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The race isn’t over yet

Saugus runs at nationals today; Totten, Owen at regionals

Posted: December 4, 2009 10:39 p.m.
Updated: December 5, 2009 4:30 a.m.
The Saugus girls cross country team shows off the CIF State Division II cross country championship they won in Fresno last Saturday. The Saugus girls cross country team shows off the CIF State Division II cross country championship they won in Fresno last Saturday.
The Saugus girls cross country team shows off the CIF State Division II cross country championship they won in Fresno last Saturday.

After winning an unprecedented fourth consecutive CIF state cross country championship last Saturday, the Saugus girls had a decision to make.

Would they return to the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore., where they’ve finished second the last two years?

The decision didn’t take long.

“A tenth of a second,” said Saugus head coach Rene Paragas. “When you’re as young as 14, 15, 17 years old, the prospects of taking an all-expense paid trip and all the benefits Nike provides is hard to pass up.”

So is the prospect of taking down three-time defending national champion Fayetteville-Manlius, which hails from New York state.

Saugus will get that opportunity today, running under the moniker “Newhall XC Club” in the girls 5K race at 11:35 a.m.

Golden Valley senior and Foothill League individual champion Seth Totten will also continue his season today, as will West Ranch junior Jennifer Owen.

Totten will take part at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships West Regional at 10:40 a.m. this morning at Mt. San Antonio College. Owen will run at 9:55 a.m. in the girls race.

For Saugus, knocking off Fayetteville-Manlius will be a tall order, considering the Hornets return four of their five scorers from last year’s national championship team.

The Centurions return their top three scorers from last year in junior Kaylin Mahoney, senior Amber Murakami and junior Stephanie Bulder.

Joining that trio will be sophomore Karis Frankian, the team’s sixth finisher at last year’s national meet, juniors Danielle Hernando and Merissa Kado and sophomore Emily McCarty.

The Cents focused on the national meet the last two seasons, but due to graduation losses, they placed more of an emphasis on winning the state meet this season.

“In terms of training, I don’t know how that’s going to affect us,” Paragas said. “But in terms of mental psyche, we’re more relaxed.

We’re not thinking this is our year. We’re going to run as hard as we can. We can’t control what other people are going to do.”

Saugus also can’t control the conditions of the course at Portland Meadows, which is largely flat, muddy and littered with bales of hay.

Paragas said that while it would be tough to take out Fayetteville-Manlius under any conditions, the course doesn’t do California teams any favors.

“It’s night and day different,” he said. “You will not see this type of course anywhere else in the world. It’s a disadvantage for us because we don’t get to run in pikes in California. California courses tend to be really well-footed. This is the opposite.”

A total of 199 runners have been entered in Saturday’s girls race. Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach, which finished second at the CIF State Division II meet, also qualified, as did five individual California runners.

Paragas said that if there is a way to hang with Fayetteville-Manlius, his girls need to go out fast and avoid the giant pack of runners that collapses together at the beginning.

Totten, meanwhile, is looking for a new beginning today.

He was forced to pull out of the 2008 Foot Locker Cross Country Championships when he re-aggravated a dislocated right metatarsal in his right foot.

It’s safe to say that circumstances are different this year.

“I was just talking (Tuesday) about how it’s so awesome not to have a broken foot right now,” Totten laughed.

Totten was thrilled with Golden Valley’s third-place finish at the CIF State Division III meet Saturday, but he didn’t think he ran his best race.

“I think his best race of the season is yet to come,” said Golden Valley co-head coach Rob Evans. “I don’t think he’s run that race yet. Running (today) allows him the opportunity to run that great race.”

Totten finished seventh overall at the state meet and ran well enough to be invited to the Foot Locker championships again.

If he finishes in the top 10 today, he will qualify for the national meet in San Diego next weekend.

“My training has been very much aimed at last weekend and this weekend,” Totten said. “This is the time the A-plus runners are running, and I feel like I’m one of those runners. It just takes a little more mental determination.”

Owen helped lead West Ranch to a seventh-place finish in its first trip to the CIF state meet last weekend, and now she’ll represent the Wildcats at the Foot Locker championships.

The junior has been up-and-down this season. She had a subpar race at the CIF-Southern Section Division II prelims and a great race at the CIF-SS Div. II finals a week later.

Last weekend, she was West Ranch’s third finisher at the state meet, which may signal another big race from her today.



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