In light of the tragic event that took place on Nov. 14 at Saugus High School, the Canyon cross-country team honored the Centurions runners and the school at the CIF-Southern Section Prelims at Riverside City Cross Country Course on Saturday.
Deciding as a team that they were going to dedicate the race to Saugus, Canyon head coach George Velarde and the boys and girls cross-country teams made banners, wore blue wristbands and the girls wore blue and grey ribbons in their hair for the meet.
“We dedicated it to Saugus and we felt that when we compete against other teams, we have the biggest respect for those teams because we know just how much work they put in just like we do,” Velarde said. “We are family, we are in the Foothill League and even though we compete against each other, we root for one another.”
Due to the recent events that surrounded Saugus High School, the CIF-SS allowed both the boys and girls teams to automatically advance to Saturday’s Division 1 finals.
Putting their mettle to the test in Division 2, the Cowboys girls team finished ninth in its respective heat and 18th overall to advance to the CIF-SS finals with a team score of 512 points.
Sophomore runner Kayla Young finished 68th overall in 18 minutes, 50.2 seconds, edging out senior girls runner Angelee Berganio, who finished 79th in 19:00.1, while Milca Osorio finished 104th in 19:19.3.
It will be the Cowboys’ first appearance in the finals since 2013.
“The last time we have been at CIF is six years ago. The last couple years they have gone with the boys,” Velarde said about the girls team. “This year, they said, ‘It’s our turn.’ I cannot be much more proud of what they accomplished. They have really bonded and the team chemistry is one of the best in my 25 years of coaching. This group of girls are tight and genuinely care for one another.”
Kyle Stevens is the only Canyon boys runner to qualify for the finals, finishing 26th overall in 15:33.4 and is joined by the Hart boys team, which finished 16th overall in Division 2 and return to finals for the first time since 2011.
Anchored by juniors and sophomores, the Indians back-to-back top 35 finishes by Joseph Ahart, who clocked 15:37.4 for 34th place and Jaden Wiley, who logged 15:37.9 for 35th place.
Junior Jason Lucero finished 120th in 16:12.9 and sophomore Carson DeSpain finished 127th in 16:16.3.
“On the team right now, we have two juniors and four sophomores and a freshman after that, so that junior class came in a couple of years ago, and that was after a culturally difficult time for our team and they took a lot of responsibility in really setting the tone and rebuilding the culture,” said Hart head coach Darren James.
“Every group of boys since they came in has performed better than the year prior. We just keep building momentum because of the really great example that those guys set. It really has transformed the culture, we have a few really, really strong years ahead of us.”
The West Ranch boys cross country team is the final Santa Clarita Valley and Foothill League boys team to advance to finals, finishing 14th overall in Division 1.
Senior Wildcats boys runner Hunter Romine won his heat and placed eighth overall in 15:20.8, while Dylan Gatua recorded a fourth-place finish and 16th overall in 15:28.5.
Brandon Ariana (16:11.8), Felix Breitbach (16:12.5) and Johnathan Mendoza (16:37.4) rounded out the top five Wildcats boys runners.
West Ranch runner Abigail Welch and Valencia’s Hailey Kirsch are their respective schools’ lone girls representatives. The pair ran together throughout the race to finish 14th overall in 17:57.4 and ninth overall in 17:53.3 in the Division 1 race.
“They both made me really proud to watch them race together,” said West Ranch head coach Cyndi Hoelzel. “Going into the race they went into the start line together because Haley was there alone and they know each other from the valley. They are seniors and have good comradery so it was very sweet to see them together.”
The Trinity Classical Academy girls cross-country team advances to the Division 5 finals after placing 27th overall. Eva Lintereur finished 118th in 22:28.1 and Emma Cunningham 125th in 22:37.6.
CIF-SS finals begin at 7:45 am at Riverside Cross-Country Course on Saturday.