Saugus girls and West Ranch boys’ cross country teams each picked up wins at the first Foothill League meet on Saturday morning at College of the Canyons.
Canyon’s Cynthia Herrera crossed the finish line first in the girls race at 19:00.0 but it was all Centurions from there. Saugus had six runners finish in the top eight without its top two runners this season, and were led by sophomore Annika Mark, who crossed at 19:24.30.
The Centurions aimed to run as a pack and were nearly shoulder to shoulder in the final stretch.
“That was the idea, pack running and making sure that we finished first or second today,” said Saugus girls head coach Kevin Berns. “We did that and we came out of here healthy, and it’s time to move on to the next race.”
For the boys, Saugus saw a first-place finish from Sebastian Peraza with a time of 15:20.60. Peraza ran a fantastic final stretch where he jumped the would-be gold medalist, Erick Leal of Canyon. The next 25 runners were a heavy mix of Wildcats, Indians and Cowboys as West Ranch narrowly took the win with 47 points.
Jonathan Valles finished fourth overall and was the first Wildcat to cross the finish line at 15:44.0. Valles led the way with freshmen Adrian Cantu, Nicholas Raigosa and Tyler Havorsen just behind. The four Cats finished in the top nine of all runners and narrowly beat out Hart, 47-50.
“We have a strategy before each meet,” West Ranch coach Gerry Perez said in a phone interview. “At the invitationals, the boys like to go for PRs, but in league it’s not about PRs it’s about strategy. We want to run as a pack. That’s what gave us the win today for sure.”
Cantu, a freshman, cracked 16 minutes in his Foothill League debut, finishing in 15 minutes and 59.5 seconds, while fellow ninth grade teammate Ajay Saravanan finished in 21st place with his 16-minute, 43-second race.
Before the race, the late Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer was honored with a moment of silence. Clinkunbroomer, a West Ranch alumnus and former distance runner, was shot and killed while on duty in Palmdale on Sept. 16.
Golden Valley coach Steve Lowe spoke before the moment of silence, and shared anecdotes from the life of Clinkunbroomer, someone the coach watched grow up.
Lowe was close with the late deputy’s parents and coached him at West Ranch before Clinkunbroomer graduated in 2010. Lowe said he watched his young runner race the same way a parent would watch their son run.
Ribbons were available for spectators and runners to honor the late Wildcat.
“We were definitely celebrating the life of deputy Ryan, a West Ranch alum and cross country runner,” Perez said. “All of the boys wore a blue ribbon and we dedicated this run to him 100%. It gave the boys the power, motivation and stamina to get the win today.”
Leal picked up a silver medal after his 15:22.0 finish for Canyon. Canyon’s Nathan Parras, Anthony Alarcon and Carlos Villa Moreno finished 16th through 18th in a tight window starting with Parras’ 16:29.70 finish.
Eli Ahten was the first of five Hart runners to finish in the top 14. Ahten finished third overall with a time of 15:39.40. Alejandro Cueto, Nicolas Zamora and Josue Luis finished 10th, 11th and 12th for Hart.
Back on the girls’ side, Herrera led Canyon to a second-place finish with 63 points. Five Cowboy runners finished in the top 20. Canyon’s Ashley Kpachavi finished ninth overall in 20:09.60.
The first non-Cowboy or Centurion to cross the finish line was Valencia’s Emily Farrell, who finished 10th overall at 20:13.30. The third-place Vikings also saw solid days from Liana Sushinsky and Emma Buchanan.
Kassidy Vargas was the first Castaic Coyote to cross the finish line at 20 minutes and 42.70 seconds, giving her a 15th–place finish.
Emma Gaxiola and April Martinez were the first Hart runners to finish the race in 17th and 18th place, respectively. Gaxiola posted a time of 21:01.40 to lead the fourth-place Indians.
Saugus’ six runners in the top eight is already impressive at it is, but according to Berns, Saturday was the Foothill League debut for nearly all of his varsity runners.
“Our varsity team only had one girl that ran a varsity race before in the Foothill League,” Berns said. “So, this was a new experience for them to get into a varsity Foothill League race. These races are different than Woodbridge, Mount SAC or anything like that. This is pride in the valley, and you’re competing against your friends, crosstown rivals. It’s a big deal for sure. It was nice to get these girls experience running varsity.”
Back on the boys’ side, Saugus finished third on the day with 71 points thanks to big days from Brennan Givens and Caden Bazo.
The Centurions just beat out the fourth-place Cowboys, who finished with 79 team points.
Valencia was led by Ayden Buchanan and Grant Young, who both finished in the top eight. Buchanan finished in 15 minutes and 53.50 seconds while Young followed at 16:03.00.
Perez has been pleasantly surprised by his team’s depth this season and will showcase even more varsity runners in the upcoming few weeks to find his best seven for the Foothill League finals. There will be tough calls to make as West Ranch’s boys swept all levels of races Saturday, showcasing a bright future for distance running in Stevenson Ranch.
“We’ll see new runners get new opportunities,” Perez said. “I’m thankful we have a very deep roster, so I’ll start testing new boys for the future.”
Saugus remains the only girls team ranked in the valley and currently sits as the third ranked team in Division 1 of the CIF Southern Section’s latest polls. For the boys, Hart ranks sixth in Division 2, while the Wildcats sit at third in Division 3 above the ninth-ranked Cowboys.
Numerous runners were missing from the league meet, as health remains every team’s top priority. All Foothill League teams will show their hands and give their best shot at the Foothill League finals on Oct. 28 at Central Park.