Saugus senior Mariah Castillo received a text from former Centurions cross country standout Samantha Ortega before Thursday’s Foothill League cross country finals.
Prior to Thursday, Ortega held Central Park’s course record.
“She told me to leave it all out there and get that record because this was going to be my last shot,” Castillo said. “I really look up to her, so it meant a lot to have her say that.”
Castillo capitalized on her final shot at the course record, taking first place with ease with a time of 16 minutes, 56.73 seconds.
“The last couple years I either did bad in the last league race or I didn’t race at all,” Castillo said. “It’s nice to be able to run like this going into (CIF-Southern Section) preliminaries.”
Castillo’s first-place finished propelled the Centurions’ girls team to a first-place finish. Saugus’ Jacqueline Cascione finished second with Valencia’s Hailey Kirsch taking third.
West Ranch, aided by a fourth-place finish from Sophia Hoelzel and a fifth-place finish from Abigail Welch, finished second as a team as Valencia finished third. Canyon finished fourth, followed by Golden Valley and Hart.
Wildcats senior Preston Pope (15:01.35) set a boys Central Park course record as he won his second consecutive league race. Pope’s teammate, Isaiah Seidman, lost his shoe during the second league race — and finished 26th — but was able to keep his feet Thursday and finished in second at 15:02.10.
West Ranch finished first as a team for the second straight boys race, with Saugus and Canyon finishing second and third, respectively.
“I think we were all just more relaxed today and it definitely helped that Isaiah kept both of his shoes on,” said a smiling Pope, as he looked in Seidman’s direction.
Canyon’s Ethan Danforth (15:02.90) finished third after he finished just seconds behind Pope in the second race. West Ranch’s Evan Bates (15:04.97) took fourth with Valencia’s Britain Reynolds (15:19.32) rounding out the top five.
Many Foothill League teams had already locked down a spot in the CIF-SS preliminaries by garnering a ranking heading into the final race.
Valencia (No. 15, Division 1), (West Ranch, No. 2, Division 2), Saugus (No. 4), Canyon (No. 5) and Golden Valley (No. 15) entered the race with their boys teams ranked.
Saugus’ girls team entered the race ranked No. 3 in Division 2, with West Ranch (No. 7) also ranked in the division.