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All-SCV Girls Cross Country: Samantha Ortega, Centurions’ next in line

From a PE class to a state title, Ortega burst onto the scene

Posted: January 1, 2013 9:54 p.m.
Updated: January 1, 2013 9:54 p.m.
Samantha Ortega came out of nowhere to win the Foothill League individual title and finish second at the state meet. Samantha Ortega came out of nowhere to win the Foothill League individual title and finish second at the state meet.
Samantha Ortega came out of nowhere to win the Foothill League individual title and finish second at the state meet.

There was zero hesitation in his voice and almost an excitement to say it.

Saugus High girls cross country coach Rene Paragas said after the Centurions won the CIF-Southern Section Division II championship on Nov. 17 at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut that sophomore Samantha Ortega was the next great Saugus cross country runner.

Then he mentioned two other names that she is in the company of — Shannon Murakami and Kaylin Mahoney.

For those who are loyal readers of this very newspaper, few female athletes in the last decade have dominated the sports pages more than these two athletes.

Murakami was the runner that set Saugus on its path to becoming the best cross country program in the state when she led the Centurions to their first of seven straight California titles in 2006.

She was the three-time Signal All-Santa Clarita Valley Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year (2004, 2005, 2006).

Murakami handed the baton to Mahoney — a spirited, tough runner who showed from the start of her prep career that she would be one of the greats in this valley’s storied running history.

Mahoney was our easy choice for runner of the year in 2008 and 2009.

So it’s high praise to already put Ortega in their company.

Ortega’s a find.

Her ability was discovered during a PE class and in a matter of a year, she went from not competing in a cross country race for the Centurions to winning them (plural).

She finished second in the first Foothill League meet, then followed that with first-place finishes in the second meet and Foothill League final.

Each time her times sank — 18 minutes, 14 seconds, to 17:37.22 to 17:25.6.

At Mt. SAC, she finished second with a time of 16:26 on a rain-altered course.

The next week at the CIF State Division II Championship, she finished second overall at 17:32.7 — a school record at the state meet.

Ortega is tiny — both in height and weight — but speaks and carries herself like a giant.

There are notes of confidence, focus, intelligence and determination in her voice.

Then there’s her physical ability — as best described by the aforementioned times.

Murakami and Mahoney are the only individual state champions in Saugus history — 2005 and 2008 respectively.

With the combination that Ortega has, she could be the third.

She’s already joined them in one respect — as a sophomore, she is The Signal’s 2012 All-SCV Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

Season in Review

• Though it was by its slimmest margin yet, the Saugus girls won a seventh straight state championship by winning the Division II race in Fresno. Earlier in the day, the Saugus boys team finished second in Division II to match its best performance in school history at a state meet.

Final records


Saugus: 20-0

Golden Valley: 13-7

West Ranch: 11-9

Canyon: 10-10

Valencia: 6-14

Hart: 0-20


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