There are a few new additions to the exterior of the Saugus weight room near the track: Three boards with Centurion track and cross-country records inscribed on them.
One is for running “legends,” which requires a specific time in a distance or cross-country event. Another is for records in track and field. The final one is designated to all the state championship cross-country teams.
“When we’re talking to our athletes and we say ‘Hey look, so-and-so ran this or we had 13 straight times going to state and we walk over and say ‘Look. Look at what these athletes have done in the past for us,’” said Cents coach Kevin Burns.
The boards serve as a tangible form of motivation ahead of today’s CIF State Championship cross-country meet. The Saugus girls will be in attendance for the 14th straight time along with the West Ranch boys and girls teams, Canyon’s Ethan Danforth, Golden Valley’s Daniel Rush and Trinity Classical Academy’s Shane Lintereur.
While Saugus is entering familiar territory, West Ranch is taking another step in its cross-country legacy. The Wildcats girls team will be competing at the state level for the first time in nine years.
Sophia Hoelzel has been in attendance for the meet before to support the boys team, but it’ll be her first time actually competing. Coach Sara Soltani knows that she and the rest of the girls are ready.
“It’s her turn to lead the girls into something they’ve been working on this whole year,” Soltani said.
On the boys side, Isaiah Seidman has paced the Cats, most recently with a fourth-place finish in the Division 1 race at the CIF-Southern Section finals. He has experience at the state level, too. As a sophomore, he and his teammates placed eighth in the state.
However, it’s been a cohesive effort to get West Ranch to the state level.
“(Isaiah) always gets them together when they get on the line, he sets the tone whether they’re at practice or at a race,” Soltani said. “He’s more of a quiet-type leader. Not outspoken, he leads by example. They’re unique. They help each other.”
For the Centurion girls, consistency was key in their fourth-place finish at the CIF-SS finals. Five of seven runners on a young roster finished in the top 35 of all runners.
The Saugus coaching staff, especially Rene Paragas, focused on each individual runner’s progress and health ahead of another state race.
“It’s really working backwards. You take your ultimate goal, which for us is state and then we plan everything backwards,” said Burns. “You want to peak at the right time and Rene has everybody peaking at the right time.”
Danforth punched his ticket to the state meet by finishing third in the Division 2 race at the CIF-SS finals. Rush finished 11th in the race for his trip to state and Lintereur was seventh in Division 5.
Saugus, West Ranch, Danforth, Rush and Lintereur will encounter a Woodward Park cross-country course in Fresno that features a little bit of everything – from hills to flatness and from dirt to grass.
Burns said that the weather featured slight rain a bit of smoke in the air, but added that conditions matter little to his team.
“The tougher conditions the better it is for us,” he said. “That’s how we like it. At prelims it was windy, that was OK with us. Whatever the conditions are, we’re ready to race. We’re not going to shy away.”