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Saugus girls XC beats state power Great Oak to win Showdown

Posted: September 7, 2013 3:45 p.m.
Updated: September 7, 2013 3:45 p.m.

In an event featuring four reigning California state cross country team champions, the Saugus High girls ran a heart-stopping race to upset Great Oak High of Temecula in a powerhouse battle.

In the boys race, Great Oak put five runners in the top 10, led by Tony Robinson’s course record of 15 minutes, 27 seconds, to defeat the host Centurions by a 26-59 margin and win the Saugus September Showdown on Saturday at Central Park.

No race held more suspense than the girls varsity showdown on a day where several records were broken during a Saugus victory.

Great Oak, ranked No. 1 in California and second in the nation, according to, took control of the race early. But Saugus’ late race heroics were the key to the seven-time defending state champions’ 29-44 victory over the 2012 Division I state champions. Saugus won the Division II title last fall.

Also competing in the event was 2012 Division III state champion Bonita of La Verne and last year's Division IV state champion JSerra of San Juan Capistrano.

“The plan was basically to just relax and stick together the first half of the race and then just give everything we had the last half,” said Darby LaPlant, the team’s No. 3 runner. “We all knew it would be really hard and that it was kind of a long shot, but we also knew we could do it if we worked together.”

Leading the way in the girls race was Saugus junior Samantha Ortega, who continued her impressive prep career by winning over Great Oak’s Destiny Collins by 13 seconds on the three-mile layout at Central Park in Saugus.

The junior’s time of 17 minutes, 59 seconds tied Karis Frankian’s course record set at the Foothill League Finals in 2011.

Sabrina Janes and LaPlant both dipped under the 19-minute barrier as well, clocking 18:51 and 18:58 to finish fourth and fifth.

It was the courageous performances of Saugus’ next four that solidified the win though. Abigail Frankian took ninth in 19:13, Jessica Ruiz finished 10th in 19:17, Ashley Heys was 11th in 19:19, and Mackinzie Moncibais crossed 16th in 19:42.

“We knew what kind of race we had to run in order to win and we pulled it off,” Heys said. “Even when the odds were against us we used all the tools given to us to pull through, and that’s how we won.”

Leading the charge for the Saugus boys was junior Brian Zabilski, who finished third in 15:38.

Zabilski was supported by teammates Alex Pearson and Ryan Tate.

Pearson took seventh in 15:58, with Tate finishing 11th in 16:08.

“Our team raced tough and they pushed hard, but it wasn’t enough,” said Pearson. “We have a great team of guys, but they’re not all there yet. We need to recreate the team spark.”

Anchoring the team’s second-place finish was senior Devin Penick in 17th (16:35) and junior Jonathan Summer in 21st (16:43).

In the frosh/soph girl’s race, Emma Bahr won in 19:18, Saugus’ sixth-fastest performance of the meet.

The day belonged to the Saugus varsity girls after an extraordinary team effort though.

“Winning today means we have a greater chance at state,” said Ortega. “It was also an eye-opener because every year you aren’t quite sure what your team is capable of. It really just means a giant step in the right direction.”



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