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Saugus High runner Shannon Murakami doesn't believe in following in anyone else's footsteps. That's obvious just by watching her run. The junior rarely trails when she races, at least not unless it's part of her strategy. Even then, it's not for very long. Last spring, she outran the competition twice at the CIF-Southern Section Division I Championship, capturing gold medals in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.
For more than 10 years, varsity athletics in the Santa Clarita Valley's Foothill League has belonged to four local high schools. For the most part, Canyon, Hart, Valencia and Saugus have had the run of the SCV. But not any more.
With two-thirds of the local high school sports year complete, few would argue that 2005-2006 has been one of the best ever. Already, the Santa Clarita Valley has seen a pair of local football teams -Hart and Canyon - meet in a CIF-Southern Section final.
It's 2:30 p.m. on a Tuesday and coach Andy Smith sits in his classroom at Canyon High School, surrounded by more than a dozen young men. School has ended and Smith's North L.A. County Wildcats - the first-ever high school rugby team in the Santa Clarita Valley - is arriving for practice.
Depending on which Santa Clarita Valley teams you root for, the fall of 2005 was either the best of times or the worst of times. Or perhaps it offered a taste of both.Streaks were snapped and extended. State records were shattered and section records fell by the wayside. CIF titles were won and lost. There were jaw-dropping upsets and title runs no one could have predicted. There were two state championships - one lost, the other gained.
The seeds of this year's Foothill League football intrigue were sown under the Friday-night lights of Cougar Stadium last October. Hart and Valencia fans will remember the moment well. Viking quarterback Michael Herrick, having just pushed his way into the endzone late in the third-quarter against archrival Hart, picked up his helmet off the COC turf and thrust it skyward on his way to a jubilant Viking sideline.
Familiar faces are around every corner, and most likely, Tomas Girgado is one of them. You probably stopped to read this article because you know the man smiling back at you. How could you not recognize Tomas? This local hero/umpire served the fields of William S. Hart Baseball and Softball for the last 12 years - until the middle of May when he was picked up by paramedics at his home in Saugus for what he thought was the flu. Unfortunately, he wasn't suffering from a virus but from a cancerous ulcer that required the removal of most of his stomach. But after meeting with Tomas only a few days after his surgery, I could tell that the love of the game is holding him together and making him stronger and stronger each day.
It's been nine years since the Canyon High girls track team lost a Foothill League meet. Actually, Canyon High has never lost a Foothill League meet. The Lady Cowboys last fell to a league opponent in 1993, when they competed in the Golden League. For the entirety of the realigned Foothill League era, the Cowboys have reigned supreme. That's about to change this year. At least that's what most local track aficionados are saying as the league season kicks into gear at the beginning of this month.
What an incredible first month of football. In the 15 games played by Canyon, Hart, Santa Clarita Christian, Saugus and Valencia high schools, plus the four games played by College of the Canyons, football in Santa Clarita is a combined 17-2.
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