By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
The West Ranch Wildcats girls’ cross-country team blew the competition out of the water, finishing 33 points ahead of the Saugus Centurions in the Foothill League final. The Wildcats had no qualified runners finish slower than 19:51.49 in the 3-mile race at Central Park on Saturday.
“Of course, I’m proud of my team,” said Wildcats head coach Maria LaRoe. “To be honest, I look at the season to make it as far as we possibly can. Our goal is to make it to the state championship. It’s always on our mind that I knew the team was strong. I have a group of girls that were willing to put the work in. At the end of the day, you can put all the work in but you have to believe in yourself, and that’s what the girls do.”
The Wildcats had all their qualified runners finish in the top 14 out of 45 runners and were led by Alexis Fernandez, who finished second overall with a time of 18:03.91. Hayden Washington finished right behind at third overall with a time of 18:19.81 and Shefali Breitbach finished ninth overall with a time of 19:37.77. The final time of 19:51.49 for the Wildcats was over two and a half minutes faster than the final qualified runner for the Centurions.
Despite the dominance from the Wildcats, the Centurions had the leading runner and Foothill League champion Isabella Duarte. Duarte finished with a time of 17:27.41, which is over 30 seconds faster than the second overall time. Her time was a top five score of all time for the course, according to her head coach Kevin Berns. Miranda Velasco finished ninth overall with a time of 19:12.16.
“Bella did an amazing job,” said Berns. “She had been out for a variety of different reasons so this was her first league race since week one. The biggest message for the team was to have them persevere since we’ve been going through so much in the past couple of years. We have two weeks to prepare for the CIF playoffs so it gives us time to put together a solid team of athletes and hopefully we’re good enough and fast enough to make the CIF finals.”
“It feels surreal,” said Duarte when asked about what how it felt to finish in first place. “As a kid I remember always watching the Saugus girls running out here. Now I get to be out here representing Saugus. It truly is amazing. I just want us to keep competing and keep fighting as a team. We’re all out here for the same reason.”
The Canyon Cowboys finished in third place with 84 points, which was 12 points behind the Centurions. The Cowboys were led by Cynthia Herrera, who finished sixth overall with a time of 18:59.69, and Kayla Young who finished 10th overall with a time of 19:39.97.
Five points behind the Cowboys were the Golden Valley Grizzlies who were led by Arden Keeton with a time of 18:33.59, good enough for fourth overall.
The Valencia Vikings finished fifth with 104 points and were led by Kamryn Grossman with a time of 18:53.02, good enough for fifth overall.
The Castaic Coyotes finished sixth with 130 points and were led by their seventh overall runner Kassidy B Vargas with a time of 19:05.09.
The Hart Indians rounded out the Foothill League championship, finishing seventh with 175 points, and were led by Mary Stitzinger with a time of 20:46.95. Stitzinger finished 20th overall.
The next meet is the CIF preliminaries scheduled for Friday, Nov. 12, at Mt. San Antonio College. The time is still to be determined.