Canyon makes statement at first Foothill League cross country meet

A Saugus runner is highlighted by a beam of light as the pack sticks together near the start of the Foothill League Cross Country Championships at Central Park on Thursday. Katharine Lotze/Signal
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Somewhat lost in the shuffle of a Foothill League that boasts five boys cross country teams ranked inside the top 16 of their division, Canyon made people take notice Tuesday.

Led by a first-place finish from Ethan Danforth (15:42.78), the Cowboys won the first league race of the year at Central Park, overtaking top-ranked Saugus, which finished second, and sixth-ranked West Ranch, which finished third.

“We let people know we’re for real,” Canyon coach Paul Broneer said. “We haven’t had a race like this in a long time. I couldn’t be happier with the way the guys executed today from top to bottom.

Mariah Castillo entered as a favorite for the girls race and didn’t disappoint, leading Saugus to victory with a first-place finish at 18:04.41. Castillo finished 32 seconds ahead of any competitor for the three-mile run, giving her enough time to pass out water to fellow competitors as they finished.

“I thought it might have been a little closer but it’s the first league race so everyone is kind of feeling things out,” Castillo said. “I expect the next couple races to be a lot closer but I’m happy to get us out to this kind of start.”

MORE: Several cross country state title contenders to clash in Foothill League

West Ranch came in second in the girls race, 35 points behind Saugus, while Valencia came in third. Canyon finished fourth, followed by Hart and Golden Valley.

Valencia’s Hailey Kirsch took home second behind Castillo (18:36.78) and Saugus’ Jacqueline Cascione (18:46.72) and Mackenna Park (19:06.66) finished in third and fourth, respectively.

“They competed out there, that’s for sure,” said Saugus assistant coach Kevin Berns. “We’re right where we want to be through one race.”

Danforth spent most of the race trailing second-place finisher Britain Reynolds of Valencia (15:50.06) but made his move at the 800-meter mark.

“Once I heard we were at 800 meters left, it was go time,” Danforth said. “That’s kind of been the strategy lately.”

Valencia also had the third-place finisher in the boys race, Gefen Shacar (16:07.72), but the Vikings took fourth place, followed by Golden Valley and Hart. Patrick King and Estevan Covarrubias finished sixth and seventh, respectively, to help lead the Cowboys.

“I told our guys to stick to (King) while Ethan kind of just did his thing up front,” Broneer said. “That seemed to pay off.”

West Ranch is the two-time defending Foothill League champions for boys cross country but got a dose of the competitiveness that’ll come with league races.

“I’m happy because it taught us a lesson,” Wildcats coach Sara Soltani said. “In a league like ours, you can’t just show up and expect to win every race. Credit to Canyon for what they were able to do today.”

The second Foothill League meet is set for Oct. 12 at Central Park.

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