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2013-14 Signal Coach of the Year: Saugus' Rene Paragas

Posted: July 12, 2014 10:19 p.m.
Updated: July 12, 2014 10:19 p.m.
Saugus cross country head coach Rene Paragas is The Signal's 2013-14 Coach of the Year. Saugus cross country head coach Rene Paragas is The Signal's 2013-14 Coach of the Year.
Saugus cross country head coach Rene Paragas is The Signal's 2013-14 Coach of the Year.

This was the best coached year in the last decade in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Wins and championships say a lot, but don’t say everything.

Instead, many Santa Clarita Valley coaches did more with less, managed programs from top to bottom better and or overcame some significant adversity to turn a group of kids into a team.

Tops on the adversity list was Mike Killinger.

Killinger took over the Valencia High baseball program on March 21 — the second Foothill League game of the season.

That afternoon, the kids were visibly still in shock from an early season coaching change.

But Killinger’s calm demeanor settled the mood and set the tone for a new Viking team.

The Vikings were in the Foothill title hunt in the last week of the season and nearly knocked off the CIF-Southern Section Division I No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

Valencia’s Larry Muir falls into the managing section here.

Those who watch him know how he delegates responsibility, works long hours, doesn’t just coach kids but teach them as well and gets to know his players — from the biggest star to the player who plays the least in games.

The kids buy into Valencia football.

This season was supposed to be Valencia’s end atop the Foothill League.

Instead, the Vikings beat a supremely talented Hart team to pave the way for a fifth straight league titles.

Canyon’s Chuck Johns did more with less this season and turned less into more.

The perfect example of this was a player named Monica Friedl, a non-impact player for three seasons, someone who never played organized basketball prior to high school.

Friedl was one of the SCV’s best girls basketball players in 2013-14 and will be playing college basketball in the future.

Canyon won its fifth straight league title and made its fifth trip to a playoff quarterfinal in five years.

The champions did a pretty good job themselves — Hart’s Mike Herrington proving again with Hart’s 10th CIF title that in big games, few are better. His calls in the championship game were pinpoint accurate.

Even coaches whose teams didn’t win titles helped teams surpass expectations and other great coaches had teams that met expectations.

However, there was one coach who stood apart in our eyes in 2013-14.

In a year when we had this level of coaching, Saugus’ Rene Paragas had to do something really special.

And he did.

Paragas loosened the reins in 2012 on the boys cross country program with the addition of twins to his family.

In 2013, he took it back over, despite already having the heavy load of trying to defend a CIF state cross country girls title for the seventh time.

From the start of the girls season, there was something just slightly off.

And on Sept. 26, they were human.

The Saugus girls finished in second place to Canyon. It was the first non-first-place finish for a Saugus girls cross country team since the Foothill League Finals in 2005.

Yet Saugus recovered, winning the Foothill League title and placing sixth in the Southern Section Division II finals.

But that sixth-place finish and other signs pointed to an end of Saugus’ reign of seven straight state championships.

On Nov. 30 in Fresno, the Saugus girls finished in second place in the Division II State Championship race.

Let’s put what the Saugus girls did in context. At one point, they weren’t even the best team in the Foothill League. At the Southern Section Finals, their were five teams better than them.

To come in second at the state finals showed that the athletes stepped up their games, were motivated to, were trained to, and executed a plan by arguably the nation’s best prep cross country coach.

But what the Saugus boys did on that same day might take the “arguably” out.

Coming off a Southern Section Division II championship the week before, Paragas’ boys team won the Division II state championship that Nov. 30 in Fresno.

It marked the first state cross country title for the boys and eighth overall for Paragas.

He has certainly had some talent along the way, but there might not be a better coach in the SCV at mining talent, strategy and planning than Paragas.

Right now, the Saugus teams are running.

Paragas is coaching.

He is our choice for the fifth time in six years as The Signal’s 2013-14 Coach of the Year.

We just might have to rename this award in his honor.

That’s what The Signal’s sports staff voted on for its newest category in our annual Signal Sports Awards — Most Exciting Athlete of the Year.

There were two athletes who moved the needle unlike any other and likely generated more crowd noise than any other pairing in the SCV this season.

Hart seniors Connor Wingenroth and Lewis Stallworth are the co-winners of The Signal’s


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