Saugus XC celebrates New Year’s Day with Splish Splash Downhill Mile

Current and former Saugus cross-country alumni met at Saugus High School for the second annual Splish Splash Downhill Mile on Wednesday. Photo courtesy Saugus cross-country

Saugus High School ran the Second Annual Splish Splash Downhill Mile Wednesday morning, a New Year’s Day tradition that is becoming near and dear to Centurion students and alumni alike.

Although its roots started with competition, the Downhill Mile has become a fun run for the entire Santa Clarita Valley community. Saugus alumni and SCV residents show up to either watch or participate in a fun new way to kick off the new year.

“It’s neat having the alumni come home if they’re in school or a little bit older and coming back and watching,” said Saugus track and field coach Kevin Berns. “It’s a great way to start the new year running fast.”

With the track and field season right around the corner, it gives local high school runners an opportunity to gauge where they are and where they want to be in the coming season, said Berns. Saugus cross-country coach Rene Paragas can be seen talking to the kids about setting goals and using the race as a barometer for the upcoming season.

Saugus cross-country runners warm up ahead of the Splish Splash Downhill Mile at Saugus High School on Wednesday. Photo courtesy Saugus cross-country

The Downhill Mile may be in its second year, but the tradition runs deeper than that. The race originally started as a meet between Saugus and Burbank High School in February. However, the way it’s ran wasn’t even the original plan at the time. 

The late-winter rains flooded Saugus’s track on the day of the meet and made it impossible to run, said Berns. Burbank had already made the trip to Saugus before Paragas could cancel the meet.

That is when Paragas came up with an idea. Instead of using Saugus’s track, both teams could use the valley as their course. The race began in Saugus’s upper parking lot. Racers would run down Centurion way and hang a right on Bouquet Canyon road. The race was set to conclude at the traffic signal on Alamogordo road.

The combination of the rain and the race being entirely downhill for a mile is how it got the name Splish Splash Downhill Mile, said Berns.

Since its inauguration, the race has been run on and off over the years. During the first two years of Berns’s tenure, the race wasn’t even run at all.

“For whatever reason, we didn’t do it those years,” said Berns. “Last year we were like, ‘let’s do it on New Year’s Day.’ We have such a following with our actives and alumni that it’s a really great event.”

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Alumni following of the race is indeed strong, as former Saugus and current Texas Christian runner Mariah Castillo participated in Wednesday’s race. Castillo holds several Saugus and Santa Clarita distance records and was the first girl to finish the race this year.

Berns and Paragas have attempted to have the race stick to its roots and invite Burbank, but over the years that tradition has died out. 

“Burbank doesn’t come, it’s just us,” said Berns. “We’ve invited Burbank in the past to come, but now it’s just us and the alumni.”

Now, with another Downhill Mile in the books, Berns is happy with his new tradition and what it brings to the Santa Clarita Valley community.

“It’s a lot of fun seeing all the people coming out,” said Berns.

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