GIRLS' CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW: Mirror, Mirror on the wall, Who is the greatest of them all?
- 9 state championships in the last 10 years (10 consecutive including the boys!)
- 8 CIF Southern Section titles in the 10 years (9 including the boys!)
- 10-time defending Foothill League varsity champions
- 10-time defending Foothill League junior varsity champions
- 11-time defending Foothill League frosh/soph champions
- SCV record-holders at Mt. SAC (88:20 in '08), Woodward Park (89:25 in '10), Central Park (89:55 in '15) & Castaic Lake (89:01 in '08)
Saugus is also on the brink of tying San Francisco University's state record for most state championships in a school's history (10 titles from 1996-2012) and sits tied for No. 6 among all high school sports programs - male and female - in California state history. Below is a video of head coach Jim Tracy and San Francisco University's inspiring journey to their eighth state crown in 2010 (Tracy led SFU to two more in 2011 and 2012):
It's very possible Saugus could move into division one and face four-time defending state champions Great Oak, though, ironic considering Doug Sole's squad is the team with the potential of breaking Saugus' record for most consecutive state crowns (seven from 2006-12) in the future.
In order to beat Great Oak, Saugus is going to have to be at its best. Of course we've seen them do it before, in 2011, when the Centurions took down national powerhouses Simi Valley and La Costa Canyon to win their sixth straight championship, despite losing five of their top eight girls.
The Saugus girls return a very talented group of young female runners this fall, including Savannah Sehenuk (5:35/11:45), Jakee Victoria (5:25/11:57), Hailey Pearson (5:30/11:50), Amaya Aguilar (2:31/5:35), Kristen Mohrhoff (2:19) and Shalya Cruz (2:31/5:32).
- 3rd @ 2015 Foothill League Varsity Championships
- 2nd @ 2015 Foothill League Frosh/Soph Championships
- 6th @ 2015 Foothill League Junior Varsity Championships
The quintet of Lucy Yoshioka, Lily Bollinger, Lindsey Jacobsson, Lupe Alanis-Ruiz, and Maddison Smoak return with valuable experience and times convincing enough to slot them No. 2 in this year's pre-season rankings. Sophia's younger sister, Julia Pearson, will also debut for the Indians this September. The younger Pearson heads into her freshman year with personal bests of 2:35 for 800 meters, 5:33 for 1,500 meters (converts to 5:57 for 1,600 meters), and 11:36 for 3,000 meters (12:21 for 3,200 meters).
- 4th @ 2015 Foothill League Varsity Championships
- 3rd @ 2015 Foothill League Frosh/Soph Championships
- 2nd @ 2015 Foothill League Junior Varsity Championships
Leading the way up front is the sophomore duo of Shelbi Schauble and Sophia Hoelzel. Schauble finished sixth at last year's Foothill League Cross Country Championships and fifth in the 400-meter league finals in May, while teammate Hoelzel was 12th at the cross country finals and fourth in the 800-meter final. Second-through-fifth were separated by just 1.81 seconds.
Rounding out West Ranch's returning varsity runners is Peyton Washington, the 2016 Foothill League Junior Varsity 800 runner-up, Avery El-Farra, 23rd in last fall's varsity cross country final, Mauri Dobbs, the 2015 Foothill League Frosh/Soph runner-up behind Saugus' Mackenna Park, Haley Fernandez, eighth in last year's frosh/soph cross country final, and Lauren Smith, eighth in the junior varsity 800 final.
- 5th @ 2015 Foothill League Varsity Championships
- 4th @ 2015 Foothill League Frosh/Soph Championships
- 5th @ 2015 Foothill League Junior Varsity Championships
Canyon returns seniors Yee-Lynn Wong and Rosa Hernandez, two proven distance runners in both cross country and track. Wong ran huge personal bests of 5:21 for 1,600 meters and 11:24 for 3,200 meters and look primed for a big senior year for the Cowboys, while Hernandez owns a personal best of 11:41 over eight laps, a mark only the Saugus quintet of Mariah Castillo, Kaylee Thompson, Mackenna Park, Jacqueline Cascione and Abby Davis, Hart's Anely Avila, and teammate Wong have run faster than.
Senior Seanna Nalbandyan, a runner with 59.56 quarter speed and the defending Foothill League 300-meter hurdles champion - and Foothill League 100-meter hurdles runner-up - also returns for the Cowboys, who finished fifth at last year's league finals, in 2015.
- 2nd @ 2015 Foothill League Varsity Championships
- 5th @ 2015 Foothill League Frosh/Soph Championships
- 4th @ 2015 Foothill League Junior Varsity Championships
Aylin Gonzalez, who held off the Saugus trio of Abby Davis, Jakee Victoria and Hailey Pearson for a bronze medal at May's Foothill League Junior Varsity 3,200-meter final, returns as Golden Valley's top runner, while sisters Madisyn and Myranda Gudino also return for the Grizzlies. Gabrielle Payre, the top Golden Valley returnee from last fall's varsity final - having finished 18th - also returns for her senior season.
- 6th @ 2015 Foothill League Varsity Championships
- 6th @ 2015 Foothill League Frosh/Soph Championships
- 4th @ 2015 Foothill League Junior Varsity Championships
18:09 @ Mt. SAC
17:52 @ Woodward Park
17:38 @ Central Park
10:56 for 3,200 meters
5:03 for 1,600 meters
2:19 for 800 meters
2015 SCV Female Runner of the Year
7th @ 2015 CIF State XC Finals
2015 Foothill League XC Runner-up
Junior course record-holder at Central Park
2016 Foothill League 3,200 Runner-up
2015 Foothill League Junior Varsity 1,600 & 3,200 Champion
Foothill League Junior Varsity Championship record-holder over 3,200
17:49 @ Mt. SAC
18:17 @ Woodward Park
17:50 @ Central Park
10:48 for 3,200 meters
4:59 for 1,600 meters
2:19 for 800 meters
20th @ 2015 CIF State XC Finals
2016 Foothill League 1,600 Champion
4th in 2016 Foothill League 3,200 Finals
2015 Foothill League 3,200 Runner-up
Sophomore course record-holder at Central Park
5th in 2015 Foothill League 1,600 Finals
2014 Daily News XC Newcomer of the Year
19:30 @ Mt. SAC
18:51 @ Woodward Park
19:24 @ Central Park
11:22 for 3,200 meters
5:06 for 1,600 meters
2:21 for 800 meters
2016 Foothill League Junior Varsity Champion (4x4, 800, 1,600, 3,200)
Foothill League Junior Varsity Championship record-holder over 1,600
60th @ 2015 CIF State XC Finals
2015 Foothill League Frosh/Soph XC Champion
2015 Foothill League Junior Varsity 400 Champion
19:17 @ Mt. SAC
19:11 @ Woodward Park
18:28 @ Central Park
11:24 for 3,200 meters
5:15 for 1,600 meters
2:26 for 800 meters
2016 Foothill League Junior Varsity 4x4 Champion
2016 Foothill League Junior Varsity 1,600 & 3,200 Runner-up
86th @ 2015 CIF State XC Finals
11th @ 2015 Foothill League XC Finals
Freshman course record-holder at Central Park
18:40 @ Mt. SAC
19:11 @ Woodward Park
18:48 @ Central Park
11:41 for 3,200 meters
5:20 for 1,600 meters
4th in 2016 Foothill League Junior Varsity 1,600 Finals
5th in 2016 Foothill League Junior Varsity 1,600 Finals
15th @ 2015 Foothill League XC Finals
6th @ 2014 Foothill League XC Finals
What the Saugus girls' cross country program has done over the last decade is something you most likely won't see again during this lifetime. There's only FIVE sports programs in high school state history - male and female - that have won 10 or more state championships during their school's history. The Lady Centurions deserve to be in the conversation for 'greatest program in California sports prep history," though, because no one in golden state history has ever won nine crowns in just 10 years. Their only loss in the 2013 final was by a close five points to Simi Valley, where they were missing their No. 2 runner, Abigail Frankian, who missed a majority of the season with a torn plantar fasciaiitis.
At an alumni BBQ Monday evening, recent graduate Ashley Heys was quoted saying, "I didn't want to wake up the next morning," when 2013 was brought up. Instead of the newspaper headlines reading, "Saugus boys win first state title," articles talked about how the girls lost for the first time in eight years. Heys has no reason to be disappointed, though, because that loss in 2013 may be the best team performance in SCV history.
Not only that, but Saugus has done it in the hardest divisions (division one and two!), against some of the best teams in state history (Simi Valley, La Costa Canyon, Mira Costa and Redondo Union to name a few), despite enduring a slew of injuries and illnesses throughout its 10-year run.
Programs in California HS sports history with more than seven state crowns:
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)
Castillo, now a junior at Saugus, has yet to make her 2016 debut, but something tells us she's in for a big year. She's already had a magnificent first two years for the Saugus girls, scoring on the last two state championship teams for the mighty Centurions and winning the 2016 Foothill League 1,600-meter title. The two biggest performances of her prep career came during regular season meets, the 2014 Woodbridge Invitational (17:00 as a freshman!) and last fall's Sundodger Invitational (17:33 5K for third!). Around the oval, she time trialed a 4:59 mile as a ninth-grader and at the Canyon vs. Saugus Dual in April, she surprised everyone, including herself, in running a 59.66 quarter. I pinpoint these four races because they're amazing.
When at her best, Mariah Castillo is the class of the field. If she stays healthy, don't expect the junior to lose to another Foothill League competitor for the remainder of her high school cross country and track career.