It was an emotional morning and afternoon at the CIF-Southern Section cross-country finals at Riverside City Cross Country Course on Saturday.
The Saugus girls team had three runners finish inside the top 15 runners in the Division 1 race to earn runner-up honors as a team and qualify for the state meet in Fresno next Saturday.
“This is the first day that I actually feel normal after all of this,” said Saugus coach Kevin Berns. “I couldn’t be more proud of the girls, they raced with their hearts. They represented Santa Clarita, Saugus, their team, they did exactly what coach (Rene) Paragas asked.”
The Centurions girls team finished with an average mile time of six minutes and one second with every runner placing inside the top 95.
The Foothill League girls champion Hannah Fredericks recorded the only top-three finish out of all the Santa Clarita Valley runners on the day, boy or girl, finishing in third place with a time of 17:33.1.
“I wasn’t really going to start out fast, just start out conservative and try to move up,” Fredericks said. “We didn’t really know how that was going to work with it being a flat course, but I felt good and wanted to do good for our team, just like everyone else on the team.”
Isabella Duarte made a strong push down the final stretch to capture eighth place in 17:39.1 and senior Hailey Rutter 12th in 17:44.8.
“I don’t know how to explain it, I knew I could do it down in my heart,” Duarte said about the final push. “I just thought about it and said, ‘I’m here, you’re here, you can do it, just keep moving and don’t give up.’ I took my heart with it, I guess.”
Danielle Salcedo finished in 38th place, Kaela Beretta 65th and Natasha Prociuk 80th and Jennifer Thompson 92nd.
Joining the Centurions in Fresno is Valencia girls senior Hailey Kirsch, who finished in 16th place in 17:44.8, as the only individual Foothill League runner to move on to the state meet. This is the first time Kirsch qualifies for state in her cross-country high school career.
“I just can’t believe this is real,” Kirsch said about qualifying for state. “This is something I’ve wanted to do since freshman year and every year I’ve made it to finals, but never made that next step. I’m a senior now and to make it to state for my last year is a dream come true. I can’t even express in words how I’m feeling right now.”
The Saugus boys team finished 23rd overall in Division 1 led by junior Blake Gallardo in 49th place in 15:40.2. Rylan Wadkins followed Gallardo in 65th place finishing just under 10 seconds later.
A week after winning his respective heat in Division 1 prelims, West Ranch boys senior Hunter Romine bested his time by a full six seconds to finish in 15th place in 15:14.8.
“I went out at a pretty decent pace, I was kind of expecting that. I mean, it’s CIF finals so I was expecting it to go out kind of fast,” Romine said. “I just tried to stick with the front pack and just hold on as long as I could because I knew that I possibly had to qualify individually for state today so I just wanted to stick up top and pull it out.”
Dylan Gatua finished in 15:25.3 for 20th place and Felix Breitbach 83rd in 16:04.0 to help the Wildcats finish his 14th overall.
Canyon’s only individual boys runner, Kyle Stevens, got some help from the Hart boys team to begin the race and finished in 67th place in Division 2 in 15:45.
“Obviously, this race went out faster than last week so I tried to get a good start, got up into the top 50 or so,” Stevens said. “I saw the Hart kids and ran half of the race with them, started to move up a little bit. In the last mile, I don’t know, my legs just felt kind of heavy, but it is what it is.”
Indians boys runner Joseph Ahart paced the boys team to a 22nd-place finish in Division 2 after running into some trouble, recording a time of 15:39.1 for 55th place.
“My start was awful, I had to move back and to the side and then forward again just to get to a decent spot,” Ahart said. “My third mile was a little bit slow, but still, I got a pretty good time for the conditions I was running in, especially that battle at the start.”
Jason Lucero and Jaden Wiley finished side-by-side in 15:57.5 for 92nd and 93rd place.
The Trinity Classical Academy girls team finished 23rd in Division 5 led by junior Eva Lintereur in 106th place.
The Canyon’s girls team battled through to 19th place in Division 2 and dropped their team time by 53 seconds.
Senior Angelee Berganio led the girls team in 53rd place with a time of 18:29.0, Kayla Young 77th in 18:59.7 and Milca Osorio 102nd in 19:21.9.
“We set several goals this week and one of the goals was for everybody to improve on their time form last week, mostly even girl did it,” said Canyon coach George Velarde. “I told the girls, if we can PR, now that you feel more comfortable doing it a second time on that course, a 53-second improvement, I’ll take it any day.”
The CIF State meet will be held at Woodward Park in Fresno at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.