Central Park was filled with spectators, family and friends who were cheering on their favorite runners as the Foothill League cross-country season got underway on Thursday.
After the dust settled, and the runners caught their breaths, it was Saugus boys and girls cross-country team that came out on top. They swept the meet with the boys accruing 36 total points and the girls 24 to edge out West Ranch in both races.
“We did what we needed to do,” said Saugus coach Kevin Berns. “We take it one day at a time and if we have that mantra, we are going to get better every single day. It’s not only the varsity, when you win every single level these kids are doing something right.”
Saugus junior Nick Serrano pulled out the win for the boys in 15 minutes, 28.62 seconds, but it didn’t come easy.
West Ranch junior Dylan Gatua gave Serrano and the rest of the field a taste of just how fast he was as he paced the field of 42 from start to finish.
Serrano made his move at the corner hill and got a little bit of inspiration from a familiar face and powered through the last 100 meters to win by a 14-plus second margin of victory.
“My brother was at the 100-meter mark and he’s my biggest inspiration,” Serrano said. “He helps me get through many, many things and racing is one of them. He is my hero when it comes to racing.”
Battling Saugus’ Blake Gallardo for second place, West Ranch’s Gatua and Hunter Romine went toe-to-toe with the Centurion, who was battling an injury, and edged him out for second and third place.
Romine finished as the runner-up in 15:42.81 and Gatua ended up coming in third place in 15:43.68.
Gallardo finished in fourth in 15:45.21.
“That last 100 meters, you just have to give it your all and catch as many people as you can,” Romine said. “That’s what Dylan and I did, we caught Blake to get those points, so we just tried to close out as best we could and pulled it out.”
Junior Joseph Ahart finished in sixth place in 16:03.53 and Canyons’ Kyle Stevens came in right behind him in 16:18.81. Andrew Armitage was the fastest Valencia runner, coming in 16th place in 16:59.69.
The Centurion girls followed the boys’ lead as also Hannah Fredericks and Hailey Rutter finished 1-2 in 18:04.12 and 18:25.03, respectively.
Battling the flu, Fredericks and Rutter staved off West Ranch’s Abigail Welch, who nestled into third place in 18:40.00.
“I’m really glad because we have been training really hard and to see it start paying off, it’s really good to see,” Fredericks said. “This past week we were battling some sickness and after this, hopefully, we will be even better.”
Danielle Salcedo came in fourth place in 18:42.50 and the Wildcats’ Hayden Washington rounded out the top five in 19:08.84.
Canyon’s Angelee Berganio and Valencia’s Sydney Makar finished sixth and seventh in 19:17.09 and 19:28.72, respectively.
Golden Valley’s Jennifer Santiago had the best girls finish coming in 14th place in 20:23.15 while Brielle Wiley led the Indians in 20:24.62 for 15th place.
With Foothill League meet No. 1 in the books, runners will now focus on nonleague invitationals and league finals on Nov. 2.
“This is a preview and what matters most is Nov. 2,” Berns said. “If we can get stronger and if we continue to do what we did today, we will be OK.”