of leading a boys and girls' squad eyeing a run at redemption after driving home from Fresno without a state championship trophy for the first time since November 2005.
The Lady Centurions, ranked No. 2 behind defending champion Claremont in the latest CIF state division two rankings, dominated the first league meet with six in the top 10, and are on the verge of making history with Hart transfer Sophia Pearson's (FL #3) Saugus varsity debut scheduled for Foothill League No. 2 in two weeks time.
A win in seven weeks would see head coach Rene Paragas and his girls' juggernaut tie San Francisco University's state record for most championships and break its own state record for most consecutive state podium finishes (11 years in a row!). Only five other programs in California high school sports history have won 10 or more titles.
The boys' battle for Foothill League team and individual bragging rights should be a historic one with five of the six SCV-based teams - Saugus, West Ranch, Canyon, Valencia and Golden Valley and - all ranked among the top 16 in the latest CIF Southern Section polls.
Most state crowns won in California HS sports history:
14 - Long Beach Poly girls' track and field (1992-2014)
13 - Clovis boys' wrestling (1974-2013)
11 - Mater Dei boys' basketball (1989-2014)
10 - Long Beach Poly boys' track and field (1928-2011)
10 - San Francisco University girls' cross country (1996-2012)
9 - Brea-Olinda girls' basketball (1989-2009)
9 - McFarland boys' cross country (1987-2001)
9 - Jesuit boys' cross country (1989-2006)
9 - St. Francis girls' volleyball (1993-2010)
9 - Saugus girls' cross country (2006-15)
8 - Crenshaw boys' basketball (1983-97)
8 - Jefferson boys' track and field (1938-64)
8 - Muir boys' track and field (1934-96)
8 - Archbishop Mitty girls' volleyball (1993-2009)
7 - Mira Costa girls' volleyball (1982-2007)
7 - Santa Ana Calvary Chapel wrestling (1993-2001)
7 - Corona Del Mar girls' cross country (1992-2009)
7 - Manual Arts boys' track and field (1915-58)
7 - St. Mary's girls' basketball (2000-11)
Canyon deserves praise for walking away with its first varsity win in league competition since beating the Centurions at the 2006 Foothill League Meet No. 2, led by then-senior Stephen Kent, who went on to win the individual championship three weeks later at Castaic Lake.
Ethan Danforth's (FL #3) biggest win of his career catapulted the tough eleventh-grader into the conversation as to who will prevail and wear this fall's Foothill League individual crown. His win of 15 minutes, 42 seconds, ranks No. 2 in school history and just missed Preston Pope's (FL #1) junior course record of 15:35, set last October. Danforth already owns the freshman record, having run 16:00 in 2015.
The other three contenders for top honors are Pope, who holds the sophomore course record at Central Park (15:28) and was one of the top division two competitors in the state last year, Saugus' Boon Andrews (FL #2), fourth at last year's Foothill League Finals and much improved this season, and Valencia's front-runner, Britain Reynolds (FL #3), third behind last year's league champion Jack Arnold and Pope in 2016.
West Ranch has a lot of room for improvement and should battle for a top three finish, and possibly its third straight league championship, with better runs by Pope and senior Timothy Sterkel (FL #16), who finished 19th at the 2016 Foothill League Championships, and the return of junior Isaiah Seidman, 10th at last year's cross country finale, later this season.