Centurion cross country stormed through the Foothill League finals on Saturday. Saugus’ boys and girls took home league titles after wins at College of the Canyons.
Centurion Lucia Pearson continued her freshman-phenom season with a first-place finish in the girls’ race. Pearson topped the front pack with a 18:56.0-minute finish. Just behind the freshman was sophomore Makenna Blum, who ran down Valencia’s Kamryn Grossman for an 18:59.3 finish.
Saugus finished with all seven girls in the top 18, easily winning the program its 26th Foothill League championship.
“We just wanted to do good as a team,” said Pearson. “There was no pressure on any of the girls to be league champ or anything. We just all came out here and did our best.”
The first-place finish made Pearson the first freshman Foothill League champion since Hart’s Brooke Russell in 2003.
For the boys, Owen Ahten crossed the finish line first with a 15:08.2 mark.
Saugus’ Jacob Fredericks was just behind Ahten with a 15:09.5 finish followed by Centurion teammate Dion Gavin.
Seven Centurion boys finished in the top 20, scoring just enough to win the team’s ninth league title.
Centurion boys’ coach Sergey Sushchikh had the race plan of sticking with Ahten and breaking up the Hart pack as much as possible. The top five Centurions managed to be between Ahten and the fifth Indian runner.
“Some of our guys have improved over two minutes, from over a year ago,” said Sushchikh. “That really helps us go from a team that was unranked at the end of last season and couldn’t make it to CIF prelims to now.”
Saugus finishes the regular season as the No. 5 team in its division, just a few spots ahead of Hart.
The Indians’ fast pack running helped the team get the win at the Foothill League’s first meet. Saugus’ game plan would work just enough to squeak past their rivals.
The Indians came to compete but would fall just short by 2 points to Saugus’ 35. Hart only ran five runners but the group was outstanding and all finished in the top 14.
Valencia’s boys finished third thanks to fifth and sixth place races from Tyler Chang and Ayden Buchanan, respectively.
West Ranch would place fourth but was without one of the best runners in the country. Senior Billie Issa has already qualified for CIF and didn’t participate in Saturday’s meet.
Saugus’ girls would dominate and finish with seven runners, including three freshmen, finishing strong.
Centurion head coach Kevin Berns knows his team has been through a lot for high schoolers. Berns and the award ceremony crowd applauded Saugus runners Nathaniel Marin and Ben Gonzales. The two were hit by a car on Dec. 26 last year and have made amazing recoveries.
“We have been working really hard this season,” said Saugus girls coach Kevin Berns. “We’ve been through quite a lot, especially the seniors from the school shooting, pandemic, and car accident. The seniors deserve it and earned it and now have the opportunity to end the season on a high note. I’m very proud of this group.”
The Centurions finished with a team total of 38 points, beating out the second-place Canyon by 49.
West Ranch’s Allison Orwin would finish fourth in 19:15.0. Canyon’s Cynthia Herrera placed fifth with a mark of 19:35.0.
Canyon’s girls would finish second with 87 points, just ahead of the third-place Wildcats, who totaled 93.
The Coyote girls have been a pleasant surprise this season and capped off their hard work with a tie for fourth place with Valencia with 103 points.
Castaic junior Kassidy Vargas led the Coyotes with a seventh-place,19:42.1 finish.
The league champ Pearson was a little stressed after running out of the gates a little faster than she expected. However, by the second loop the freshman felt in control and gained a solid lead over Blum and Grossman.
“I’m so proud of the girls,” said Pearson. “Last year, some of the seniors didn’t do so good at this race and that was a little tough. I think they all did so good in this race now and they were able to regain confidence.”
The top four varsity teams now qualify for CIF preliminaries at Mt. San Antonio College. The teams will have two weeks to be ready for the hilly terrain of the Mt. Sac course.
“Our No. 1 goal this season was to win the league and gain experience at CIF,” said Berns. “We have accomplished our goal, and now we have the opportunity to gain experience in the postseason. We have a very young team and all the experience we can gain will only make us better in the future. Although we ran today with three freshmen, we have a handful of younger athletes ready and knocking on the door. It’s a competitive team but most importantly, they enjoy each other’s company.”
CIF Preliminaries begin Saturday, Nov. 12.