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2013 Foothill League boys cross country preview: Deep field highlights boys XC season

Multiple teams could threaten Saugus atop Foothill League

Posted: September 25, 2013 9:09 p.m.
Updated: September 25, 2013 9:09 p.m.
Tucker Welker of West Ranch is expected to be one of the top runners in league. Tucker Welker of West Ranch is expected to be one of the top runners in league.
Tucker Welker of West Ranch is expected to be one of the top runners in league.


Pick your poison in the Foothill League.

You could take Saugus, the seventh-ranked team in the CIF State Division II top 10 and the winner of six of the last seven league titles.

But there’s also West Ranch, Hart and Valencia, which all put up impressive performances against an always-deep field at the Seaside Invitational a few weeks ago.

And that’s without mentioning a Golden Valley team that won a state championship two years ago and a Canyon team with a strong tradition in the sport.

When it comes to this league in 2013, there’s no wrong answer.



Rene Paragas is back at the helm of the varsity boys team after taking a year off.

Last year, he technically didn’t coach the boys team because he was occupied with spending time with his wife and newborn twins.

He instead handed over the duties to George Serrano and Jose Flores for the season.

But Paragas is back as head coach of both boys and girls teams and he’s got a significant challenge in replacing two of the school’s all-time greatest boys distance runners.

“We want to win league and we think league is going to be tough,” said Saugus head coach Rene Paragas. “But we think we’re going to have our best running in November (during the postseason).”

A.J. Yarnall and Rodrigo Ornelas graduated after leading the team to a school-best second place finish at the Division II state final last year.

But as always, there’s plenty of talent ready to reload. Junior Brian Zabilski has emerged as the No. 1 runner followed by senior Alex Pearson, the defending Foothill League 1,600-meter champion in track and field.

Senior Billy Anthony is the third and final returner from last year’s state finalist team, though he’s working through injuries right now.

New to varsity is sophomore and former baseball player Ryan Tate, who will add some needed depth to the Centurions.

Golden Valley

With many teams around the league showing potential, it could be a treacherous field for an almost entirely new Golden Valley team to navigate.

Every runner from the 2011 state championship team has now graduated and only one regular scoring runner from last year is back in action this season — senior Arnold Bautista.

“When I first came into the situation, it was like they’ve been very, very successful and then all of a sudden it’s a rebuilding year,” said Golden Valley head coach Sara Soltani. “But that being said on the positive side, it’s going to go in the direction I want it to go.”

Bautista took second among 93 participants at the Cal Poly Pomona Bronco Invitational on Sept. 7 and looks to be the team’s clear frontrunner.

He’s followed closely by senior Luke Contreras, who was a No. 6 or No. 7 varsity runner last year.

Rounding out the top seven is senior Nicholas Devantier and three juniors, Henry Martinez, Luis Arroyo and Jose Damien.

As far as pleasant surprises, freshman David Benitez has also earned a spot in the lineup and will be one to watch for the future.



So far this season, Hart has flirted with a top 10 ranking in CIF-SS Division II.

As long as everyone lives up to their potential, Hart head coach Larry David thinks that ranking is justified.

“We’ll certainly be very competitive and if we are healthy all the way through, we’ll definitely be a factor for a CIF berth and a good ranking,” David said.

The Indians put up an impressive fourth-place team finish at the Seaside Invitational earlier in September.

The group was led by senior returner Andrew Orona and senior newcomer Ryan Ortiz.

Bailey James, another returning senior, will likely be the team’s No. 2 in the long run. He’ll be up there with third-year varsity runner and junior Ruben Rubira.

Junior and first-year varsity runner Tim Gutierrez is another talented runner, but depth is a bit of a concern behind a solid top five.

The team’s health could go a long way in determining Hart’s fate.



The top three for Canyon should be solid when they all get healthy.

After that, it’s a bit undecided how the rest of the lineup will shake out.

On top of that, Canyon’s top returning runner, senior Jason Hillquist, is battling back from pneumonia and a leg injury.

The team will have to instead count on juniors Adam Drieger and Caleb McClain.

As far as the bottom half of the lineup, Canyon may shuffle different athletes in and out until it finds a set group of runners.

“We’re going to have our hands full,” said Canyon head coach Paul Broneer. “We’re going to have to claw our way through league.”


West Ranch

A fifth-place finish in league may not have looked like a lot last year, but it was a sign of progress.

It was the first time in school history the West Ranch boys had finished outside of last in league.

And this year, head coach Rick Larimore believes they can do better.

“They are legitimate,” Larimore said. “They really are.”

The results say so as well. West Ranch finished second overall at the Seaside Invitational three weeks ago, which was ahead of fellow Foothill teams Hart and Valencia at the same event.

The Wildcats have the talent with senior Ashton Garcia at the No. 1 spot and the experience with sophomore Tucker Welker, who was highly successful in youth cross country.

Garcia only began running a year and half ago.

After those two, there’s senior captain Justin Wikler, sophomore Ryan Painter and senior David Thomson.

All of those athletes are varsity returners ready to take this program to a new level.

“They’re finally realizing that races aren’t won on race day,” Larimore said. “A lot of work has to be done before.”



The bottom line is Valencia suffered its worst finish in school history by taking dead last in the Foothill League in 2012.

And the Vikings are taking it personally.

“It was a very frustrating, disappointing year, and they decided that they were pretty embarrassed about that and they wanted to make a difference,” said Valencia head coach Jeff Gilkey.

The key this season will be the team’s depth, which Gilkey said is vastly improved.

Seniors Alex Allevato and Nick Lentz and junior Ian Hurst are the returners and anchors of the team, but the new faces aren’t far behind in their times.

Collectively, Valencia finished fifth in the team standings at the Seaside Invitational earlier this month.

Finishing up Valencia’s lineup is senior Zach Strader, juniors Lucas Holtz and Austin Hartman and sophomore Patrick Miller.



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