Throughout this cross country season, Saugus girls coach Rene Paragas has repeated that his team has been an underdog in comparison to previous years.
At the CIF-Southern Section finals at Riverside City Cross Country Course on Saturday, the Centurions, winners of eight Southern Section titles in the last decade, didn’t move on from that role.
The top seven teams qualify for state, and Saugus barely made the cut in Division 2. It was on the better end of a tiebreaker with Channel Islands High of Oxnard. Due to identical team scores, officials compared the results of the sixth runner of each team.
The Cents’ sixth runner finished 125th, while the Raiders’ was 167th.
It’s a stark difference from last year’s first-place finish.
“We were really sad because we didn’t do that well, but it was really nerve-racking that we got seventh,” said Mariah Castillo, who finished 10th out of a field of 169 runners.
“We were like, ‘Oh shoot, hopefully we move on and come back from this and learn from it.'”
Castillo was the top finisher for Saugus with a time of 17 minutes and 5.2 seconds. Behind her in 11th place was Kaylee Thompson at 17:10.0.
“I think I could’ve done way better, but I didn’t race last week (to rest) and I didn’t know what to expect,” Castillo said. “I trained really hard this week, and I just tried to hang on as best as I could.”
The West Ranch girls finished in 13th place with a team time of 1:33.18. Hart finished in 15th with a 1:34.03.
The Centurions clocked in at 1:30.21.
The Wildcats’ top runner was Sophia Hoelzel in 23rd place (18:05.6), and Hart’s was Anely Avila (17:54.8) finished in 28th place in Division 2.
Trinity Classical Academy’s individual runner, Elena Martinello, finished 24th (19:25.8) in Division 5. Valencia’s Hailey Kirsch finished 44th in Division 1 (18:14.5).
With nine state titles in the last ten years, the pressure is intense for Saugus to perform at the next level.
“Today we didn’t do so well,” Castillo said. “We all tried out best but obviously is wasn’t good enough to perform well. I don’t know how to explain it. We’ll just go out there and just see how we do.”