Can Foothill League cross country stay on the rise?

Preston Pope of West Ranch comes to the finish line to win the varsity race at Central Park in Saugus last season. Signal photo by Dan Watson.

Fall sports are the first taste of high school athletics for the year, and this year’s teams are bringing a whole lot of flavor, starting with cross country.

Boys and girls cross country teams want to improve their place at the state level, and there are also some individuals striving for bigger finishes.

Here’s what to expect this fall in Foothill League cross country.

Boys cross country

West Ranch cross country took an already upward-trending program to a new level last season after placing third at the CIF State Cross Country Championships. It was the program’s highest ever finish at that level.

Preston Pope returns with the Wildcats hoping to exceed his junior year accomplishments, which included a first place finish in the opening two Foothill League meets. He was also the first West Ranch Runner to finish at the CIF-Southern Section finals.

Pope is part of a strong senior class this season that includes Boon Andrews, Juan Enciso and Britain Reynolds.

Andrews and Enciso both represent Saugus High, which finished seventh in Division 2 at the CIF-SS finals. Andrews finished 21st at the state level and had one second-place finish in league meets. Enciso finished second in two league meets and finished 58th at the CIF-SS finals.

Reynolds was the strongest runner for Valencia last season with a 27th-place finish at the CIF-SS Division 1 finals. He also had three top-five finishes during league.

As a team, the Vikings reached the CIF-SS prelims for the second time in school history last season. A CIF-SS finals could me on the menu for them this season.

Girls cross country

Saugus High had an outstanding season according to normal standards, but according to Centurion standards, there was room for improvement.

The Cents were on the bubble for the state meet but won a tiebreaker at the CIF-SS finals to move on. They quickly recovered from the seventh-place finish and took second in Division 2 at states.

Mariah Castillo is back for her senior year and chasing an individual state title after taking fifth last season in Division 2.

Jacqueline Cascione returns for her junior year with Saugus. She was the team’s second finisher at the state level with an overall 27th place finish. She also had two top-10 finishes in Foothill League meets.

West Ranch’s Sophia Hoelzel shaved 44 seconds off her time between Foothill League finals and the CIF-SS Division 2 finals. She’ll only improve this season.

Hailey Kirsch was a standout freshman for the Vikings last year, finishing third in every league meet. As an individual who finished 44th at the CIF-SS Division 1 finals, Kirsch’s career can only go up.

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