2016 CIF State XC preview

Saugus' Mariah Castillo, (1777) and Kaylee Thompson, right, compete in Division 2 at the CIF-Southern Section Championships at Riverside City Cross Country Course last Saturday. Dan Watson /The Signal

Today’s CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno could produce a 10th title in 11 years for the Saugus girls. The day could serve as a capstone to a year of growth for the West Ranch boys. It could be the icing on top of a goal-already-met for the Saugus boys.

However state, in all likelihood, cannot be more thrilling than last week’s Southern Section Division 2 finals, which saw the Saugus girls advance on a tiebreaker and the two Santa Clarita Valley boys teams slip in at Nos. 6 (West Ranch) and 7 (Saugus), respectively.

“Right after the race, my guys were a little shocked with the result,” said West Ranch coach Sara Soltani.

How each SCV team responds to last week’s race will likely determine if they reach any of the aforementioned feats.

The Centurion girls fell short of a ninth section title in the last 11 years, and coach Rene Paragas said Friday that his team started too slow. He said the terrain, or lack thereof, at Riverside City Cross Country Course — “flat as a pancake,” Paragas said, as opposed to the hilly landscape at the previous finals site, Mt. SAC — restrained Saugus from making one of its signature surges.

But while Woodward Park is much more familiar, Paragas said that guarantees nothing.

“We have to go out there and run the race,” he said. “If we go out at the same pace as we did at finals, we will be in the same predicament.”

Saugus will sub Kaela Berretta and Abby Davis for Savannah Sehenuk and Jakee Victoria, its fourth and sixth finishers, respectively, last Saturday.

The team scored 219 points, tying it with Channel Islands of Oxnard for the seventh and final ticket to state.

The teams’ sixth runners were compared for the tiebreaker, with Victoria’s 125th-place finish besting Channel Islands’ sixth-best mark of 167th place.

For the Saugus boys, the goal all along was to get to state and gain experience for a title run next year, when a host of talented underclassmen begin to peak.

Still, Paragas is hoping for a top-10 finish.

“Top 7 would be a big breakthrough for us,” he said.

Saugus will sub Jacob Kaufmann for Saturday’s seventh finisher, Elijah Stepan, Paragas said.

The West Ranch boys will make a sub of their own, inserting Derek Moskal for seventh-finisher Michael Haggenmiller.

Moskal, still in his first season of cross country, started the season on junior varsity but has come a long way since then.

“He went from the first meet where he ran like an 18:15, to the CIF prelims where he broke 16 minutes,” Soltani said. “That is pretty spectacular for someone with no experience.”

Moskal will join a group of Wildcat runners who came to grips with their Southern Section performance over the last week.

“As the days progressed and we spoke about it,” Soltani said, “I made them realize how far we’ve come as a program because they made it to state for the second year in a row.

“Most teams try their best to make it and go a lifetime and never have this opportunity.”

The Division 2 girls race begins at 11:10 a.m., while the D2 boys race begins at 12:50 p.m.

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